Portsmouth started their League One campaign on the front foot, picking up all three points against Fleetwood Town.
Despite the win, Portsmouth manager Danny Cowley won’t be best pleased with his team’s performance. Pompey were second best on the day and would have been lucky to come away with a point had it not been for Fleetwood’s wastefulness in front of goal.
Portsmouth have seen a mass exodus of first team players this summer, with numerous contracts running out at the end of last season. Since then, Cowley has admitted his side are struggling to compete with the financial power of other sides in League One. Last weekend’s win against Fleetwood, although a promising start, suggests a lot more work is needed before Portsmouth are ready to push for promotion again.
With the opening weekend in the books, we take a look at what issues lie ahead for the Pompey boss:
Rush Shaun Williams back?
Even though the Portsmouth backline did enough to limit many clear cut opportunities for Fleetwood’s front three, Cowley might still be concerned about the chances that fell to the opposition, with The Cod Army managing 13 shots compared to Pompey’s nine. In the coming weeks Portsmouth will face Crewe Alexandra, Doncaster Rovers and Wigan Athletic, three teams that all boast impressive forward options. If they aren’t able to tighten up their backline, a clinical attack could easily punish them.
New signing Shaun Williams was withdrawn from Saturday’s starting line-up with a stiff back, but could be back in contention to start tonight against former club Millwall. The 34-year-old could be a difference maker for the Portsmouth defence, occupying a defensive role above the back four. Connor Ogilvie was handed a start in Williams’ absence, but isn’t at the same level as the veteran midfielder.
Playing in Portsmouth’s usual 4-2-3-1, Williams would be able to play just ahead of the back-line, closing down space and breaking up passing lanes which would help to reduce the amount of chances opposing attacks can create. However, at 34, it may not be the best idea to rush Williams back into the starting line-up, meaning Ogilvie could be deputised in a holding-midfield role once again.
Is it the striker or the service?
At the other end of the pitch, Portsmouth struggled to create many options themselves, Lone striker John Marquis was often isolated and failed to have a single shot all game. Aside from the goal, Fleetwood keeper Alex Cairns was hardly tested, facing just two shots on target.
Portsmouth have a lot of depth going forward with Marquis, new signing George Hirst and Ellis Harrison all capable of playing up top. It’s unlikely that Marquis, who scored 16 league goals last season, will be dropped, but Cowley needs to find a way of making his team more creative in front of goal.
Both Ronan Curtis and Marcus Harness had one shot all game, and out of the two, only Curtis registered any key passes. There’s a case to say Michael Jacobs and Harrison should be included to increase chances for Marquis.
With League Cup action tonight, it presents Danny Cowley the perfect opportunity to rotate his squad and give one of the other strikers a chance, or tinker with his midfield options.
Elsewhere, Joe Morrell will be a welcome addition, following his arrival from Luton Town. The Welsh international has the ability to be one of the better midfielders in League One, and the quality he possesses should only improve those around him.
It could be a good idea to throw Morrell straight into the starting line-up, either in one of the holding roles – or in place of Gassan Ahadme, who played in a more advanced position last weekend.