While our away form seems to be flourishing this year, with 17 points picked up from a possible 21, performances at Fratton Park haven’t really gone to plan so far.
The Blues are without a win on home soil since a 3-1 victory to Barnet on September 12, and suffered their first loss of the season to Exeter in front of the Fratton Faithful at the end of last month. If Paul Cook’s men are to challenge for promotion this season, the displays at home must match those away.
The 11 points secured at home so far have been the result of five draws and two wins, which have come against recently-promoted Barnet, as well as Dagenham and Redbridge (who currently sit bottom of the Football League). After comfortably seeing off the latter in a 3-0 win on the opening day, and subsequently beating Derby in a Capital One Cup clash, there didn’t appear any reason to worry. However, finding ourselves 3-0 down to Morecombe did leave cause for concern after some questionable defending saw the hosts capitalise. The problem is, draws against the likes of Yeovil and Stevenage really should have been games where three points were picked up, and while we can’t complain about any disastrous defeats, our home matches will be getting more challenging as the season goes on, so we need to make the most of these earlier encounters.
Compared to last season, it would appear that tables have turned. Pompey won six of their opening nine league games at home, however it was their away form which really suffered – with only three wins all season on the road. They’ll be no doubt, however, that Paul Cook will be trying to puzzle together the pieces on why it is the home form which is suffering so much. While it isn’t an awful situation, as we can’t really complain about getting points on the board, throwing away a last minute goal to 20th-placed Stevenage on Tuesday night really did wobble a nerve around Fratton Park.
Luckily for the Blues, the away form has saved them so far this season, with wins picked up against teams such as Bristol Rovers, Cambridge and top-of-the-league Plymouth. No-one would have predicted these kind of results this time last year, particularly that at Kenilworth Road, where Matt Tubbs came off the bench to score a last-minute winner … something which normally happens against us! Come the end of the season, it will be these little moments of fortune that we look back on should promotion come our way, but in order for it to do so, it is important to convert the possession we’ve had into points.
Our home game against Yeovil really stands out here as Pompey came away with 71% possession, 13 shots (compared to their four), seven out of the nine corners awarded in the match, but just the one point. It is instances like these which must be addressed before the busy Christmas period and, if not, it will simply result in the likes of Oxford and Leyton Orient catching up and beating us to automatic promotion.
We don’t even have a cause for blaming the lack of strikers, with Tubbs, Stockley, Roberts and Conor Chaplin (who has five goals to his name already this season) all off to a flying start. It has been the delivery into them that is the problem, with teams often coming to Fratton Park with the vision of parking-the-bus and settling for a point away to the favourites for promotion. Therefore, it has been incredibly tricky to break teams down, which is part of the reason why we’ve enjoyed so much possession but had limited success at home; we’ve been allowed as much of the ball as is desired in our own half, but as soon as we push up the pitch there are problems, with it being hooked away and returned straight back to our defence to build again.
Nevertheless, a team of this calibre with the players that are in it really should be finding ways of getting around the problem, however we must take into consideration that the boys in blue are still gelling together. This practically new squad is still getting used to one another so one would hope that it’s just a matter of time before results at home start to come our way and can match those recorded away.