Many fans were filled with surprise when Matt Tubbs, League Two’s top goalscorer last season, was loaned out to Eastleigh on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old had not turned out for Portsmouth since October, largely due to an injury setback. However; having returned to fitness earlier in the year, he has failed to make any matchday squad under manager Paul Cook since.
Having added up his total minutes this season, the statistics show that it equates to just eight games overall. His most pivotal moment came back in August during a 2-1 win against Luton at Kenilworth Road. Tubbs made an immediate impact from the bench by scoring the winner in the 90th minute.
Fans believed this would kick-start his season, having failed to cement his place in the starting line-up, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. The former Bournemouth and Crawley striker played just 35 minutes of the next three games before his injury occurred in October.
Despite his lack of game time; Tubbs still managed to bag five goals in a blue shirt this season, a remarkable feat considering his four month injury lay-off. It may well have been a different story should he not have got injured, however he admitted to BBC Solent, “Paul Cook told me that I don’t suit the Portsmouth system”. Therefore, it can be questioned whether he was ever in the manager’s plans in the first place.
Since joining Eastleigh, Tubbs has made just the one appearance after Saturday’s game against Barrow was called off due to a waterlogged pitch. He made his debut just hours after signing, playing a full 90 minutes against Kidderminster Harries, however he couldn’t prevent the Spitfires succumbing to a 3-2 defeat.
After a frustrating few months for the striker, his time at Eastleigh could really benefit both clubs. Chris Todd’s side currently sit just outside the play-offs in the National League, with three games in hand, so Tubbs’ presence, experience and desire for first-team football could really propel them up the table. Furthermore; impressive performances at Eastleigh would also catch the eye of Paul Cook. So if he were to get recalled as a result, his form could help Portsmouth achieve their target of promotion in League Two this term.
It is also a big advantage that Tubbs has been loaned to a team outside of Pompey’s division. He was a key target for the likes of Bristol Rovers, who sit just one point behind Portsmouth in League Two, during the January transfer window. However, he could have been damaging to the Blues should any good form have seen the Pirates leapfrog Pompey in the race for promotion.
Therefore; it can be said that Tubbs’ loan, albeit slightly surprising, could really benefit the Blues. He poses no threat in the current division and the location of Eastleigh means it is easy to monitor his progress. Moreover, after three different scorers guided Portsmouth to a 3-1 win on the weekend, many would argue that the need for Tubbs isn’t as strong as it was last season.
With Conor Chaplin, Gareth Evans and Marc McNulty all on eight goals for the season (and Gary Roberts on seven), the strike-force at Fratton Park is already a large enough threat.
The option of Tubbs returning from Eastleigh is simply seen as an added bonus, but not a necessary one.