Blues 0 Bradford 1: Plenty of Pompey positives despite another loss
Saturday, 28th Oct 2017 19:52 by Steve Bone at Fratton Park
I was sitting there deep into the second half thinking 'This is one of the best 0-0s I have seen in a long while.' Should have known better than to think that was how it might end.
It always looked a game either side could pinch, with both of them going for it, and that's exactly what Bradford did - surviving a good few threats to their goal, notably from a Kyle Bennett chance that he really should have put away after rounding the keeper, then nicking an all-too-simple goal of their own from a free-kick.
But on reflection, I think you could say it was one of the best 1-0 defeats we've seen in recent times. There was much about Pompey's performance that impressed, and although it was a third straight League One defeat, you won't hear any alarms bells ringing in these quarters. If the Blues continue to operate at that sort of level, they'll be in mid-table at worst.
I'd looked forward to this as a 'proper game' between two famous old clubs both on the way back up after too long in the fourth division. And it lived up to those expectations in front of a noisy and full Fratton house, despite the massive frustration of seeing Bennett waste a couple of golden opportunities and some other passages of superb build-up play ending with poor crosses on a lack of a final killer ball.
We took the game to the Bantams from the start and had three decent openings within the first five minutes. Bennett did have his shooting boots on but they appeared to be seven-cornered ones and his efforts flew all over the place. He did hit the woodwork in the first half - unfortunately it was an advertising board along the top of the Milton End roof. The aforementioned best chance came after the break.
Some fans love nothing more to moan at Bennett and he will only have made them moan more on this showing, but he would be one of the first names on my teamsheet each week. Keep him in that role behind the striker and the assists - and a goal or three - will come.
Brett Pitman worked himself into a decent area or two as well but perhaps isn't quite as sharp again yet as he was before his knee injury. Nice Hallowe'en mask, though, from the skipper.
Jamal Lowe seems to be growing in confidence with every week that passes. Some of his close control is incredible for a player who was playing at Hampton & Richmond six months ago (no disrespect meant there to the Beavers), and he is someone who never knows when possession has been lost.
And I've fast become a big fan of Matt Kennedy. I do like to see a left-winger hugging that left touchline (there are too many right-footed specialists playing on teams' left sides for my liking these days) and when Kennedy gets the ball at his feet, you often feel an opening is going to be created. What's more, he can kick with his right foot too.
If I have a big concern with our team it's in central midfield. I'm not convinced Stuart O'Keefe and Ben Close have enough between them to impose themselves on opposition engine rooms.
I would love to know Kenny Jackett's reasoning for having given Danny Rose very little game time - I'm sure he does have reasons. To this outsider, and that is what I am given I've seen Pompey only five times this season and do not see the squad training, it seems obvious that Rose should be given a chance, probably alongside O'Keefe. I'm sure Close will go on to be a very good player for us but I am not at all certain he is ready to play week in week out at this level just yet.
As well as Rose, I hope we yet see more of Kal Naismith and Gareth Evans. They deserve more chances and are too good to discard. I hope they get enough game time to stop them wanting to move on, as would also be the fear over Rose.
Away from home our defence has looked shaky at times - I'm thinking Northampton, Scunthorpe, the opening stages at Doncaster and for most of the game at Blackburn. But at home we're defending okay, on the whole, partcularly when the full first-choice back four is present.
Bradford's goal was a soft one - you should not be letting a centre-half get an unchallenged header on a free-kick like that - but we are not looking particularly vulnerable.
Losing to Stuart McCall's team in the way we did is a tough League One lessson - a reminder that this is a significant step up from League Two, where 19 times out of 20 that performance would have resulted in a win. There will be more occasions, I imagine, when we play as well as that against this division's better sides (and Bradford certainly appear to be in that category) and don't win.
So I left Fratton frustrated... but not downhearted. We mustn't let a run of three straight defeats turn into a sequence of four or five, but we are equi-distant in terms of points between the top six and the bottom three and November brings trips to Blackpool and Peterborough and home games with Southend and Plymouth - plenty of opportunity for points.
Pompey: McGee; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Donohue (Hawkins 86); Close, O’Keefe; Lowe, Bennett (Chaplin 67), Kennedy; Pitman. Subs not used: Bass, Haunstrup, Rose, Evans, Naismith
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 18,067 (1,003 away fans)
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