Date: 8th March 2014 at 8:17pm
Written by:

Pompey kept a third consecutive clean sheet at Fratton Park yesterday afternoon but the problem now is how they manage to score goals. Boss Richie Barker tried all four strikers at the club but they did not succeed in getting a shot on target between them.

Cheltenham making their first ever visit to Fratton Park were allowed to leave with a point after having to withstand only minimal pressure. They could also point to Ashley Vincent striking the post with a well hit long range effort with Trevor Carson nowhere.

Richie went back to 4-4-2 with Michael Drennan replacing Romain Padovani but Pompey seem to be unable to play that system at present and with two wide men Jed Wallace and Jed Wallace only flitting in and out of the game that left Wes Fogden and Thoumani Diagouraga with too much to do in their efforts to contain the opposition and create something for the two up top. Once those two had picked up bookings things took even less shape.

It is difficult to put a finger where it can be tweaked to put things right but possibly a switch to 4-3-3 would be worth a try. I think that extra player in the middle would help give more power to the engine room of the team but some width would have to be lost but with the quality of the crosses yesterday. Perhaps the return of Simon Ferry cannot come too soon.

I had all type of headlines in mind with the Cheltenham festival next week but they are all in the bin after the tedium of those ninety minutes. A real shame after well over 17,000 turned up on a beautiful early spring afternoon, it was just all set up and then turned sour but at least we are now only nine points off of the play off places!

I pray for better officials in future games. At one stage in the first half I though Robins` right back Michael Ihiekwe appeared to be making a video entitled 101 foul throws! I counted at least six with either one or both feet in the air as he delivered the ball. Despite the protestations of the lower north crowd neither the referee nor his assistant could spot this simple transgression of the rules; what hope is there for the more difficult decisions?

Burton Albion on Tuesday will be a more difficult prospect but then sometimes that brings the best out of Pompey, let`s hope so anyway.

Look back

A quick look back to Monday night`s game at Chesterfield. There is no doubt that Pompey put in their best performance of the season and deserved far more than the point they got in a scoreless draw. There were impressive displays all around the park and Jake Jervis could have had a hat trick on another day. Certainly in Eastney the packed pub gave their team a well deserved round of applause when the final whistle blew – reminded me of the old days like the 4-0 win at Middlesbrough.

It was also refreshing to hear the totally honest assessment of the game by Spireites boss Paul Cook when he wanted to give credit to Pompey rather than try and explain why his side than be so poor. Also interesting to hear Keith Hill the Rochdale manager say ‘We want to get out quick before Pompey become a real force in this division`; a view Cook echoed later.

The match reports in North Derbyshire contained some strange opinions on the game we all had seen. Peak FM in their report said ‘ travelling Portsmouth who stole the show with some last ditch defending to take a point back to Fratton Park.` Last ditch defending? I must have missed that. Listen to Paul Cook Peak he got it right. I just hope that I never write such a biased report but I probably have done the past.

Lowest gates

In the week storagematt long term VP member made his regular visit to the ‘On this day` article. After listing his games and memories he went on to doubt the gate for the Halifax v Pompey game back in March 1979. He then asked for my help which of course I am glad to give. The game at the Shay stadium was watched by just 1,741 and rightly Matt was concerned that pompeyrama had got it wrong!

I am glad to say that our sister site based in Perth, Western Australia were spot on as usual. Phil who owns the site spends endless hours getting it right and occasionally I will get an email asking for help and if – and that is very rarely – I find a mistake then I will wing one around the world putting it right. It is a great service and we are proud to be linked to such a great facility.

If you are not registered then waste no more time and do it!! You can enter the games you have attended and even write comments on those you remember.

Back to the game of concern Pompey lost that game by the way 2-0 thanks in part to a Peter Ellis own goal the other coming from Kevin Johnson the game was played in the snow which might explain the gate. It was Town`s first home win since August which would also explain the turnout. Pompey dropped out of the top four with that defeat and the season would peter out finishing seventh – no play offs in those days. That wa the week that Steve Foster`s England U21 debut was delayed by snow too.

Halifax have had to be reformed since then and still use the Shay as their home. They like a number of former league clubs they are clawing their way back and have reached the Conference. Simon Eastwood joined Pompey from FC Halifax Town at the start of last season.

1978/79 was undoubtedly the lowest point of Pompey`s history and contained the four smallest crowds to watch competitive games since the war. Other than Halifax there were only 1,479 at Rochdale, 1,535 at Scunthorpe and finally 1,140 at Darlington the lowest ever. The average away crowd was 5,050 but that was swelled by huge Pompey followings at Bournemouth, Aldershot and Reading.

The gate the next season at the Shay was a massive 2,950 as Pompey closed in on promotion.

and finally…

All at Vital Pompey send their regards to Norman Piper who is unwell and in hospital in Southern California. I understand that Norman has been invited by the club to the game with his old club Plymouth Argyle on May 3 let`s hope he is well enough to come over.