Jordan Cross looks back on Saturday’s draw at Barnet and assesses the talking points...
A TALE OF TWO STRIKERS
He’s now Pompey’s top scorer this season.
That’s despite Conor Chaplin not starting for 14 games.
The Academy graduate also went 10 fixtures without appearing from the off at the start of the campaign.
Chaplin’s eye for the spectacular came to the fore again with his late point-saving intervention at Barnet.
The 20-year-old’s eighth goal of the campaign came with the kind of fade which only added to its appeal.
So the clamour will come for Chaplin to start now – and entirely understandable that will be, too.
The suspicion, however, is with Paul Cook underlining he’s doing things his way over the run-in and that his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation is here to stay.
With Eoin Doyle arriving from Preston, it may be that Chaplin’s role moving forward this season will be that of an impact sub. Something which will grate with many Pompey fans.
While the front man was lighting up a dreary clash on Saturday, the league’s top marksman was being kept under wraps at the other end of the pitch.
John Akinde may have been dreadful in his time at the Blues, but he’s now the most feared marksman in League Two.
No-one in the top four leagues scored more goals in 2016.
Being so firmly shackled by Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke was testament to Pompey’s improved defensive resilience.
It wasn’t apparent until after the game.
The surface at The Hive made for reasonable viewing from the stands, but stepping on to the pitch was like walking on concrete. And that proved a challenge to the players, who spoke of passes bobbling up around their shins during the 90 minutes.
Cook was surprised to see Barnet choose not to water the surface before the game, too, adding to its stickiness.
Whatever the surface, though, it doesn’t account for the lack of quality shown by Pompey for long periods.
Three shots across 90 minutes, with the first effort on target being Conor Chaplin’s 89th-minute leveller, simply isn’t good enough.
Striker Doyle should be spared criticism for that statistic, however, as he toiled away in isolation.
With none of the attacking trio behind Doyle firing, it was clear where the problem lay.
That free-flowing play of Tuesday’s win over Blackpool was nowhere to be seen. It’s crucial it returns at Carlisle next weekend.
The change was sweeping and decisive.
Cook ditched his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, made a double change and went with a direct approach to overcome the problems presented at The Hive.
Unfortunately, the pro-active stance did little to up Pompey’s creativity.
From the sidelines it looked like Cook had gone with a diamond system and Chaplin partnering Eoin Doyle up top.
Cook described it as a flat midfield three of Michael Doyle, Amine Linganzi and Danny Rose afterwards, with Roberts joining his two strikers.
It was also a sea change in philosophy from the Blues, too, with Cook feeling the tricky surface required a more direct approach.
That mentality worked on Newport’s quagmire on Boxing Day with a week’s preparation.
This time, it appeared Pompey’s due diligence didn’t unearth the potential problem in the game’s build-up.
Moreover, playing a direct game just doesn’t suit the Blues’ make-up.
And so we saw, as Chaplin and Eoin Doyle failed to turn around the Barnet defenders with runs down the channel, and a dominant central pairing swallowing up the high balls.