Defensive resilience gives Pompey boss platform for progress

Joe Devera wins an aerial battle. Picture: Joe Pepler
Joe Devera wins an aerial battle. Picture: Joe Pepler

No longer the leakiest defence in League Two, certainly a massive positive for Richie Barker as he seeks to spark the Pompey resurgence.

A goalless draw to bottom club Northampton yesterday may not have sent the Fratton faithful home delirious with delight.

Nonetheless, for the Blues manager it represented another crucial step forwards in his short-term aim of keeping the club in the Football League.

Following successive clean sheets, Pompey have now conceded 36 goals in 23 league matches.

Previously it was the worst record in the division – now Torquay take up the unwanted crown following a 3-1 defeat to Exeter yesterday.

Pompey are just one goal behind them but, crucially, they have stopped the rot and now find themselves 17th in the table on the back of four points from the last two matches.

And for Barker it lays the platform to launch the steady climb up the table away from the spectre of relegation.

He said: ‘This football club has one of the worst defensive records in the Football League and now we have two clean sheets in a row, so we must be doing something right.

‘We have worked hard and have been organised – that is what training is for, that’s what we come in on a daily basis for so that in the end I can see an end product.

‘I have taken over a club with the worst defensive record in this division – and people aren’t happy with it.

‘With all due respect to Northampton and Dagenham, they aren’t the best teams in the world but Portsmouth have lost to worst teams this season.

‘As a positive we are going in the right direction, hopefully.

‘If you keep conceding goals you get relegated. If you can stop conceding them you have more chance of winning football matches.

‘This football club can’t afford to be in the bottom two in League Two, so we need to get out of it by hook or by crook and it’s not always going to be attractive.

‘We need to do it bit-by-bit, point-by-point until we get where we want to. We need something to build on, we need something to grab hold of, and at the minute we can grab hold of two clean sheets and four points in two games.’

Jed Wallace struck the Cobblers’ bar in the 10th minute with a smart turn and shot.

That was the closest the hosts came to scoring, while the visitors were denied late on with a Johnny Ertl goalline clearance.

Sonny Bradley also produced a last-gasp tackle to deny David Moyo going clean through, an incident which Northampton claim should have been awarded as a foul.

But Barker was pleased with the effort from his team.

He added: ‘The work ethic of all the players has been fantastic and I think we saw a few times yesterday their reaction to giving the ball away was fantastic, in terms of going and winning it back.

‘The back four need the people in front of them to do the right thing and we are getting there with them.

‘I don’t know if Trev had that many saves to make.

‘There was a bit of pressure from long throw-ins and things like that but that’s always going to be the case.’