A narrow defeat against the league leaders, Portsmouth, could be seen as encouraging, but it was another game where we struggled to put the opposing defence and goalkeeper under concerted pressure. There are positives and negatives to take from the performance, but the season is in danger of slipping into a familiar pattern.
All We Are Saying, Is Give Us A Goal
Not for the first time this season, it was far from a terrible display from the Sky Blues but one where it was hard to see us actually scoring.
They key team selection decision from Mark Robins to replace the ineligible Conor Chaplin with Tony Andreu. It was probably the most sensible decision given that Andreu has shown more thus far this season than either Jordy Hiwula or Amadou Bakayoko, but with Jonson Clarke-Harris attempting to play with his back to goal and Jordan Shipley on the left-wing, the balance of the front four didn’t require a Tony Andreu-figure looking to get on the ball.
It was perhaps most aptly summed up in the first-half when Andreu was given space by the Portsmouth defence to shoot just outside their penalty area, but instead chose to pass to a marked Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Beyond Andreu’s lack of impact on proceedings, the attacking performance lacked decisiveness. Perhaps the lack of goals from open play is playing on the players’ minds, but so often, promising situations were squandered by poor decision-making – passes being made instead of shots, shots instead of passes, over-hit passes, under-hit passes, et cetera and so forth.
What exactly can be done about poor decision-making is something for Mark Robins and the players to work on. However, the decisions being made looked to be of players not wanting to take the responsibility of taking the final shot. This is where Conor Chaplin was sorely missed.
Time To Throw Off The Shackles?
Following on from the last point, Mark Robins may well have to shake things up to solve the goalscoring malaise that we find ourselves in. The failure to score last night wasn’t solely down to the absence of Conor Chaplin, it has been a common theme both with and without our big summer signing that we have endeavoured without testing the opposition goalkeeper.
A key decision over the next few weeks looks to be how long Jordan Shipley can remain in the side. The academy player performs a useful role in keep the shape of the team on the left-flank, but has struggled to make an impact when he’s gotten on the ball.
With Jodi Jones returning to fitness, and already looking reasonably sharp, there is a genuine replacement for Shipley on the left of midfield, whereas the alternatives before were an out-of-position Jordy Hiwula or a Reise Allassani who is seemingly not yet trusted by Mark Robins.
Most encouraging from Jones’ two cameos has probably been that he has played with his head up, in stark contrast to most of our other attacking players. Very often, moves have broken down this year from almost an over-eagerness to force things to happen, Jones has looked more deliberate in sizing up whether to cross, shoot or pass.
Moreover, playing Jones gives us an attacking threat on both sides of the pitch – similar to what Portsmouth had with Lowe and Curtis on either flank. That ability to change the angle of attack can unsettle an opposing defence looking to bed-in against us, which could be worth sacrificing the defensive solidity that Jordan Shipley provides the side.
Don’t Be Disheartened
Any home loss is a missed opportunity, but some defeats are worse than others. There has been plenty of consternation about our performance here in what was a narrow defeat to the side currently leading the division.
On another day, Jonson Clarke-Harris buries the chance that fell to him in the first-half, the referee blows for a foul on Michael Doyle in the build-up to Portsmouth’s goal (although I don’t think it was a foul), the game ends 0-0 or 1-0 in our favour.
It has to be viewed as encouraging that we limited a Portsmouth side that had scored at a rate of two a game heading into this one to relatively few chances. The goal itself was an excellent strike from Ronan Curtis, while they had one other big chance earlier in the game when Ben Close scuffed a pull-back, aside from that, they were kept at arm’s length.
Although it could be argued that Portsmouth didn’t need to do much more than they did to win the game, we defended well enough to give us a chance of getting something. The lack of goals from open play is a concern, but if we can maintain this level of defensive solidity, we’ll be in games more often than not.