Marcus Braddock previews the season opener against Portsmouth
The new season is almost here and our first game is against last seasons unlucky play-off semi-finalists Portsmouth. Kenny Jackett put together a strong team last season but ultimately failed at the penultimate hurdle when Sunderland broke their hearts by scoring a winner in extra-time at Fratton Park.
In the closed season, Jackett saw one of his best players bought by fellow south coast club Brighton for a fee reportedly in the region of £3-4 million, that's pretty good money for a league one defender
Jackett has also added to his defensive options bringing in Paul Downing on loan from Blackburn, Sean Raggett from Norwich on loan and James Bolton who gave us 2 years service before heading south. This week, Pompey top goalscorer Jamal Lowe moved to Wigan in a multi-million-pound deal and they look to have spent a fair chunk of it immediately on striker John Marquis from Doncaster Rovers.
Head to Head
We've played Portsmouth a total of 25 times including an F.A. Cup game in January 1910 that Pompey won at home 3-0. Our highest scoring win against Portsmouth was a 6-1 home win in 1977 and their best result against us was a 4-0 home win in what is now known as the Championship. Our most recent win against the south coast outfit was in January 2018 when we beat them 1-0 at Fratton Park. Their last win against us was a 2-0 win at Montgomery Waters Meadow last season.
Portsmouth had a few players score into double figures last season with Jamal Lowe topping the list with 15 goals. Lowe left yesterday which still leaves striker Brett Piman who scored twelve in all competitions, midfielder Gareth Evans who managed thirteen, midfielder Ronan Curtis and striker Oliver Hawkins who got ten.
Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe topped the assist list for Pompey with eight each. Oliver Hawkins chipped in with six and Gareth Evans got five for the season.
Portsmouth recorded 12 clean sheets in last seasons Skybet League One campaign, eight at home and six away from home.
Referee - Charles Breakspear. Games last season,: 44. Yellow cards: 144. Red cards 12. Mr Breakspear officiated the Portsmouth v Shrewsbury game at Fratton Park and didn't make a single booking.
Assistants - Paul Hobday and Oliver Mackey.
Fourth Official - Kevin Morris
Ollie Norburn isn't quite ready after his injury in closed season but Joe Murphy is likely to be available.
The first game of the season is always the one I look forward to most, probably because we've not had any competitive games for a fair while. It's one that can be difficult to predict the result but I would imagine that Pompey will be favourites after last seasons finishes and that would be backed up by the sort of money they are able to spend. Defensively speaking Town have looked fairly strong in pre-season with Aaron Pierre and Ethan Ebanks Landell settling in well. Upfront both Daniel Udoh and Steve Morison have arrived to help last seasons top scorer Fejiri Okenabirhie although may yet see another added with the transfer window open a little later this season for EFL clubs. The midfield was already pretty well stocked with youth and experience but Sam Rickets has signed Luke McCormick from Chelsea on loan and he's looked very impressive.
Sam Ricketts preferred formation could be described as a 3-5-2 system with three central defenders giving the two fullbacks the freedom to operate as wing-backs to supply opportunities from the flanks. This means that we'll have a central midfield core of three players and depending on how we play there will be a combination of defensive or attacking duties. One of the advantages of this system is the ability to attack quickly and in numbers but still retain a defensive core to cover breaks.
How this all works in practice will decide how we do in 2019/20 and I'm full of anticipation for the new season.