By Tom Clark
Walsall took all three points at Fratton Park on Saturday afternoon after a disappointing display by Michael Appleton’s men.
The game started off at a good pace with both teams creating chances early on. Walsall had their chances mainly created from sloppy passes between the Pompey defenders. Ashley Harris was the spark in Pompey’s attractive play, after being given the nod to start, with many good link-up runs and passes with the strike force of Izzy McLeod and Luke Rodgers.
Darel Russell was a key player in the early exchanges with his ability to break down attacks from the Saddlers, and putting in some pretty strong tackles to bring some confidence around the midfield area.
Sadly Kevin Long didn’t last the first half and was taken off through injury, only to be replaced by Liam Walker, shifting Russell into the centre of defence. This left a lot of space for Walsall in the centre of the park.
The teams went off at half-time with a score of 0-0, with the Pompey fans feeling buoyant after a relatively strong first-half – it looked like we may pick up a point.
Half-Time: Pompey 0 Walsall 0
Last season, and in particular under Steve Cotterill, Pompey struggled with first-half displays and tended to relish in the second half, but it looked like things had changed and Pompey just didn’t turn up for the second half.
On the 56th minute, Walsall’s James Baxendale benefited on a huge gap between the Pompey defence and midfield and smashed the ball past a helpless Andersen and into the back of the net from around 30-yards, leaving the Fratton faithful livid with the lack of a decision from the ref for an earlier foul on Mustapha Dumbuya.
Just seven minutes later, former Pompey trainee Florent Cuvelier smashed another great finish into the goal from outside of the box again showing the lack of communication between the defence and midfield.
Izale McLeod hit Pompey back on track just six minutes later with a snap shot from a tight angle after Walsall had failed to clear the ball from a corner.
But instead of pushing on for an equaliser, Pompey dropped their heads again as Walsall took control of the game and looked in command, hitting the cross-bar from a long-range effort.
Pompey did have a couple of late chances, but McLeod’s soft shot wasn’t enough to seal a point for Pompey.
Full-Time: Pompey 1 Walsall 2
The Blues looked deflated, unhinged with no real structure and will need to pull themselves together if they’re to take anything away from Tuesday night’s home game against Swindon, still searching for the first league win of the season at Fratton Park.
Walsall played well and have started off the season well after a disappointing one last year. In my opinion, Pompey under-estimated the Saddlers and we never really turned up in the second-half.
There seems to be a few mixed opinions amongst fans on the performance and efforts of Izzy McLeod but no matter what he does, he still manages to find the back of the net.
Rumours claim that Appy is likely to release another player to bring in one more striker – and we certainly need it!
Play up Pompey!