Tactical switch pays off for Blues

Blues caretaker boss Guy Whittingham, left, congratulates skipper Johnny Ertl after his second-half tactical switch helped earn Pompey a draw at the Keepmoat Stadium Picture: Joe Pepler
Blues caretaker boss Guy Whittingham, left, congratulates skipper Johnny Ertl after his second-half tactical switch helped earn Pompey a draw at the Keepmoat Stadium Picture: Joe Pepler

Guy Whittingham felt Pompey’s second-half tactical switch paid dividends as his side claimed an unexpected point at league leaders Doncaster Rovers.

The Blues fell behind to the table-toppers shortly before half-time when Chris Brown converted former Pompey loan winger David Cotterill’s cross.

But Pompey grabbed themselves a point with a much-improved display after the break.

Caretaker boss Whittingham and assistant Andy Awford were locked in conversation on the touchline as they tried to find a way back into the game.

And the impetus arrived when second-half substitute John Akinde was introduced and striker David Connolly dropped into a more withdrawn role.

‘Myself and Andy talked about it and we decided to change it to try to get ourselves back into the game,’ said Whittingham.

‘We just felt we weren’t getting at them in any way that was really hurting them, even though the effort was there.

‘We weren’t causing them any problems, we weren’t getting many balls in the box or testing their keeper with any real shots.

‘We knew if we got it wide and got crosses in or just shoved it into the box, their two centre-backs were just going to head it away all day.

‘They were giants back there who can deal with that all day. So we had to be a bit more clever.

‘We wanted David Connolly to sit just behind our front two and give their defenders a different problem to think about.

‘It worked quite well because John gave us another physical presence up there with Patrick Agyemang and it allowed David to get a bit more space.’

While Whittingham has opted for a 4-4-2 formation for the majority of the games he has overseen, he admits he likes having the option of making a tactical switch.

And he has not ruled out using wing-backs in more games between now and the end of the season.

He said: ‘We used that system at Leyton Orient when Ashley Harris came on and played that role just behind the strikers.

‘It’s an option that we can use and gives us a bit of flexibility because we’ve got players who can play in those positions.

‘It also gives defenders something else to think about when there is suddenly someone in a little gap between the defence and the midfield that wasn’t there before. It can cause a few problems for them.’

Despite Saturday’s game being a scrappy affair, it was no major surprise given the state of the Keepmoat pitch, which was bobbly and almost totally devoid of grass.

Whittingham said: ‘The pitch was definitely a factor.

‘When we wanted to play quick one and two-touch football, we had to play two and three-touch football.

‘They play rugby on it, too, so you can understand the way that Doncaster have to play.

‘You are not going to complain about it. I’m sure it’s the best they can get it at the moment. You just have to cope with it.’

Whittingham added: ‘I thought we deservedly got ourselves back into the game and it was a very good point at the league leaders.

‘We’ve shown we are competitive and I was really pleased with the attitude of the players.’