Grounding wing-backs was knee-jerk reaction

IT’S BEEN welcomed back and hailed as a key factor in Pompey’s new-found solidity.

And Andy Awford has admitted he may have been a little too quick to ditch his side’s wing-back system last year.

Andy Awford. Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Blues boss has reverted to a 3-5-2 formation for the past three games.

Pompey have not conceded a goal in that time and have picked up five points, ahead of the clash with Exeter at Fratton Park tomorrow.

It was a similar story when the approach was introduced earlier in the campaign.

But the 3-0 loss at Bury saw the system axed and Awford opt to go with a traditional 4-4-2 formation against Stevenage in the next outing.

The 0-0 draw at Wycombe last month heralded its return as the league leaders were knocked off top spot.

Awford explained doing away with wing-backs may have been a tad premature.

He is honest enough to admit, however, that it is part of his learning curve as manager, as he looks set to stick with the same approach against the Grecians.

Awford said: ‘I do a little bit (think the system was changed too soon).

‘We changed for a reason but that’s the education of it.

‘I may have been a bit knee-jerk with a couple of decisions I made. That’s me learning.

‘I don’t pretend to sit here and have all the answers. I don’t pretend that’s the case. That’s something you have to learn.

‘The Mansfield game was what put it in my head when Patrick (Agyemang) and Nigel (Atangana) came on and we went 4-4-2 after being 3-5-2.

‘We got back in the game and that maybe tilted me to going back to a four.

‘We can still go to a four. At the moment, depending on the personnel, we could.

‘Maybe I was a bit knee-jerk but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

‘Every decision I make is an honest decision. If I get it right, I get it right. If I make a mistake, it’s an honest mistake.’

Awford revealed he has also undertaken an adjustment in personal philosophy in the manner in which he prepares for games.

He is now putting less focus on dealing with the opposition and more emphasis on utilising his own team’s strengths.

The greatest coaches in the game at the highest level stress the importance of analysing their rivals. But Awford feels placing the emphasis on what his players are capable of achieving sends an important message to his men.

He said: ‘To be honest, I’ve stopped worrying about them. I’m picking what is right for us.

‘Of course you look at the opposition, how they play and what they do but it’s the last thing I look at now.

‘I look at what we can do and how we can improve and do better. It’s about us.’

When analysing what Pompey’s strengths are, and what they have done well in his tenure as manager, it’s a pressing game Awford feels works well.

He said: ‘The majority of teams press – and we have.

‘We, as a team, are better when we are energetic, up the pitch and at people.

‘When we get around players we are a good side.

‘When we try to get the ball back up the pitch we are more dangerous.’