It’s been a tough few weeks for Pompey fans, with a defeat at Fleetwood on Saturday, prior to that, three 0-0’s put Richie Barker’s team in a good position to push for safety in League Two. However, with other teams around the Blues on a similar points’ tally, with more games to play, it’s become ‘squeaky bum time’ for Pompey’s remaining games this season.
After the 5-1 away thumping at Scunthorpe it became evident that something needed to change. With a 1-0 win against Accrington Stanley under the team’s belt, the team needed to push on for the trip to Chesterfield; doing exactly that. With Pompey putting in a solid performance in front of the Sky cameras to earn a point, Pompey fans finally had some optimism for the rest of the season, providing the team could continue to put in the same performance for the remaining games.
Unfortunately, two goalless draws and a loss later, Richie Barker’s team are once again looking into the mire that is the bottom half of the Fourth Division. Several teams around the Blues have games in hand, and are only separated by a few points, and as with any division in England, anyone can beat anyone.
This is where Barker has to prove his worth as Pompey’s manager, something he has struggled to do since his appointment midway through the season. I for one am not impressed with his performance at the helm. From what I have seen, there are constant digs at his predecessor, Guy Whittingham, about the ‘leaky defence’, which he claims to have plugged. However, conceding 3 goals on Saturday suggests otherwise.
With Pompey’s new rock, Ben Chorley, injured, the defence looks shaky. There is no cover for him, although he should not be relied upon to play every match, to win every ball, and to stay 100% fit all the time. This very much comes down to Barker’s recent press conference, saying the defence ‘frustrated’ him on Saturday. The same defence he praised less than a week before, saying it had be fixed. Many Pompey fans are beginning to question Barker’s tactics and approaches in the press, along with the team’s form under his leadership.
Barker currently has a 0.6 goal-to-game ratio, worse than Guy Whittingham’s, however there have been less goals conceded. That said, 0-0 and 1-1 draws will not be good enough for survival in League 2. If Pompey lose to York in their next game, there will be just a point between them and the relegation zone, with other teams around having a game in hand.
From what I’ve seen since Barker took over, the style of play has become very defensive, removing all attacking chances. Although this has stopped conceding goals on a regular basis, there is no Plan B once the opposition have scored; it becomes a case of ‘how many will they beat us by’. That isn’t the mentality Pompey fans should have, and all desire to attack seems to have been stripped from the squad by Barker. In my 18 years of watching football, I’ve always known that if you’re going to ‘park the bus’; you need to be able to counter attack – something that isn’t being done by Barker.
Since coming in as manager, he has brought in 8 new players, covering all areas of the field, however 3 players he has loaned out worry me, and may explain why we aren’t scoring goals. David Connolly, Ryan Bird and Ashley Harris are all attacking players, with different skills, all of which have put in solid performances for the first team this season – so why loan them out and bring in 3 new strikers? With decisions like this, it’s no wonder people are questioning Barker, and claiming he is barking mad. Something needs to change, and it may be too little too late, as come the end of the season Pompey could well be facing a trip to Havant & Waterlooville in the 2014/15 season.
Time really is against Richie Barker, and many Pompey fans have lost patience with the former Crawley manager. Performances must improve, and points need to be picked up from the remaining games. If not, then the already sinking ship will most certainly hit rock bottom; relegation from the Football League.
Onwards and upwards, in Pompey we Trust!
Written by Harry Davis, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
Harry tweets at @MrDavishPFC