Pompey prove a tougher test
10:39am, Sat 25th Jul 2015
Woking 0 Portsmouth 2
24 July 2015
This was a useful outing for Garry Hillâ€™s squad against opposition who showed, especially in the first half, considerably more quality and desire than Oxford United had midweek and which put the Woking defence under a fair amount of pressure. Portsmouthâ€™s first half dominance was rewarded with two goals before the break but the introduction of Keiran Murtagh and John Goddard immediately afterwards â€“ with the visitors also perhaps taking their foot off the pedal somewhat â€“ produced an even second-half contest.
The weather was more like November than July, the pitch â€“ which played remarkably well â€“ having been soaked by virtually incessant heavy rain all day and there was a distinct chill in the air.
Garry Hill made four changes from the starting XI against Oxford United, with Nick Hamann replacing Jake Cole in goal, Godfrey Poku coming in for Murtagh, and Charles Banya and Alex Smith taking over from Gez Sole and Goddard.
The visitors started brightly, creating several early chances, all falling to Gary Roberts, who came closest with a free-kick which went narrowly wide. The Cards responded in the 10th minute with a superb run and cross from Jake Caprice which threatened to produce an own goal. Portsmouth were soon back on the offensive, moving the ball nicely into space, with teenage striker Conor Chaplin frequently threatening to break through. Although Mark Ricketts managed to effect some judicious tackles, the lively Chaplin (just the sort of player we could do with up front!) went close with a snap shot before hitting the angle of post and bar. He followed this up by beating Hamann to a through pass but the ball did not carry and was cleared a few feet from the line.
Chris Arthur briefly halted Pompeyâ€™s progress with a dangerous cross, which was headed away, and then the pacy Smith and Banya worked well to create another promising attack. But Poku blazed horribly wide after Banyaâ€™s shot had been blocked and Arthurâ€™s free-kick was also well off target.
Portsmouth deservedly took the lead in the 28th minute when Gareth Evans made a defence-splitting run in the right channel, thumping the ball decisively past Hamann from outside the area.
The Woking defence came under some sustained pressure, with Joey Jones hacking the ball off the line, before, in the 32nd minute, the visitors added a second goal, Matt Clarke heading home despite Hamannâ€™s attentions.
Portsmouth continued to look the more dangerous side till the break, stretching the Woking defence with some intelligent running and passing, but without creating any clear-cut chances to add to their goal tally.
Half-time: Woking 0 Portsmouth 2
It was no surprise to see the introduction of Murtagh and Goddard since the Cards had not been able to gain much control in midfield in the first half, thereby putting additional pressure on the defence. Cole also came on for Hamann.
Woking immediately looked a better-balanced side. Goddard was especially prominent in the early exchanges, registering three attempts on goal, the first of which was well saved, low down, by the Portsmouth keeper, Brian Murphy.
More changes followed in the 58th minute, with Gez Sole coming on for the hard-working Charles Banya and Kouassi Evans replacing Caprice. Kouassi proceeded to impress with several quick, determined runs down the right flank and some decent crosses into the box.
Jones stung Murphyâ€™s hands with a fierce drive before, at the other end, Cole thwarted Chaplin and then made a smart stop from Evans. The latter went close again in the 71st minute as he rose above three stationary defenders to plant a header over the bar.
Garry Hillâ€™s final throw of the dice came in the 75th minute when he brought on Reece Beckles for Ricketts, with the side switching to a 4-4-2 formation.
Murphy needed two attempts to hold a stinging shot from Kouassi, who was soon in the action again with another strong run down the right.
As the game moved into the final ten minutes, Chaplin shot well wide for the visitors before Roberts went closer with a well-struck effort from a low cross.
The Cards were very unlucky not to grab a consolation goal with virtually the last kick of the game. Goddard nut-megged a Pompey defender on the right of the visitorsâ€™ penalty area before pulling the ball back to Rendell, whose instinctive shot struck the post before being cleared, with the refereeâ€™s whistle being blown immediately afterwards.
It seems doubtful if Garry Hill and Steve Thompson learned anything new from this encounter but it did confirm a few things, notably how reliant the side is likely to be on Murtagh and Goddard for midfield creativity and the need for a sharper cutting edge up front. But there were positives, too, in the way the Cards stuck to their task in a testing first half and in the manner in which they matched the visitors after the break.
The Cardsâ€™ next game is against Leyton Orient on Tuesday evening.
Woking: Nick Hamann (Jake Cole 46), Jake Caprice (Evans Kouassi 58), Chris Arthur, Mark Ricketts (Reece Beckles 75), Ismail Yakubu, Brian Saah, Joey Jones, Godfrey Poku (Keiran Murtagh 46), Scott Rendell, Charles Banya (Giuseppe Sole 58), Alex Smith (John Goddard 46)
Portsmouth: Brian Murphy, Enda Stevens, Frank van der Struijk, Christian Burgess (Adam Webster 83), Michael Doyle, Gary Roberts, Kal Naismith (Ben Close 73), Gareth Evans, Matt Clarke, Conor Chaplin (Brandon Haundstrup 83)
Unused subs: Paul Jones, Paul Robinson, Danny Hollands, Benn Davies