Club Focus – Portsmouth – Time for Cotterill’s Stoke quartet to deliver

With the visit of Roy Keane’s highly-rated Ipswich side just 24 hours away, Portsmouth boss Steve Cotterill is still waiting to hear confirmation on three crucial palyers. Ricardo Rocha, Kanu and Liam Lawrence are all in a race against time to be eligible to face the Tractor Boys as contract issues and various transfer inconveniences threaten to topple Pompey’s challenge for a first league win of the season before it even begins.

Sat bottom of the Championship table, Pompey desperately need to secure their first win, and despite Ipswich being one of the stronger sides in the league, it’s a league where anyone really can beat anyone, so Pompey should be confident against anybody at Fratton Park. But if the aforementioned trio aren’t available, their task is made all the more difficult. Lawrence’s switch is still in jeopardy following the lateness in which he signed on transfer deadline day, while Rocha and Kanu are in the midst of re-signing, and although they have been on the verge of doing so for well over a week now, no official word has been heard, and their involvement is very much in jeopardy. With Pompey short on numbers even with those three in the squad, without them, Cotterill really will be down to the bare bones.

If, and we don’t’ really know how big an ‘if’ this is at this moment in time, all three are available, Pompey fans can at least revel in a bit of optimism prior to the game. For one, the arrival of Lawrence and Dave Kitson from Stoke on transfer deadline day, should give the side a far better edge going forward. Both are clever footballers with plenty of guile and quality, with the potential of making a major impact in this division. Having netted just once this season in the league, a new approach is clearly needed, so the prospect of a strike partner for David Nugent will be greeted with great buoyancy from the Fratton Park crowd. Nugent has been completely bereft of any service so far this campaign, so he will no doubt be looking forward to linking up with a big striker such as Kitson. Lawrence’s ability in wide areas will also be welcome as well as his general quality on the ball in midfield areas.

But while Pompey’s newest Stoke duo are greeted with great excitement, their earlier imports from Tony Pulis’ side are gathering more uncertainty by each passing game. Ibrahima Sonko and Carl Dickinson have won few admirers in their time on the south coast in the past month, with both looking decidedly suspect at the back. Sonko’s rashness and lack of care on the ball continue to worry fans and if Rocha is signed in time for the weekend, many will hope he replaces the former Reading man. To be fair, he deserves time to settle in, but there’s only so long that excuse works. Dickinson too deserves time – especially since he is still early in his career – but he is beaten far too easily by wingers down the left. His passion and hunger is commendable, and something Pompey fans will find very endearing, but if he continues to be a liability, a replacement may have to be sought. Crowd favourite Hermann Hreidarsson is due back from injury late this year, and he will fit seamlessly back in at left-back unless Dickinson improves over the next few months.

Tomorrow will be a big day for Cotterill, as he continues to shape his side for the coming season. Reinforcements are still needed, with numerous loan targets being talked about on a daily basis, but Pompey need to start picking up points. On top of just poor results thus far, performances too have been fairly uninspiring, so a lifting of the spirits is needed for everyone involved. The club are due to exit administration any day now, so Cotterill will be hoping he can deliver more positive news on the pitch along with off the field encouragement. It’s been far from easy since his arrival at the club, but the club need to move on from the negative state that has engulfed them amidst the off-field turmoil of the last 18 months or so. The team seem used to losing, and confidence is visibly low. Cotterill will be hoping fresh blood will lift everyone – starting tomorrow.

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