Pitch trouble forces Blues to grind

Jake Jervis closes down Wimbledon's Luke Moore as the Fratton Park pitch shows signs of wear and tear Picture: Barry Zee
Jake Jervis closes down Wimbledon's Luke Moore as the Fratton Park pitch shows signs of wear and tear Picture: Barry Zee

Richie Barker admits his preferred style of play will have to go on the back burner until he can see the green shoots of spring.

Results are the key currency for the Blues at present and the Pompey boss believes his hopes of playing attractive and entertaining football are dashed at the moment by the state of the Fratton Park pitch.

Groundsman Steve Baker and his staff turned in a heroic effort to get Saturday’s game against AFC Wimbledon on amid the ongoing weather problems in the region, especially with so many other League Two fixtures called off at the weekend.

But there is no getting away from the fact that the playing surface is the worst it has been in several years, with one area near the players’ tunnel, in particular, causing major concern.

While a large amount of sand has been used in an attempt to try to absorb some of the excess moisture, it certainly does not make it easy to pass the ball on the pitch.

Barker explained: ‘It’s not an excuse but it’s nigh on impossible to play entertaining, attractive football on our pitch at the moment.

‘There was one point where Jed Wallace went to play a pass and it just stopped dead in the mud.

‘The pitch is not helping us at all. It’s not great.

‘All due respect to the groundsman for getting the game on, but it was never going to be a pretty football match.

‘But there is no point in me making excuses about not being able to play the way we want to play.

‘People don’t want to know. They only want to know if you win games.

‘But we’re just grateful to have got the game on and to have got the win, rather than have a postponement.’

In truth, there has been little inkling on the way Barker wants to mould his team to play just yet, especially as an attacking force.

His three victories in 12 games at the helm have all been by a 1-0 scoreline, and he has made it his priority to stem the flow of goals at the other end that effectively ended Guy Whittingham’s reign.

While there has been a clear improvement on that front, it has been at the expense of attacking flair.

But Barker believes it is down to the fact his team simply has to adapt to the conditions they are faced with.

‘For four months of the year, you probably have to play winter football,’ said Barker.

‘We certainly had to do that against AFC Wimbledon.

‘To be a successful team, you have to be able to win games in all different ways.

‘It’s not only about being more direct but being a bit more dogged as well.

‘We have to have that ability to do the nasty things. Successful teams adapt to whatever conditions they play in.

‘I’ve spoken to plenty of experienced managers about it and sometimes you have to change your style to suit that particular time.

‘But there is no way you can fizz the ball about on the pitch at the moment.’

Barker also believes the pitch played a part in goalscorer Ryan Taylor’s early withdrawal. The Blues boss said: ‘He’s got a groin problem, although I’m not really sure how bad it is.

‘On that pitch, every time you changed direction it put the groin at risk.’