Barker out to address Blues’ slow starts

Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler
Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler

Richie Barker admits he is at a loss to explain Pompey’s slow starts, but is working hard to find a solution.

In stark contrast to the impressive opening 45 minutes at Chesterfield last Monday, the Blues lacked the same tempo and quality in the 0-0 draw with Cheltenham – with a chance dragged wide by Jake Jervis their only real attempt at goal.

The Pompey boss insists it is not a tactic to take time to suss out the opposition, and is keen to see his troops take the initiative and get on the front foot – starting with tonight’s home clash with Burton Albion.

Barker said: ‘We didn’t really get out of the traps very well against Cheltenham.

‘It wasn’t one of our better starts of the past couple of weeks. I’m not quite sure why.

‘If I knew why, I would change something.

‘We were a little bit slow on the start but it didn’t take us long to get into it and Jake probably had the best chance of the game in terms of a clear-cut chance.

‘It’s not a tactic to sit back. We are at home, we should be going out there, entertaining and getting people on our side.

‘But it’s a small detail we need to change.’

Generally, first-half performances have been a problem since Barker’s arrival –with the Blues often struggling to get going, particularly on their home turf.

In his 16 games at the helm, Pompey have led at the half-time break just three times, and only once in eight attempts at Fratton Park – in the 1-0 win over Dagenham & Redbridge.

While that clash ended in victory, the two other half-time leads – 2-1 at Morecambe and 1-0 at Exeter – both eventually ended in draws.

Pompey have been behind in three matches at half-time and level in 10, but Barker believes his side have improved on their second-half displays, which he felt needed addressing.

He said: ‘We have talked about the slow starts and we have tried all sorts of different things to change it.

‘It’s not every time and in some games we have started well.

‘But when I came here, I was told that we had the worst second-half performance in the Football League, so you can’t please everybody all the time because our second halves are getting better.

‘Sometimes these things are out of your hands.

‘With the weather conditions we’ve had, the wind has played so much of a part in a lot of those games.

‘But all you can do is try to deal with that the best you can.’

Barker is also keen to give the supporters something to get behind to build momentum.

And he is looking to maintain pace in the team’s play.

‘We want to play at a tempo that means we can sustain our attacks, play in the final third and give the crowd something to sing and shout about,’ added Barker.

‘It’s important we try to play quickly, but once or twice against Cheltenham I think we played too quickly.

‘Sometimes we needed that extra bit of composure or someone to take an extra touch and show a bit of quality.

‘But I would rather we played too quickly than not quickly enough.’