Boss defends key treble change

Guy Whittingham makes his triple switch. Picture: Joe Pepler
Guy Whittingham makes his triple switch. Picture: Joe Pepler

Guy Whittingham revealed the reasons behind his triple substitution in the wake of Pompey’s infuriating 2-2 draw at Cheltenham and insisted: We were not trying to shut up shop.

The Blues boss came under scrutiny in some quarters for the decision to make three changes.

The move lost much of Pompey’s attacking threat for the final phase of the game.

It appeared to help the home side build the pressure that eventually led to their stoppage-time equaliser.

Goalscorer Patrick Agyemang and two of Pompey’s key threats in Ricky Holmes and Andy Barcham were replaced by Shaun Cooper, Romain Padovani and Ryan Bird with 12 minutes of the contest remaining.

It seemed like a defensive move but Whittingam explained each of the substituted players were struggling to continue as he outlined what he had hoped the switch would achieve.

Whittingham said: ‘The triple substitution wasn’t about sitting back at all.

‘We first thought about keeping Patrick on and sticking Ryan Bird up there with him so we had the two guys up front.

‘But we felt we had to keep the ball better and when you put Romain and Shaun on, they are good ball-players in midfield.

‘Ricky was cramping up a bit and Barchy had not been feeling too well before the game, so we needed to bring them off at that time.

‘Pat had run out of steam but he is getting stronger and fitter in every game.

‘We ask a lot of our strikers. Defensively, we ask them to drop in and help out.

‘But I think his fitness is improving all the time.’

It was tough on Whittingham, whose decision was highlighted when Jermaine McGlashan poked home the equaliser two minutes into time added on.

Had Pompey held out, if John Sullivan saved the shot or if Danny East had booted the loose ball over the stand, then the decision would have been the right one.

But there was no doubting Pompey effectively went back into their shell and attempted to hang on to what they had, rather than go for what would have been a killer third goal.

It’s also worth remembering that had Whittingham thrown on an extra striker and Pompey had then conceded an equaliser, that too would have drawn criticism.

Regardless of the merits of the substitutions, which are always easy to discuss with the benefit of hindsight, the win should clearly have been sealed long before the 90th minute.

Whittingham believes his side lacked the bravery on the ball for the majority of the second half.

He said: ‘The game is never safe when you are only the one goal up.

‘It doesn’t take much but Cheltenham put some pressure on and they did it well.

‘You have to give them some credit for that.

‘It’s just disappointing that we get a lead and don’t hold on to it.

‘It’s a collective thing. We need to have the confidence to keep playing the way we were playing.

‘We played with a great tempo and then it dropped off.

‘But we’ve got to be a bit braver on the ball.’