New duo in middle have potential but need time to settle

Nigel Atangana. Picture: Joe Pepler
Nigel Atangana. Picture: Joe Pepler

Danny Hollands warned a midfield partnership with Nigel Atangana will take time to settle.

But the former Charlton man knows it’s far from a foregone conclusion the pair will be lining up alongside each other in tomorrow’s Dockyard Derby at Plymouth.

Andy Awford has to decide which combination will best compensate for the loss of James Dunne, who is recovering from knee surgery.

Hollands looks nailed on to continue after two goals in two games, as he starts to find his best form.

Atangana got the nod alongside him against Aldershot last weekend but lost his way after a promising opening.

Nick Awford, Ben Close and Johnny Ertl remain alternative options for the Pompey boss.

Hollands is confident Atangana will deliver – if he gets the chance to continue.

But the understanding between the pair in a 4-4-2 will need to evolve.

Hollands said: ‘Hopefully, it won’t take long before Dunnie comes back but we have good players who can come in.

‘If it’s me, Dunnie, Nick Awford or Ben Close in there we’ll do a good job. Whoever takes to the pitch are capable.

‘They are different players but all the players have different attributes.

‘Nigel is a great player. He’s a bit different to Dunnie in what he does. He does the honest side of the game and he has different qualities to Dunnie. It takes two or three games to get used to each other. It will take time to settle.

‘I might not be playing tomorrow and maybe nor will he. But if we carry on playing together it will be a good relationship because he’s a great lad.

‘I’ll have to adapt and do my best to get a good partnership going.’

Pompey remain on the fringes of the play-offs going into tomorrow’s clash.

But they will have to improve poor form on the road if they are to pick up their second league win on the bounce.

Just three teams have collected fewer points on their travels in league action – Tranmere, Carlisle and Hartlepool.

And the Blues take on a Plymouth side who have had impressive results at Home Park, losing once there in all competitions.

‘We’re starting to get there in the league. The performances have been a bit better, we’re getting goals and we’ve changed formation a bit,’ said Hollands.

‘That’s fine and helps me going forward but we still have our jobs to do.

‘Our home form has been very good and our away form not so good.

‘That’s something we have to correct and we have to start that with three points at Plymouth.’

With 16 games of league action already gone, it’s been a season of mixed performances and results for Pompey.

But Hollands is reasonably satisfied with the team’s position in ninth place – two points off the play-off berths.

He remembers how a powerful finale to the campaign – with five wins and two draws – took his side from relegation danger to mid-table comfort last term.

‘You never know with football. We were 19th or 20th at the end of last season and could have ended up two places off the play-offs,’ added Hollands.

‘We have to stay in and around that pack. If we do then something positive could happen at the end of the season.’