Plainmoor demonstrates Whittingham’s tactical Plan B

Ricky Holmes takes on the Torquay defence. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ricky Holmes takes on the Torquay defence. Picture: Joe Pepler

According to Guy Whittingham, there was nothing experimental over his Plainmoor tactics.

It was all about the unveiling of a Plan B he has long had up his sleeve ready to unleash.

The Blues boss sprang a surprise at Torquay on Tuesday night by going with one central striker assisted by a player operating in the hole behind.

With Patrick Agyemang rested and David Connolly suspended, Ryan Bird was entrusted to serve as the lone forward.

Behind him was Ricky Holmes, featuring in a position he occupied many times at previous club Barnet.

Subsequently, Holmes turned in a sparkling display in what was effectively a free role as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixture finished goalless.

He would go on to net one of the penalties in the 5-3 shoot-out success over the Gulls.

For Whittingham, the system is a departure from his favoured 4-4-2 which has long been employed during his tenure as Pompey manager.

Yet Tuesday’s change is an alternative he has always had planned should the necessity arise.

He said: ‘We have worked on it throughout pre-season and thought we would just try it at Torquay.

‘Ricky was in the hole in what you can call a 4-2-3-1 and it gives us an option.

‘We knew he could play in there and it is something we can use home or away.

‘I thought he did well.

‘You can play it on a practice ground, but it is not 90 minutes against proper teams so it was interesting to see how they did.

‘It took a bit of time for them to get used to it.

‘But I thought it created Torquay some problems.

‘Torquay played quite a high line so it was hard to get in between the line and maybe we should have turned them a little bit more.

‘But we have come away and won the game so are obviously happy.

‘I don’t think you can go through a season thinking you are just going to play one way.

‘You have to have in the back of your mind that if teams are creating a problem you can change it to create a problem for the opposition – and you have to work on those things as well.

‘In terms of who can play that role, you have got Ricky, you gave got Jed (Wallace), and you have Andy Barcham.

‘You can flick those three around.’

Torquay was Holmes’ second successive start for the Blues as he is given a run in the side.

Whittingham also played Jed Wallace and Andy Barcham, who lined up on either side of the 25-year-old.

The anticipated return of Agyemang for the trip to Cheltenham this weekend could see a switch back to 4-4-2.

In turn that will provide an interesting selection quandary over the ever-impressive Holmes.

The Blues boss added: ‘We kept asking Rick how he was and he said he was fine.

‘We thought having had 90 minutes and being down to 10-men on Saturday that he might need to be brought off, but he said he was fine.

‘He did excellent as well, it’s all about fitness and sharpness.

‘I still think there is more to come from everybody, I really do.’