Carlisle v Portsmouth: Jones’ impact

Conor Chaplin scored a cracker at Barnet –

Carlisle and Portsmouth are in the running for automatic promotion, as was to be expected after summers of heavy spending.

Both have shown potential yet, unlike the relentlessly consistent top two, both also have the capacity implode in one or two games a month. The erratic nature of theirs and Luton’s form means third place is up for grabs and thus, this fixture is made extra significant.

Pompey boss Paul Cook may have a dilemma as to whether to stick with David Forde. The veteran goalkeeper has lost some of his agile reflexes this term, evidenced by his slow attempt to save Barnet’s free-kick last week. There are rumours that he has a minor hip injury, which affects his ability to dive to the right, so Carlisle may be encouraged to shoot on sight.

Luckily for Forde, he is often well-protected by one of the league’s best defences and two holding midfielders, Michael Doyle and Amine Linganzi. The by-product of this is a lack of dynamism and invention in the team’s attacking play. Forwards such as Eoin Doyle and Conor Chaplin, who scored a belting late equalizer at the Hive, can suffer from a lack of support.

As good as Portsmouth have been defensively, they have the top seven’s worst goalscoring return and that must improve. So too must their record against fellow automatic promotion contenders, with two points from four games the top three overshadowing a double over fourth place Luton. By contrast, Carlisle have already beaten Plymouth in August and taken four points off Doncaster, getting three points against them earlier this month

The importance of that victory and performance, which saw them press their opponents with renewed intensity, should not be underestimated. It came at a time when they had just picked up three draws against 10 man opposition, narrowly beaten Leyton Orient but then lost 4-1 at home to Blackpool.

Their defence was faltering with many questioning whether they could win games without injured midfielders Jason Kennedy and Mike Jones. Thankfully, the latter returned for Donny’s visit and it may be no coincidence the team have won back-to-back games since he has come back. Jones has muscle, technique and a calming air about him, with his side losing just one League Two game he has started.

This blog expects that trend to continue, because a draw would suit Carlisle. That outcome would be less satisfactory for Portsmouth, who have shown potential in their quest for a top three place, but they now have little room for error.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-1
Betting tip: Carlisle or draw 8/11