Knill sees fewer reasons to be cheerful after Pompey stalemate
What a difference three days can make.
Torquay United manager Alan Knill leapt to his players’ defence after a frustrating 0-0 draw with Hartlepool in League Two last Saturday, but his reaction was very different after the same scoreline against Portsmouth in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Tuesday.
Pompey deserved to win in normal time, but they had to go to a penalty shoot-out before prevailing 5-3, United skipper Lee Mansell’s missed kick proving decisive.
That was scant consolation for Knill, who said: “It wasn’t the performance I was after.
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“In the first half, we were totally dominated by the better team. You can’t go from doing good things on Saturday to not doing exactly the same in the next game three days later.
“First half, you ask for more aggression, tempo and energy, and we didn’t have that. On Saturday, we had all of that.
“In the first half, we couldn’t pass the ball and, whenever we got the ball, we gave it back to them. We have to be better in possession.
“I thought in the second half we were better, but not a hell of a lot better. Still, it goes to penalties, and you put one over the bar. What else is there to say?”
Knill rested senior players Kevin Nicholson, Mansell and Karl Hawley, sending Mansell and Hawley on as late substitutes for the shoot-out. Billy Bodin was away on international duty with the Wales Under-21 squad.
Tom Cruise replaced Nicholson at left-back and Damon Lathrope took over from Mansell in midfield, with Knill commenting: “I thought Tom Cruise did OK, and Lathrope grew into the game.
“There were some other positives – the two centre-halves [Krystian Pearce and Aaron Downes] were outstanding. And I thought young Danny Sullivan was nice and bright and gave us something different when we sent him on.”
Knill added: “We knew, looking at Portsmouth’s team, it was going to be a tough game, but I expect way more, first half especially. It shows we have a lot of work to do.”
It could all add up to an interesting afternoon at Plainmoor next Tuesday (2pm), when United’s ‘reserves’ will play the latest in a series of friendlies against Westcountry opponents, this time Plymouth Argyle.
But, before then, the Gulls face the first of two tough away League Two games in succession, at Fleetwood Town on Saturday. They also travel to Rochdale seven days later.
Bodin will again be missing at Fleetwood – Wales play UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifiers in San Marino tomorrow night and in Moldova next Tuesday.