Jordan: We must help Crouch and Defoe

Portsmouth's new frontline fails to unsettle United, writes Sachin Nakrani

The Community Shield's only genuine appeal lies in the chance for both sets of supporters to finally see their club's summer signings in competitive action and so, considering he was the only recruit on show, it was no surprise that Peter Crouch commanded so much of the limelight prior to yesterday's encounter.

Would he link up well with Jermain Defoe? Could the Portsmouth pair trouble Manchester United's usually imperturbable defence? Should Fabio Capello, who was in attendance at Wembley, pick them for the friendly against the Czech Republic later this month?

Sadly for the forwards, the only answers which could be expressed with any real honesty after the final whistle here were no, no and no. When Defoe scored for Portsmouth in the penalty shoot-out, it represented the first time either he or Crouch had troubled Edwin van der Sar in the United goal.

The preceding 90 minutes had instead been a period of immense frustration for the pair with only the smaller of the two making any impact at all, Defoe firing wide of the near post just before half-time .

Crouch did have a shot himself 30 minutes later, but as the ball drifted over the bar he and the Portsmouth fans behind the goal both immediately deemed it a moment to forget. To write Crouch and Defoe off now would be unfair, as they did after all come up against the European champions and, it should be remembered, have both already scored in pre-season.

But with league fixtures against Chelsea and United looming in the horizon both will need to show better form if the club is to achieve its ambition of bettering last year's eighth place.

The club's assistant manager Joe Jordan, however, believes it is up to the rest of the squad to do more to help the front pair. "It's a new partnership and the team needs to play in a manner that gets some success from them," he said. "They're two players who are in the England squad and, because of their physical attributes,

people will assume they'll work as a partnership, but we need to get them the service so we can get the benefits of their ability. That means more width."

A lack of service was undoubtedly an issue for Portsmouth. Niko Kranjcar was wholly ineffective from the left wing while Papa Bouba Diop was encouraging but not particularly effective from the other side. There was also a lack of thrust from the centre of the pitch where Lassana Diarra played neat passes side-to-side but nothing of any note forward. The Frenchman got no support from Pedro Mendes who was meant to be playing alongside him, but such was the penetration of Ryan Giggs from centre midfield that he was forced instead to retreat to the edge of his own penalty area.

Jordan said: "We played five in the middle for the majority of last season but are now looking to go 4-4-2 and clearly the players are struggling to adapt to that right now. But we want to be a team you know you'll get goals with." And those goals will have to come not only domestically but also abroad as Portsmouth embark on their first ever season in Europe.

There is much excitement on the south coast regarding the challenge of playing in the Uefa Cup but with it also a concern that the squad may not be large enough to cope. It will come as a relief then to those involved with the club that after weeks of negotiating, the Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul is finally set to sign for them in a deal worth close to £4m and which will be formally completed following a medical this week.

"He's a player the manager set his sights on very early," said Jordan. "He's only 22 and couldn't get a better opportunity to play with some of the players we have."

Those players include Crouch and Defoe and as Portsmouth embark on the most important season in their history, it is imperative they play in a manner that suggests the club's future is as bright as its recent past.


Sachin Nakrani at Wembley

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