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Being a first half team

For the third season in a row, there is a clear contrast between our first and second halves. A friend pointed out that we are currently 6th in first halves and 18th in second halves, and we have seen similar statistics both of the past two seasons also. This also means we rarely have comebacks to win - I think it has been two years since the last one now. I believe last season we only rescued one point when we trailed at any point during a second half (Charlton away).

This is not a thread to complain - 6th and 9th were good finishes, so it did not completely derail us - but I would be interested in thoughts as to why we are such a first half team.

My own guess is that the Bayo effect caused a lot of the late game havoc we used to see in our favour, and as his career wound down, that "late show" part of it tapered off. But I can't figure out just why we are so first half oriented now for such a long period, and would be interested to hear perspectives.



  • i suspect there is a correlation to where you are in the overall league to where you are in the first half / second half league.

    teams placed 6th to 12th I would expect to be similar records to us. Where they get a good lead in first half and then perhaps protect that lead in second half, leading to less points.

    I would expect teams in bottom half of table may be one or two down in first half and then perhaps draw or win second half.

  • edited October 2023

    Redoing this comment, as there are a few outliers like us. For first halves v seconds, Blackpool are 15 worse with Wigan 8 worse. For better seconds v firsts, Burton have a gap of 11, Exeter and Cambridge have a gap of 9, while Port Vale have 14.

    So only one team worse than us for 1st v 2nd, and only two with larger dichotomies. I suppose for me it is also the sustained nature of our first half situation, for over two years now.

  • edited October 2023

    For comparison:

    2023/24: 5th first half, 17th 2nd half.

    2022/23: 5th first half, 16th 2nd half.

    2021/22: 2nd first half, 8th 2nd half.

    The two seasons before the Champo promotion were much closer between first and second halves (19/20 within 1, 18/19 within 3 in favour of 2nd halves). From what I can see, it is a very unusual dichotomy even for one season, let alone three. I know there was only a gap of 6 in 2021/22, but the difference was an automatic promotion team first half versus a team that did not make the playoffs second half.

    This does seem to be a clear trend that is long enough to be rather unique.

  • Simple - when Vokes blows out the ball doesn’t stick in the opposition half.

    Despite the dogs abuse he received at times, Alex Samuel was pretty good at keeping us higher up the pitch when subbed on for Bayo.

    We need a backup to Vokes badly.

  • I don’t think that’s even vaguely true, as many people pointed out to you the other night, we had way more time in the attacking third when Vokes went off on Tuesday.

    I do wonder though if our high press has anything to do with it and the players are all just knackered by 55 minutes. Back in the Bayo years I don’t think we pressed the defenders much.

  • edited October 2023

    The quality dropped off quite a bit when we switched the front 3.

    We do this as a stock change now. Must be a decent factor in the drop off @Shev ?

  • It's hard work running for 100 minutes keeping out better passing teams, People get tired. The best teams with the fittest players and 5 good subs plug away and get there in the end. Not sure there's any great science here or we try any less late on. With less budget you get limited players at times, how often do we say if a player also had X he'd be playing higher up the leagues. Colby was great, like Vokes but younger and stronger and able to run all game, the Vokes of that era cost Stoke £7m.

    Have heard similar arguments about big teams getting the best of decisions and lucky late goals but in reality if you're the one forcing the game and spend most of your time banging on the door it's inevitable which way any slip or bit of skill will go.

  • Luck = preparation + perspiration.

    Or something.

  • I would have thought the main reason was that we often didn’t really seem to want to build on the advantages of our good first half.

    It seemed to be a feature of latter day GA teams that having got a lead the priority was to defend it rather than extend it, with the inevitable consequence that we invited pressure that often ended up with the inevitable equaliser or defeat.

    The difference (for me) is compounded by us having a better quality of players after the Championship season who possibly could have benefitted for being more attack minded.

    If we go back to when we were comeback kings, we didn’t have the same quality of individual players and relied so much more on work rate and spirit and because we weren’t as talented we probably would expect to go behind against the better teams and then go all out second half after we were behind.

    So basically my theory is it’s because we have much better players now!

  • Unless you can prove this with statistics it’s one opinion vs another. The last 30 mins was a total onslaught.

  • The only problem with the idea of us being a lesser team that is more likely to go ahead in the first half and sit on a lead, is that Exeter are a pretty good comp for us as a club, but they reverse the trend. So I am not sure it is just about being the plucky team punching above one's weight.

  • I actually (meant to anyway) said the opposite. When we were a ‘lesser’ team (or with less quality players) we were better second half.

    Its since we became a ‘better’ team that we are often better first half but then tactically (under GA particularly) sit back and hand the initiative to our opponents.

  • We had a much better forward line at that time, old boys maybe but 3 up front: Tyson bombing down the wing , Bayo controlling every long punt down field and CMS with an additional bit of quality drifting in from out wide gave you real hope that if there were only 10 seconds on the clock we could bang the ball forward and something could happen. Add in JJs free kicks and corners and you have hope until the ref blows his whistle.

    We may be more comfortable on the ball now but simply don't have the same threat. Even back to Paul Hayes and Scott Kashket at their most potent we had real threat, I appreciate Vokesey more than most but he's often isolated and we haven't had an immediate threat since Anis left. If we're running things GMac, Vokesey and others will find a way but against the better teams we tire after a while, maybe run out of ideas and get caught. Hanlan is a threat on his day but from a point where we had kind of accepted he was going he's had maybe 2 good games and then been anonymous again.

  • It amazes me to think that there are seemingly fans who feel we improve when Vokes goes off.

    Just goes to show we all see games differently

  • Quite, to me we've dropped off the last 3 games after he's gone off. As for being in their half more on Tuesday after he went off, I must have been watching a different game as Portsmouth absolutely battered us 2nd half. Amazes me people can't appreciate everything he does during the game, do they only think about goals scored ?

    Meanwhile, "oh Hanlan looked lively" when in reality he did absolutely nothing.

  • I agree with much of what you say but I don’t think Pompey absolutely battered us in the second half. Yes, they dominated possession but there were only a handful of occasions when they actually threatened our goal and I can recall Max making a meaningful save only once or twice. I think with Pompey in such great form and with the backing of their noisy, passionate support, they forced us to defend rather than us choosing to sit on our lead.

  • Portsmouth accumulated seven corners in the second half. Wycombe had one.

    Portsmouth had three shots on target in the second half. Wycombe had zero.

    Portsmouth scored twice in the second half. Wycombe didn’t score in the second half.

    As far as I evaluate it, we were battered second half. That’s fine - we were away to the team unbeaten at the top of the table. It happens. We outplayed them for approximately 20 mins in the first half. There are some positives to take.

  • It depends how you define a battering. For me, that translates to conceding several goals and/or your goalkeeper making multiple saves/defenders blocking goal bound efforts, shots rebounding off the bar/posts etc. That did not happen and we only conceded against the EFL’s most in-form team because of sloppy marking at a throw in and a possible foul on Max. I think our defensive performance deserves more credit than to describe it as a battering.

  • Your wish is my command.

    You can actually see the moment Vokes went off. We hadn't really attacked for about an hour, then all of a sudden some sustained pressure. So, rather than the last 30 minutes being a "total onslaught", the prior hour had been a total onslaught and the last 30 minutes contained our longest period of sustained pressure. Takes some pretty magical Vokes-tinted spectacles to see it any other way.

  • And here's the striker stats for the game. Vokes with one shot and not a single touch in the box for 66 minutes, Taylor with 3 times as many shots and plenty of time in the box.

  • He might have done a better job defending that corner if he'd still been on the pitch.

    His defensive strength at opposition set pieces is one of the many things he does that often seems to go unnoticed

  • I've no doubt he would. I don't think he had a bad game at all, the stats above were just the proof that @frequentstander asked for about one specific aspect of the match. I don't think Vokes actually is a hold-up player, and while stats can be made to say whatever you want, they certainly bore that out on Tuesday.

  • Thought he started brightly and set the tone for the first half both with the early hopeful shot and a pass or too, would like to see him and Taylor develope a partnership. The temptation to overly hit balls in his vague direction and hope he flicks on regardless of whether that's working or not isn't new and eventually did for ageing Hayes and Bayo.

    What he doesn't seem to be anymore is a 90 (or 100 minute) player. Phillips seems to be the closest thing to an aerial replacement which is a bit worrying.

  • edited October 2023

    Thanks for those stats @drcongo , that's exactly how I saw the second half live down there. Once Vokes, Hanlan and McCleary went off, the new front three put a sustained period of pressure on from 80-90 minutes. Then in added time it completely swung back in their favour.

    Taylor got into three good positions, the best position he took up would have led to a significant chance but for the defenders last ditch toe on the ball. We didn't even get a corner. The sahme about that was it then led to the Pompey onslaught. So instead of us whipping a corner in and running the clock down a bit, they went on the attack.

    I agree with @eric_plant that Vokes is normally critical to the way we play and he should always start. However, for the first time in a long time we significantly improved offensively when he went off on Tuesday.

    I still think our lack of attacking threat is because Hanlan, McCleary and Vokes seem to interchange far too much. Hanlan never anticipates a Vokes flick on. McCleary quite often sits off.

    I'd really like to see Hanlan and McCleary stay wide right and wide left and attack the full backs, get to the byeline and pull the ball back for Vokes to head in.

  • Do other people genuinely think we looked more of a threat without Vokes than with him?

  • edited October 2023

    Do you genuinely think one shot in over an hour, from 30 yards out, that went ten feet wide is a threat?

  • And just to reiterate, I'm not Vokes bashing here. It's very much not his fault that he wasn't a threat, Portsmouth were excellent, we were away from home etc. I'm just correcting the record for those that think we were better with him on the pitch. We weren't.

  • Second half, yes. I thought the first half was fantastic from everyone involved, but I genuinely don't remember a second half attack till the subs. And I love Vokes to bits.

  • It didn't particularly feel much different in the second half, just that we had fresher legs for more closing down.

    We all have our player preferences though, and I'm very pro Vokes so it'd take some really wretched form for me to want him dropped etc.

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