Portsmouth on right path to the Championship
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It’s been eight hellish years for Portsmouth since slipping into the English football dungeon. Toiling in obscurity, drifting back and forth between the lower ranks became Pompey's norm. The elites treated them with scorn. Under Kenny Jackett, however, there’s a realistic chance of clawing back up.
There have been some fascinating fairy tales in recent times. Leicester City's famous Premier League conquest in 2016 stands out. Prior, Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic took turns at the odds. These supposed minors halted Chelsea's perpetual yearn for the FA Cup in 2008 and '13 respectively.
Not all fairy tales come with happy endings. More often than not disaster beckons. A peculiar conundrum with punching above one's weight. Barely two years after Nwankwo Kanu struck that winner against Cardiff City at Wembley, Pompey mysteriously found themselves in the fourth tier, on the brink of extinction.
Much like Portsmouth, other clubs have taken a fall. Notably Leeds United and Coventry City. In fact, more than 50 Football and Premier League members have undergone insolvency proceedings in the past two decades. Pompey's case was distinct. It proved swift and sharp, owing to financial idiocy.
However, there’s been some cheering news from Portsmouth. As well as a redesigned club crest featuring a new nautical compass star, Nike agreed to kit the team. Best of all, top-flight football now seems a stone throw away. That's largely down to Jackett's impressive system.
Journey so far
Similar to Manchester City in the Premier League, Portsmouth have set the League One pace this season. They are atop the standings with 44 points after 19 matches. Closest rivals Sunderland trail by four points. Pompey faithful are already conceiving a return to the Championship. And rightly so.
Portsmouth began the campaign on fire. They enjoyed four consecutive league wins - their best start in almost four decades. The south coast outfit then stayed undefeated in the subsequent seven games before a shock defeat at home to Gillingham. From that loss onwards, it’s been a rollercoaster.
Pompey have since faced 11 different opponents in all competitions. They've beat nine. The other two encounters ended in a share of the spoils. Their most recent outing, an FA Cup clash against Rochdale, finished in a 1-0 triumph.
Jackett didn't build his constellation around any star. Yet some have shone brighter. The competition among Ronan Curtis, Gareth Evans, Jamal Lowe and Oli Hawkins is yielding dividends. The attacking quartet has struck seven times apiece so far.
More can still be done, though. Portsmouth (32) lag behind nearest challengers Sunderland and Luton Town ( both on 39) for goals scored. Even Peterborough and Barnsley, in fourth and fifth respectively, have been superior at finding the net. Jackett reckons his attack may need rebuffing in the winter.
We do need to be more clinical and score more goals. No doubt we are playing very well as a team, the work-rate is good and we are efficient at getting into the box. It’s just that final shot and finishing teams off when we have the chance. Perhaps we should bring someone in during the January transfer window who can finish those chances off.
On the other hand, Jackett flaunts the division's best defence. His side is built on defensive discipline and compactness. They've conceded just 15 times. In the heart of the backline is Matt Clarke and Nathan Thompson. The pair has struck upon a formidable partnership.
With a little bit more cutting edge in the final third, Portsmouth may well be on their way to the Championship. Although it's still early days, who says Pompey can't dare to dream once more?