With the new era beginning, the club under ownership of the fans, all that was left was an opening day victory to kick-start the promotion push back to League One. However, not all went to plan. With a good opening 30 minutes against Oxford, Pompey looked strong and up for the challenge League Two was going to throw their way. The team looked confident, the fans looks confident, and most of all, the city felt united once more. Something I haven’t seen since the FA Cup win in 2008. 60 minutes later, the final whistle blew; one of relief for many who filled the sold-out Fratton Park that day, as Pompey crashed to a 1-4 loss. Many people knew there was still work to be done, and it seems that work is beginning to pay off. Pompey currently sit comfortably in 15th place, with 16 points, one that most would be happy with, given the poor form at the early end of the season. With the (dare I say it) Christmas period fast approaching, there are many points to be played for.
Last Saturday’s trip to Plymouth Argyle was a positive one, and in my eyes, a point gained. Plymouth, a side that have played in this division for several seasons now, like Pompey, were looking for promotion from the bottom tier. With a strong squad, that have gelled over time, it’s surprising to see their form, of late, hasn’t been positive. That in mind, Argyle took an early lead due to Yassin Moutakil’s mistake, leaving Pompey to play on the back foot. With a swift reply, the team looked confident at 1-1, with several balls being played into the box, they begin to take control. The half time whistle seemed to come too soon, with the playing being fluent from Pompey; something that has been missing since the season began. The second half was very end-to-end, with the final result being the same at half time, a well earned draw.
Saturday’s performance against Bury was a poor one. With Bondz N’gala currently on the goal trail, it was no surprise ‘He Scores When He Wants’ was ringing around Fratton Park once more. He’s beginning to remind me of Linvoy Primus, back in the day, when he played along side Sol Campbell – a partnership that many Premier League strike forces feared playing against. Linvoy was able to get up in the air, win headers, and score the occasional goal. N’gala has almost replicated those sorts of performances of late, with 3 goals in as many games. As well as scoring goals, he has been putting in award-winning defensive displays, that earned him a place in EA Sports’ Fifa Ultimate Team ‘Team of the Week’, two weeks ago. He was one of Guy Whittingham’s impulse signings, after playing one game as a trialist against Havant & Waterloovile; the local pre-season friendly that is played annually.
Whittingham made a few impulse signings this season after the transfer window, one of which was Therry Racon. Racon played a part in Whittingham’s January overhaul last season, and never really impressed me. This season he has certainly proven me wrong! With stunning midfield displays, winning the ball, running into pace, and pin-point passing was something he would never have done in League One, but League Two seems to be the one he thrives in. So much so, that Romain Padovani, and even Simon Ferry, have been kept out of the team.
I think the strength in Pompey’s defence at the moment is one that would cope comfortably in League One. With Jed Wallace being touted by several Premier League teams, Ertl and Ferry’s combined experience in the Football League, along with the pace of Barcham, and set-piece quality of Ricky Holmes, Pompey certainly have no problem creating chances. A problem that I have found with the squad, especially in the early stages, was the lack of ability up front, and lack of confidence attacking the ball.
Whittingham definitely pulled it out of the bag, bringing in youngster John Marquis from Millwall, who despite his poor goal tally at his parent club, has already formed a strong partnership with Patrick Ageymang. Both strikers possess different qualities; Ageymang has the strength to battle off defenders, and a first touch that would make Lionel Messi jealous! Marquis has the ability to run 20 yards into the box to poach the ball, get a head on the end of a venomous cross, and even take a shot so powerful it could actually break down a barn door!
With the league performances aside, Pompey also have the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to look forward to, with a trip to Newport County on the cards. A win in that game will see them just 3 games from Wembley, and within touching distance of a trophy for the first time in six seasons! Admittedly, it’s not a ‘major’ trophy, but it’s silverware nonetheless, and as usual, Pompey will pack out Wembley with blue flags once again! The cup is definitely in the minds of the players, however sustaining a decent league position until then is the most important thing to think about. I would love a trip to Wembley again, and to be able to keep a comfortable position this season. It’ll certainly make a difference from hearing about different ownership battles and back-to-back relegations!
We now look ahead to playing against Torquay in the league, the team’s second trip to the West Country in 3 weeks, and the second trip to Torquay in seven weeks, hoping to improve on their last performance, which ended in winning a penalty shootout, thanks to a Moutakil doing a cheeky ‘Pirlo chip’.
Onwards and upwards, in Pompey we trust!
Written by Harry Davis, We Are Going Up’s Portsmouth blogger
Harry tweets at @MrDavishPFC