Pompey predictions: Steve Wilson’s view

Michael Doyle has had a major influence in Pompey's bid for promotion this season Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Doyle has had a major influence in Pompey's bid for promotion this season Picture: Joe Pepler
Dion Donohue. Picture: Colin Farmery

New boy’s bitter-sweet Pompey experience

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Pompey writer Steve Wilson continues our 2016 Pompey predictions feature by giving his verdict on what lies ahead for the Blues between now and the end of the season.

Back in August, I was optimistic and confident Pompey would mount a promotion challenge this season.

Now it’s January and I am convinced they will go up. I’m also certain they will do it automatically.

After Paul Cook’s summer overhaul, there was an injection of quality and experience into the side, but there were also some question marks on how things would pan out and how the new players would settle in.

But it now looks increasingly clear to me that the manager knows exactly what is required and there are players in the team who know what it takes to get out of this division.

The Blues have depth in the squad to cope with injuries or suspensions and they also have the capacity to fill gaps in the loan market if required.

My initial concerns that it would take time for the team to understand each other and get used to Cook’s methods has proved unfounded.

While there has been an element of that bedding-in process, we haven’t seen the huge inconsistency in performances we might have feared.

Things have been surprisingly steady.

Yes, there have been a few more draws than Cook would have liked, especially at Fratton Park when Pompey struggled to break down stubborn opponents early in the campaign.

But just three League Two defeats at this stage of the season is an excellent return.

So what are we expecting for 2016?

I tipped Pompey to finish as League Two runners-up in August and I’m sticking with that prediction.

On the eve of the new season, I felt Luton Town might be the team to beat.

However, that particular tip seems to be some way off the mark, with the Hatters in 15th place at present and way out of the promotion reckoning.

They would need a seriously good run to get involved in the shake-up, although the play-offs are by no means out of reach for them.

At present, it’s hard to see Plymouth giving up an eight-point buffer over Pompey, although it’s certainly not impossible.

On that basis, you’d have to consider the Pilgrims as favourites for the title.

And based on the evidence I’ve seen at first hand this term, I’d put Oxford ahead of Northampton as the most likely candidates for the other automatic promotion slot.

On the pitch, Cook has made a significant signing in extending Marc McNulty’s stay until the end of the season.

The Sheffield United man is simply too good for League Two and I would expect him to be the club’s top goalscorer with at least 15 goals to his name by May.

But I’m also standing by my other prediction – that Michael Doyle will end up as player of the season.

If a vote was taken now, I think Ben Davies might be leading the way.

The former Sheffield United man would certainly get my vote for a string of consistent displays.

But Doyle has shown his increasing influence in recent weeks and has also battled through a knee injury with seemingly no effect on his game.

His leadership on the pitch is already obvious but I would expect it to become even more apparent as 2016 progresses.

My one concern continues to centre on the goalkeeper, and while I haven’t written off Brian Murphy, he certainly hasn’t convinced me yet.

If he can cut out the errors and find his consistent displays, I’d be only too happy for him to make me eat my words.

Final Pompey position: 2nd

League Two’s Top Three: Plymouth, Pompey, Oxford

Play-off spots: Northampton, Leyton Orient, Wycombe,

Luton Town

Relegated: York and Yeovil

Pompey player of the year: Michael Doyle

Pompey top-scorer: Marc McNulty

To read Jordan Cross’ predictions, click here.