Proof that progress is being made

112755-421_BORO_POMPEY_SR_6/8/11'Pompey vs Middlesborough at the Riverside Stadium.'Luke Varney celebrates scoring the late late equalising goal.''Picture:Steve Reid 112755-421
112755-421_BORO_POMPEY_SR_6/8/11'Pompey vs Middlesborough at the Riverside Stadium.'Luke Varney celebrates scoring the late late equalising goal.''Picture:Steve Reid 112755-421
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It had all the dreaded ingredients for another unmagnificent seven.

Instead, Pompey already find themselves with six points from their opening five matches of the league season.

And Steve Cotterill believes his side are emerging from their tough start to the new campaign with plenty of credit – as well as points.

Recent times have yielded horrific starts to a campaign for the Blues.

In the season which would ultimately mark their Premier League demise, Paul Hart’s men lost their first seven matches.

Twelve months later, with Steve Cotterill at the helm, Pompey also failed to win any of their opening seven games.

They would lose five of them to remain firmly rooted to the foot of the table.

Thankfully, progress has been far more productive this time around in an infinitely better start.

Pitted against newly-promoted Brighton and last year’s play-off qualifiers Reading and Cardiff was tricky enough.

They also faced testing trips to Middlesbrough and Bristol City.

Yet Cotterill’s men have lost just once, finding themselves standing 12th in the Championship.

Next up is a trip to promotion favourites West Ham tomorrow, followed by Hull, as the demanding encounters keep on flowing.

Granted, at times Pompey have not been fluent and continue to struggle to score goals.

For Cotterill, though, foundations glaringly absent from the previous two seasons have finally been laid.

And he believes it bodes well for the future.

He said: ‘Tomorrow is going to be tough – but our first 10 matches are tough.

‘We knew from the outset we were going to have a difficult start.

‘But do you know what? Apart from an odd half here and there we’ve not done too bad. In fact, we are a penalty kick away from being unbeaten in the league at this stage.

‘Sometimes we have not been as good as I would have liked football-wise, which is what happens when you have got so many new players.

‘We have competed in every game, though. I don’t think anybody can dispute that.

‘So far we’ve played Brighton, who are flying after getting promoted and have a settled, successful team.

‘We’ve had Middlesbrough, who are no different from how they finished last year and remain one of the form teams in the Championship.

‘Then there have been Reading and Cardiff – both of which reached the play-offs last year. Reading got to the final.

‘We’ve also played Bristol City at their place, which is always a difficult ground to go to no matter which way you look at it.

‘Now we’ve got visits to West Ham and Hull coming up. Then we play a second relegated team from the Premier League in Blackpool.

‘The fixtures keep on coming.

‘Of course we would have liked to have scored more goals than we have, but I don’t know how many times we have hit the woodwork.

‘Maybe if we got the rub of the green a little bit we could be a lot higher up the league.’

Free-spending West Ham are justifiably one of the favourites for promotion.

Yet they have failed to win any of their matches at Upton Park so far this season.

That includes a Carling Cup defeat to Aldershot.

Regardless, they are in fifth spot in the league, having won all three of their away fixtures.

Tomorrow will see Pompey potentially up against former players Matt Taylor, Papa Bouba Diop and Frederic Piquionne.

Although Gary O’Neil is out with a cruciate injury.

Pompey head to the Hammers on the back of a fitful performance against Cardiff last time out.

But Cotterill believes his men are beginning to gel.

He added: ‘Against Cardiff, in the first half I was not happy with our performance.

‘I was definitely a lot happier after the break.

‘Afterwards I took responsibility for over training them because it’s about trying to draw the line between over training and under training.

‘That’s not so much running around but organisational work.

‘I think it is very difficult for the players to know the ins and outs about each other after five games.

‘When the players get to know each other we will get better as the season goes on.’