The real Pompey truth about Fratton’s missing fortress

Carl Baker celebrates his goal in Pompey's 4-0 win against Grimsby at Fratton Park on Tuesday night Picture: Joe Pepler

Carl Baker celebrates his goal in Pompey's 4-0 win against Grimsby at Fratton Park on Tuesday night Picture: Joe Pepler

Michael Eisner

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These days Tesco forms the ramparts, a fan-friendly embrace for wanderers to these parts.

Certainly not a construction designed to daunt, let alone stave off unwanted raiders.

Pompey players Gary ONeil, Djimi Traore, Matt Taylor and Lomana Lualua celebrate after Rio Ferdinands own goal handed the Blues a 2-1 Fratton Park win over Manchester United in 2007

Pompey players Gary ONeil, Djimi Traore, Matt Taylor and Lomana Lualua celebrate after Rio Ferdinands own goal handed the Blues a 2-1 Fratton Park win over Manchester United in 2007

And there once stood the mighty Fratton fortress.

The power to intimidate has long since diminished, pacification at what was once the scourge of the country’s finest football clubs.

Halcyon days when Manchester United incurred defeats during three of Pompey’s opening four Premier League seasons, the April 2004 outcome while reigning champions.

In that same four-year period Arsenal fled with one victory, as did Tottenham, while Liverpool suffered two league losses.

Today the fear factor is not so gloriously prevalent, while the famous old ground’s edge has rusted.

While climbing off the team bus in the recent Fratton Park encounter, one awe-struck Crewe player was overhead to utter ‘Manchester United used to come here’.

The unfortunate outcome of that match suggests the home of Pompey is more a tourist icon to savour than a dark alley to avoid.

Yet the fortress’ demise has been greatly exaggerated, certainly taking into account this season’s results.

Granted, the walls may have weakened, crumbling away from those Premier league heydays, yet it still stands encouragingly firm.

For irrespective of common opinion, the Blues have this season fared better on home turf than on their travels.

Considering Paul Cook’s men today head to Stevenage seeking a fourth successive away triumph, it puts into perspective the credible Fratton results.

Pompey have won more games, earned more points, scored more goals and conceded fewer times at home this season when compared to their away record.

In fact, only Doncaster and Colchester can better such a return.

The disappointment experienced during home defeats to Crewe, Stevenage and Notts County is irrefutable, particularly the manner in which they occurred.

Crewe and Notts County have relegation concerns, while Stevenage fled with victory at a time when they were far from the force they are presently.

Similarly, Hartlepool collected a point within eight days of a 5-0 Victoria Park hammering by Cambridge United.

Not good enough, yet in the context of results at home this season, they represent nothing more than blips.

And for that reason, Fratton Park largely remains as impenetrable as ever. Yes, really.

Not that the shine should be rubbed from the outstanding away form which has continued from last season and become a massive factor of Cook’s managerial reign.

That in itself warrants praise, certainly considering Pompey possess the third-best away record in League Two, with nine victories.

In the top seven, only league leaders Doncaster have managed to win a match while hosting the Blues during the current campaign.

Although, in fairness, Stevenage take their turn today, so that could yet change.

However, in 19 away matches, Pompey have accumulated 32 points, with only Plymouth and Exeter able to amass more.

The Devon duo each have 11 wins before today – with the Pilgrims taking four more points than the haul of Cook’s team.

Pompey, though, do have two more points than a Doncaster side whose unbeaten home record this season has been the chief driving force in their presence at League Two’s summit.

Interestingly, the bottom three in the away table consist of Yeovil and Cheltenham, who both have still to come to Fratton Park this season.

Propping up everyone is Hartlepool. Yes, them again.

Newport County (19th) and Cambridge (seventh) have also still to journey to the south coast.

Despite Pompey’s undoubted strengths on the road, their home results have still been more productive.

Presently, they have collected 33 points at Fratton Park– one more than the away return and having played a game fewer.

There have been 34 Blues goals and only 14 conceded, generating a plus-20 goal difference.

In comparison, away matches have yielded 25 goals, with 17 conceded and a goal difference of eight.

Of course, last season Fratton Park did creak, with more points gained on Pompey’s travels.

Cook’s troops picked up four more points away from home, in the process giving them the fifth-best away record in League Two.

They won 11 on their travels and 10 at home, while lost two fewer games away from Fratton Park.

Incidentally, Cook’s men boasted the sixth-best home record during 2015-16.

Back to the present day, there remain concerns over the Blues’ ability to break sides down on home turf.

It’s a genuine worry when sides sit deep, showing little attacking intent and crave nothing more than a point, entirely within their rights of course.

Oh yes, Hartlepool again.

However, irrespective of that flaw, three of League Two’s leading six clubs, excluding Pompey, have won at Fratton Park – Doncaster, Stevenage and Exeter.

Something to consider when Plymouth visit on April 14.

In the past, Steve Stone netted from close range, Rio Ferdinand put a backpass into his own net and David Unsworth dispatched a penalty.

How mighty Manchester United must have despised venturing to the south coast.

Fratton was a fortress then, uncompromising and unconquerable.

And, believe it or not, it still is.

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