From fervent critics to Checkatrade Trophy specialists - Portsmouth's outstanding record continues
For all the reticence to get involved and initiating of supporter boycotts since its revamping, the EFL Trophy has established a successful association with Pompey.
It was the 2016-17 campaign which saw the competition’s format ripped up to accommodate what was then paraded as under-23 teams.
Viewed with suspicion amid an ongoing battle to deny the Premier League crowbarring B teams into the Football League structure, the Checkatrade Trophy began life with little affection.
Regardless, Pompey have suffered just two defeats in 17 matches since the controversial change.
It appears a connection has been created – and a winning one at that.
Saturday sees the visit of Norwich under-21s to Fratton Park as the Checkatrade Trophy holders seek to retain the silverware earnt at Wembley.
Now rebranded the Leasing.com Trophy, Pompey’s defence has already brought a Southern Group B victory over Crawley.
Another triumph would not ensure cast-iron qualification for the knock-out stages, with two group places up for grabs between four teams.
Certainly Pompey boast an outstanding record in the much-maligned competition, yet life in the Checkatrade Trophy began with a losing start at Yeovil in August 2016.
Michael Smith bagged a hat-trick for Paul Cook’s side, only to be undone by all four of the hosts’ goals arriving in the opening 39 minutes to produce a 4-3 Blues defeat.
Pompey have lost just once more in the ensuing 16 games – against Chelsea under-21s.
That arrived in January 2018, when the Premier League club’s Charly Musonda netted a free-kick winner in injury time.
Seconds earlier, Brett Pitman appeared to have secured a 1-1 draw with a leveller, only for late drama to intervene in front of a Fratton Park crowd of 3,116.
Since that 2-1 defeat, Pompey have registered nine-successive wins in the competition, with six clean sheets.
Of course, that includes March’s penalty shoot-out triumph over Sunderland in the Wembley final, following a 2-2 draw after extra-time.
In terms of results against under-21/under-23 sides, Pompey have previously beaten Spurs and Arsenal, while drawing against Reading and Fulham.
Now Norwich are next in line for a Fratton Park visit against the team proving to be EFL Trophy specialists.