COMMENT: Neil Allen's Pompey play-off verdict

Pompey history emphatically demonstrates the plausibility of a remarkable late-season surge.

Wednesday, 7th March 2018, 5:30 pm
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

This time last year, 31 points were collected from a possible 36 as Paul Cook’s side gobbled up a 13-point deficit to claim the League Two title.

Then there was the outstanding 2005-06 Great Escape haul of 20 points from a potential 27, ensuring the Blues remained in the Premier League with a game to spare.

Meanwhile, Alan Ball’s 1997-98 side ended the season with successive victories to remain in Division One.

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Similarly, a lung-busting sprint to the finish line to earn a League One play-off place under Kenny Jackett is certainly not out of the question. The Blues are presently four points adrift of sixth-placed Plymouth Argyle with 11 matches left, hardly unassailable terrain.

Yet in truth, on this occasion, Pompey will sadly fall short.

Nothing wrong with Jackett targeting the play-offs, of course, such ambition should not be criticised. The Blues should never be content to remain in League One.

The manager, who has twice previously triumphed in promotion from this level, has made the public declaration of a 75-point objective.

During a campaign in perilous danger of petering out, they are welcome words, reassuring supporters that drive exists to build on mid-season promise which has long begun to dwindle.

But can Pompey genuinely succeed? My view is they are unable rather than won’t.

The glaring central midfield absence of experience and bite will not be addressed until next month at the earliest – and the team will remain hamstrung as a result.

Brett Pitman’s scoring touch could easily reignite upon his comeback from injury – strikers’ end product can fluctuate, it is in their nature.

But until Stuart O’Keefe is available once more, there remains that nagging midfield weakness, a position hampered by age rather than ability or form.

Meanwhile, Nathan Thompson, a willing engine-room stand-in, is still sidelined for another two matches, also depriving the defence of one of their consistent performers.

In fairness, few anticipated a play-off campaign during the return to League One, mid-table the realism shared by most. Indeed, a top-10 finish would be an excellent platform to construct upon.

Expectations were cranked up by nine victories in 11 games up to the point the fulcrum of the side, Danny Rose, broke his leg on December 30.

Should Pompey not reach the play-offs, the failure of the January transfer window to rectify that will rightly be regarded as the chief culprit.

Irrespective of the reasoning behind an approach focusing on young loanees, it has been pivotal in dictating the second half of Pompey’s campaign.

As in other seasons, a swashbuckling finale is required to succeed in the club’s aims – but it will be out of reach on this occasion.

However, the Fratton foundations encouragingly remain for the achievement of future aspirations.