Damned lies, statistics and what our eyes tells us about Portsmouth’s season

Kenny Jackett last week set an 85-point target for achieving promotion to the Championship.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 5:22 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 6:29 pm
Pompey look short of being promotion contenders at present. Picture: Robin Jones/Digital South.

That landmark seems about as relevant to Pompey at the moment as a vow of silence does to Piers Morgan.

The inconvenient truth the Blues have never quite looked like fully-fledged automatic promotion contenders has been happily bundled to one side amid the impressive form seen for nearly half the campaign.

The fact they maintained it for so long says the niggling doubt about quite how strong they were rightly stayed under wraps, but now, through no victories in seven the sentiment Jackett’s men punched above their weight through that period has needed to be faced.

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No more quips about ‘average’ Pompey then. The s***housing banter isn't so funny when the joke  is not on everyone else.

The mood would no doubt be different right now if the team had built into their current fourth-place standing, rather than blazing a trail before hitting their current travails.

The sentiment was aired on our regular Pompey Talk feature last Friday, only a maximum return would do from the past two games against Southend and Bristol Rovers.

The fact a single point has been returned from those fixtures probably tells you about where the focus is now beginning to lie this season.

It may be just a five-point gap to Barnsley in second place ahead of the Tykes’ visit to Fratton Park on Saturday, but to utter the Blues name positively in the same sentence as automatic promotion at present almost feels disrespectful to those feeling the frustration of watching their team disappoint.

The stats actually say such an outcome is still eminently achievable. But as Mark Twain said, there’s lies, damned lies and statistics.

Similarly, those who pointed out promotion rivals were being held at various stages on Tuesday night, were greeted with a nod in the direction of the tepid fare on offer at Fratton and told to stop being so silly.

It’s the same response here then. A top-two finish may be on the cards to those who appear capable of delivering a winning run, but does that look like Pompey? Those present on Tuesday and the 1,239 to who travelled to Southend have the answers.

For the record, the sort of form Jackett’s team produced up until as recently as December 8 would almost certainly deliver a top-two finish.

After 20 games Pompey had 47 points - an average of 2.35 per game.

With 13 games remaining, hitting that kind of return again would see the Blues land between 91 and 92 points.

Unfortunately, since the win against Southend at Fratton Park it’s been just 14 points collected from the ensuing 13 outings - a miserable average of 1.07 points per game.

That Shrimpers victory also happens to be the last time Pompey picked up a clean sheet, which is a revealing statistic.

As well as being pretty depressing, going along at that rate for the rest of the campaign would, erm, rule out a top-two spot if you hadn’t guessed.

But the numbers make for interesting reading and do confirm that Jackett had his parameters spot on when broadly talking about the end-of-season figures.

Over the past 20 seasons in League One the average number of points needed to win the title works out at 94.5. (Wolves in 2003 the highest on 103 and Southend the lowest in 2006 on 82).

Likewise, Jackett’s view the promoted team will get around 85 points is broadly in line with an average of 87.3 points being the mean since the 1998-99 campaign (Colchester the lowest with 79 in 2006 and Blackburn the highest with 96 last term).

The good news is, after a strong first half of the campaign even continuing the current dreadful form could well deliver a top-six finish.

Pompey would scramble a further 14 points if they did so, to give a 75-point end return.

That is marginally above the 74.65 average to hit the top six in League One over the past 20 terms (Paul Cook’s Chesterfield the lowest with 69 points four years ago and Stoke the highest with 82 in 2000).

Whether you’d currently fancy Pompey to beat any of the play-off rivals once they got there is quite another question.

Because although enlightening, it's our own eyes and not the numbers which offer us the greatest evidence about where the season is headed. That's what Jackett and his men have to urgently do something about.