The folly of writing off Pompey's season after 19 games

The potential campaign-defining period is galloping towards Pompey.

Monday, 5th December 2016, 3:53 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:40 pm
Darrell Clarke led Bristol Rovers to promotion last season despite the Gas sitting 13th in the League Two table going into December

The festive season brings goodwill to all men along with four matches in 11 days, of which just one is at Fratton Park.

A perfect opportunity for a promotion push or play-off consolidation, depending on the Blues’ state of mind heading into that spell.

Still, with 19 fixtures played, Paul Cook’s men are presently situated fourth in League Two with 31 points.

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That is precisely the same position occupied at that number of matches last term, albeit with two points fewer.

What’s more, Pompey are seven points adrift of the top three – whereas 12 months ago it was four.

Hardly irrefutable proof of improvement to a side which last term reached the play-offs and whose foundations were subsequently strengthened.

Not that the current placing is any sort of accurate indication of where Pompey will finish this season. Take Bristol Rovers for example.

This time last year, Darrell Clarke’s side weren’t even in the top 12 – and 11 points short of the automatic promotion spots.

Admittedly armed with a game in hand, yet a placing of 13th was hardly cause for other clubs to fear a side back in the Football League.

Come the season’s end, they were promoted in third place on goal difference with a haul of 85 points.

They had started December seven points short of the Blues – but finished the season seven ahead.

And it was an impressive surge sparked by five wins and a draw during the subsequent month during a charge into the new year.

Certainly, it would be folly to judge the outcome of any league campaign on standings constructed after 19 fixtures.

So far in 2016-17, Pompey could have fared better, considerably better, while there remain doubts over their ability to capture the required points for promotion.

But Bristol Rovers are not alone in demonstrating how league fortunes can dramatically alter.

Last year’s League Two table at this stage also displays AFC Wimbledon as sitting in 11th spot.

Of course, they would emerge into the final play-off spot, secured on the last day of the League Two campaign, before beating Plymouth in the final.

Today they reside seventh in League One – two points ahead of the aforementioned Rovers.

In third place were Northampton, a side who would win the title by 13 points during an outstanding second half to the season.

This time last year they embarked on a run of 12 victories and one defeat in 13 league matches. The only side to beat them were the Blues.

At least there was one constant – Oxford United positioned in second, where they ended the campaign.

As for the leaders at the 19-game mark on November 27, 2015, that is a claim which belongs with Plymouth.

Derek Adams’ side would finish fifth and, until recently, had been long-time leaders during the current season.

As they will testify, things can change.