A home double header crucial to direction of Portsmouth’s season

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It’s a Fratton Park double-header which feels crucial in the shaping of Pompey’s season.

There is, of course, the small matter of the readies at stake. A quickfire six-point home bounty which can really solidify the Blues’ place at the head of a pacesetting pack beginning to take shape, with the anticipated contenders jostling for position.

Ben Thompson celebrates a Fratton afternoon to savour against Oxford. Picture: Joe Pepler

Ben Thompson celebrates a Fratton afternoon to savour against Oxford. Picture: Joe Pepler

But it’s the ability of Kenny Jackett’s men to convince a home support they can utilise their backing in a manner we all know can be an irresistible force of nature, which will provide the narrative to the next two games.

It’s a curious quirk of Pompey’s season to date. They’ve been able to rewrite the record books and lead the League One table after 13 games, yet still have plenty of unanswered questions from the vast majority of the supporter base who pay to watch them.

Jackett’s side will be aiming to end 50 days – yes, 50 days – without a home victory in the league when Joey Barton brings his Fleetwood side to town this weekend.

The past three PO4 fixtures have yielded two points and performances which have disappointed against lowly opposition and seen the unbeaten league start to the season sacrificed.

The themes to those home frustrations is familiar to anyone who’s been going down the Park in recent seasons.

Paul Cook delivered the League Two title to the city in his tenure, but there were plenty of dark days on home turf before they were forgotten amid the late-season surge to glory at the end of the 2016-17 campaign.

The sight of fans hanging around on the final whistle to launch abuse at their manager. Cook conducting combustible post-match interviews, with sweat dripping from his brow, are now thankfully consigned to history, instead replaced with memories of the end-of-campaign celebrations.

But that happened. And the challenge is now to avoid a repeat of the same angst seeping into Fratton.

It would be unfair to compare the lack of ambition shown by sides back then which so frustrated to the efforts of Shrewsbury, Wycombe and Gillingham in recent weeks.

Although time-wasting tactics and defence-first policies have been to the fore, all three have offered more on the front foot than the regular defensive blanket stretched across Fratton every other week in the Cook era.

The thread remains the same, however, and taking on the challenge in upbeat fashion dominated Jackett’s talk in the wake of the AFC Wimbledon win – both to the press and his players.

‘We’re in a great position in the league,’ the Pompey boss said. ‘We have to look forward to the home games as a side in our position. We have to feel positive about them.’

The home following this weekend is likely to outnumber the 769 who travelled to Kingsmeadow at least 23-fold, highlighting the proportion of the club’s following who’ve not seen a live Pompey win of late.

Jackett has been unequivocal and consistent in his view it’s the players who have to set the tone for supporters and not vice-versa.

He senses a fanbase whose inclination it is to want to get behind their team rather than groan and revel in misery, as can be seen in the DNA of home followers at plenty of other grounds around the country.

But patience from the Fratton faithful could prove significant to what unfolds against Fleetwood and Burton.

An environment which energises rather than consumes may well make the difference – but, ultimately, it’s down to Jackett’s men to set the tone for that to happen.