Ashdown goes in search of record against Blades

On the brink: Jamie Ashdown
On the brink: Jamie Ashdown
Kal Naismith. Picture: Joe Pepler

Naismith: Critics will not get to me

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He’s equalled the efforts of the Legend.

And he’s matched the exploits of David James.

Now Jamie Ashdown will go in bid for a Blues goalkeeping landmark on Saturday against Sheffield United.

Ashdown stands on the brink of equalling the club’s post-war record for keeping successive league clean sheets as Steve Cotterill’s men prepare to host the Blades at Fratton Park.

Pompey’s recent flying form has seen the side win their past five games on the bounce and charge up the Championship table.

Key to that has been the club’s new-found defensive resilience – which has seen them shut out the opposition in all of those games.

It’s a sturdiness which has been refreshing and all the more of an achievement given the lack of clean sheets until this stage.

Constant chopping and changing at the back had been a hindrance and contributed to the Blues stopping opponents from scoring on just four occasions, until this run.

But Pompey have finally settled upon a formula which is working, with Greg Halford and Ricardo Rocha’s cool and calculated central-defensive partnership thriving.

Either side of them is Hermann Hreidarsson – offering his typically robust displays – and Ritchie De Laet – a young talent who can do his bit on the back foot as well as marauding forward.

It’s been a case of ‘thou shalt not pass’ for 506 minutes now since Steve Davies bagged for Derby at Fratton Park at the start of last month.

So he’s already surpassed the 472 league minutes David James went without conceding on the way to five consecutive clean sheets back in the 2006-07 campaign.

There’s still 83 minutes of keeping the ball out to hit the 589 minutes Alan Knight went without shipping a strike, when he kept five blanks in the 1992-93 season under Jim Smith.

And Ashdown is also following in the path of another all-time Pompey great in Ernie Butler.

Butler was the only man to feature in every single one of Pompey’s fixtures on the way to their two glorious Championship successes in 1948-49 and 1949-50.

The man who made 240 appearances while at Fratton Park kept five successive clean sheets at the start of that first title-winning season.

He then went on to repeat the feat at the start of the 1951-52 season as Pompey finished fourth in England’s top flight.

It’s Peter Mellor’s outstanding record of six league games without conceding in the 1978-79 season, though, he will equal if the Blades are successfully blunted at the weekend.

Incredibly, Mellor achieved that feat twice in the same season.

A run in September of 1978 saw him go six games without leaking a goal in matches against Crewe, Rochdale, Scunthorpe, Port Vale, Aldershot and Wigan in division four.

Mellor and his team-mates then amazingly repeated that feat in November and December of the same season under then-manager Jimmy Dickinson.

Throw in an FA Cup clean sheet against Northampton in that period and there was a run of seven clean sheets on the bounce for the flamboyant character.

That’s another one for the unassuming and popular Ashdown to aim for as Pompey continue their Championship ascent.

He’ll have to go some as well to hit the club’s all-time record for clean sheets.

That came in Pompey’s third season in league football in division three – way back in the 1922-23 campaign.

Tom Newton was the man between the sticks for that run, as Pompey kept eight clean sheets against the likes of Aberdare and Newport County.

That bettered a run of seven on the bounce in 1928 when Dan McPhail was in goal in the top flight.

Like Ashdown, Newton was a vocal presence but with a difference – he used to entertain his team-mates as a ventriloquist.

That’s a skill which hasn’t been seen among the banter at Pompey’s training ground this season.

Ashdown would probably settle for throwing the record book out of the window over throwing his voice, though.