Blues can still challenge

Sylvain Deslandes could play at left-back if Dion Donohue is switched to midfield

Pompey boss encouraged by ‘good options’

Steve Claridge believes Pompey are not out of the hunt for a top-10 finish.

That is providing Steve Cotterill is allowed to strengthen during this transfer window.

The Blues find themselves in 18th place after a disappointing festive period yielded just two points from four matches.

That form has cast them adrift of the sizeable pack chasing the Championship play-offs.

Instead, they find themselves glancing at the relegation zone five points below.

Yet former Pompey favourite Claridge, left, is convinced a successful end to the season can be possible in the form of a top-10 placing.

He insists Cotterill's squad already possesses enough quality to start turning things around.

However, a lot will depend on whether the Blues boss is allowed to strengthen his paper-thin squad.

He said: 'Pompey are in a difficult situation at the moment but anybody who has a half-decent side should be able to put a run together.

'I certainly wouldn't write them off at the moment, especially if they can strengthen this month.

'There are no outstanding sides like Newcastle this season. There is no West Brom. You couldn't predict three winners or three losers.

'I find it incredible the league is so open. If any team with a little bit of quality cannot challenge it would be seen as a wasted opportunity.

'You don't have to be brilliant this year. You have just got to be well organised, work hard and have those one or two players that can take you out of the norm.

'QPR are obviously going to be difficult and will be there and thereabouts but everybody else is much of a muchness.

'Pompey need to add to their squad if they are going to challenge.

'They need in the region of 20 players who can be called upon, you don't need the luxury of 25-30 at this level.

'They have left little for manoeuvre because wages are so top heavy.

'They decided to go down the road of quality over quantity and obviously that is a fine line to tread because you are always susceptible to injuries and contract negotiations.

'But when everyone is fit, Steve Cotterill's not got a bad side. They can certainly challenge.

'If they can do that and get some good results they can build up a head of steam with the way the fans have already responded this season.'

Claridge, himself, has watched Pompey plenty of times this season, both through work and as a paying spectator.

He was last sat among the fans for the Boxing Day draw with Millwall.

And he has described the campaign so far as 'frustrating'.

He added: 'You get a little bit frightened if you allow yourself to be optimistic.

'I've been there this season when the crowd are up and it's a really good feeling.

'Going into the ground you felt a fantastic atmosphere, there are realistic expectations and it was like the Portsmouth we know was back.

'Other times you walk away and aren't so convinced.

'I think that is the frustrating bit. You can't say it has been good, you can't say it has been bad.'