Mullins: Fortress Fratton holds the key

Pompey midfielder Hayden Mullins
Pompey midfielder Hayden Mullins
A smoke bomb lands on the pitch next to Charlton keeper Ban Amos Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey braced for FA investigation

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Hayden Mullins called on Fratton Park to find its air of invincibility and propel Pompey up the Championship.

The Blues midfielder insisted the play-offs were not out of reach for Steve Cotterill’s men – if they could find a return to the flying form they showed in September and October.

Pompey delivered a run of 19 points from a possible 21 in that period, after a difficult start to the campaign.

That invigorated hopes of a top-six finish.

Those dreams began to evaporate over the Christmas period after a drop off in results – with no win at home since October.

Mullins reckoned the play-offs are not a pipe dream, however.

The 31-year-old felt new faces were needed to boost the obvious squad shortage at present.

He believed home form could play a pivotal role in kick-starting fortunes, with three of the next four fixtures arriving on his team’s patch. And that needs to start against a Leeds United side showing impressive form this season.

Mullins said: ‘At Leeds away we were 3-1 down and came back to get a result.

‘We’re at home as well and always use the home support as an asset and incentive, so we’re positive.

‘We’ve got these games coming up at home and have to pick up our form at Fratton Park. Leeds would be a very good game to start that.

‘We’re still looking up the table. We’re looking at who we can catch and then who we can pull in after that.

‘We’re not looking over our shoulders. If we can go on another run like we did before, then that will catapult us straight back into contention. If we can get one or two bodies in then who knows?

‘If we can make the play-offs then brilliant. The top six has always been an aim for us. We haven’t lost that aim.’

Mullins has found himself back in the English game’s second tier this season for the first time in six years.

The former West Ham and Crystal Palace man admitted he had been impressed by the quality on show.

After more than half a season in the Championship, Mullins was sure the bridge between where he currently plies his trade and the league he has played much of his career in was shortening.

Mullins said: ‘I think the gap is getting closer. There is good football being played here. Real good football with teams who don’t necessarily have big names.

‘There are good, hard-working technical players. I think you will see more Premier League clubs taking players from the Championship now.

‘There will be more players like Adam Hammill making the step up.

‘As the division gets stronger, I can see more players going. That shows the level has gone up.

‘The good young players might get forced out of the Premier League because they are not getting contracts at a young age.

‘They aren’t staying at the top clubs and maybe drop through the leagues before coming through later.

‘There are a lot of foreign players at the big clubs like Manchester City and Arsenal.

‘So they end up at good Championship clubs and you see the best of them two or three years later.’

Mullins also felt the calibre of football he was involved in each week is of a higher quality to the last time he played in the Championship.

But he promised he and his team-mates were never expecting a walk in the park at this level.

Mullins said: ‘There are some very good teams in there. Leeds are a good side, Nottingham Forest are a good side and Watford are a good side. Who would have thought they’d be where they are?

‘There are some good teams playing good football with good energy.

‘We can’t take the league for granted. We always knew it was going to be hard because a lot of us have played in there before.

‘I think we thought it would be more hustle and bustle and route one but now there are more teams who pass the ball and are technically good players.

‘Blackpool went up and are holding their own. It shows the division is getting a lot stronger.’