Pompey predictions: Neil Allen’s verdict

Adam McGurk's wonder strike earned a point at Oxford earlier in the season Picture: Joe Pepler
Adam McGurk's wonder strike earned a point at Oxford earlier in the season Picture: Joe Pepler
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Neil Allen gives his verdict on where Pompey will finish this season.

At the halfway mark of the season, Pompey are closer to ninth spot than they are to League Two’s summit.

But I have no doubt they will win automatic promotion this term.

What’s more, they still possess realistic ambitions of a title triumph, despite currently trailing leaders Plymouth by eight points.

Argyle, along with Northampton and Oxford United, presently occupy the top-three places after 25 matches.

Next up are Paul Cook’s side, who won so impressively against Crawley at the weekend.

Still ground to make up for the Blues as they continue their pursuit of promotion from the bottom division of the Football League.

Yet those above will be nervously looking over their shoulder at the progress of a team far stronger than their present placing suggests.

A return of 11 draws from 25 league matches has been applying the brakes to momentum, particularly at Fratton Park.

Remove that frustrating barrier and surely the road is clear to motor into the top three.

Perhaps, crucially, lies in the fact Plymouth, Northampton and Oxford have still to visit Fratton during the second half of the campaign.

The high-flying trio all failed to defeat the Blues on their home turf, with only Oxford avoiding defeat in September’s 1-1 draw.

Argyle lost 2-1 in August – a scoreline made more palatable to the hosts courtesy of a last-gasp consolation.

As for the Cobblers, last month they suffered a 2-1 loss to the Blues which ended a run of seven successive victories and knocked them off the top of the table.

No question about it, they will view the requirement of visiting Fratton Park with much trepidation.

With only three defeats so far for Cook’s men, it has been their failure to turn dominance from draws into victories which has been the biggest downfall to date.

Pompey have been comfortably the better side in the vast majority of their League Two fixtures, bossing games and dictating play.

Even in rare losses, arriving in the form of Exeter, Notts County and Leyton Orient, the Blues could have collected at least a point.

Against both County and Orient, Pompey had the lead, only for awful defensive errors to inflict an away loss on each occasion.

Of course, there have been times when Cook’s men have wobbled and looked highly-susceptible.

They slipped three behind to Morecambe in August before storming back to claim a last-gasp point through Jayden Stockley.

A shaky first half at Wycombe ensured the visitors were 2-0 down, only to dig out another point.

In addition, for a period at Oxford they also wilted and were thankful to Adam McGurk’s magnificent strike from distance for a point.

Cook’s side even had to see out the final nine minutes at the Kassam Stadium with 10 men following Michael Doyle’s send off.

This is a Pompey team which has rarely looked like losing – and that is for a reason. They are good, very good.

They have goals across the team and possess a strong squad with a mixture of experience and youth.

The retaining of Marc McNulty on loan from Sheffield United until the season’s end has been crucial and it is also important Caolan Lavery stays.

League Two’s top-scoring side have looked strong entering 2016.

And they will only get better.

Final Pompey position: 1st

League Two’s Top Three: Pompey, Oxford United and Northampton

Play-off spots: Plymouth, Wycombe, Accrington and Carlisle

Relegated: Yeovil and York

Pompey player of the year: Ben Davies

Pompey top scorer: Marc McNulty

For Steve Wilson’s Pompey prediction, click here.

For Jordan Cross’ verdict, cleck here.