Portsmouth missing out on automatic promotion now is unthinkable

Pompey defender Matt Clarke Picture; Joe Pepler
Pompey defender Matt Clarke Picture; Joe Pepler
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Pompey are halfway there, League One leaders on Christmas Day and retaining pole position in the race for promotion.

Since victory at Rochdale on September 29, Kenny Jackett’s men have resided at the table’s summit, challenging rivals to keep pace.

Granted, Sunderland have two games in hand, yet presently the Blues possess the points as the campaign enters what will invariably be an intriguing second period.

Certainly, in Jackett, they are blessed with a figure equipped with three previous promotions, an impressive lower-league CV which lists Swansea, Millwall and Wolves. Perhaps there is space to soon add a fourth.

From this lofty position there are bound to be nagging doubts, it’s the football follower’s cynical nature, perceiving doom when often there is nothing to fear.

Football appears to have accepted that Premier League clubs are strapped in for relegation if languishing bottom by Christmas. Other than West Bromwich Albion triumphing over Pompey in 2005, such a destiny is rarely thrown off course.

Similarly, it should be endorsed that teams topping tables at this time of year, irrespective of the level, should be considered as highly likely to remain in place. Or at the very least certain of a promotion spot.

There are exceptions to the rule, naturally, but it would take a remarkable capitulation for the Blues not to claim a play-off role at the very minimum. Having said that, missing out automatically from this point would be unthinkable.

Not that there has been anything to suggest Pompey cannot build on their outstanding opening 45 minutes to the campaign.

Jackett has assembled a side defensively brilliant, brimming with character and heart, and boasting the talents of Matt Clarke, Tom Naylor, Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis, in particular.

Pompey deserve to be leading the table. The scorelines may often be unconvincing, yet usually performances have not.

Winning consistently and club-record away form has not been created through fine fortune and outrageous luck over a 23-game league spell spanning five-and-a-half months. This is an excellent League One side.

This time last season the Blues headed into Christmas Day in eighth following a 2-0 defeat at Shrewsbury.

They subsequently endured an injury-ravaged and disappointing second half to the campaign, made to regret failing to carry out crucial midfield strengthening during the January transfer window.

Yet they finished in precisely that same position, despite flirting with the play-off spots and demonstrating an over-reliance on Brett Pitman that Jackett would later seek to rectify.

The current Pompey is a very different beast. Experienced, with immense strength in depth, a settled starting XI and equipped with impressive all-round ability.

The doubts remain. Naturally. But there is very little evidence pointing towards surrendering their long grip on promotion.