Pompey’s performance at Oxford United showed up all manner of deficiencies in their play.
One shot on target across 90 minutes, too many players underperforming and the side indebted to Paul Jones for keeping them in the game.
A team delivering results while being short of their best is a team going places. It’s one of football’s oldest clichés - and a truism just as applicable in 2015 as it was in 2003.
A passing game which is the foundation of everything a Paul Cook side is based on foundered on the team, well, not being able to pass to each other.
Nowadays, all the talk in match analysis is about final-third entries – the attacking portion of a team’s play.
That was found wanting at the Kassam Stadium, with promising positions not capitalised on too often.
Paul Cook admitted as much in his assessment of what he felt was a stilted performance.
But throw all those shortcomings together and they make for a compelling endorsement of Pompey’s promotion credentials.
There may have been much to ponder for supporters believing their team is anywhere near the finished article.
They found a way to come away with a result, however, against a fancied team when falling short of the levels demanded by Cook and his staff.
Matt Clarke has shone brightly this season and been the subject of much cooing from his manager.
Quite right, too, after a string of powerful performances, but the Ipswich loanee was pushed around by Danny Hylton on Saturday.
There was a sharp reminder Nigel Atangana is a work in progress as well, as he had an afternoon to forget before being withdrawn at the interval.
But there’s little doubt this was a match many Pompeys of the past would have capitulated in.
Michael Doyle’s red card with nine minutes left would have been the breaking point. Pompey 2015-16 dug in for the point.
So 2,500 fans travelled back down the A34 on Saturday content with their lot as they looked at the league table with their team sat in second place.
And Pompey find themselves in that position, albeit at this relatively formative stage of the campaign, without really finding their groove.
A weak Dagenham & Redbridge side were ideal fodder for a comfortable opening-day win.
But there’s a strong argument to say, for all the promise, there has not yet been a complete 90-minute performance from Cook’s side in the league.
To be able to say that when trips to Luton, Plymouth and now Oxford have been negotiated and returned seven points – against fancied opposition – is insightful.
Cook himself insists he is no closer to having a clue what his best starting XI is.
But Pompey now go to Bristol Rovers this weekend looking to match the start to the season produced by Harry Redknapp’s promotion heroes of 2003.
And when the mind drifts back to that halcyon campaign the temptation is to make a comparison between the two sides.
A balmy summer’s afternoon in south London springs forward as a defining afternoon for Redknapp’s team.
It was a woeful Pompey who fell 2-0 down at Crystal Palace that day, and were looking a good bet to concede a third.
A switch to wing-backs and three goals in the final 22 minutes marked a landmark in that team’s evolution.
Scraping a win at Grimsby two games later and twice coming from behind to turn over Brighton were other wins in that unbeaten nine-game opening, where Redknapp’s side didn’t fully hit their straps.
A team delivering results while being short of their best is a team going places. It’s one of football’s oldest clichés – and a truism just as applicable in 2015 as it was in 2003.