Our Pompey writers continue their look back at the reasons Pompey’s season came up short in the play-offs, as Jordan Cross gives his verdict.
As Pompey’s desolate squad took the time to speak after the pain of play-off defeat, the over-riding standpoint taken was one which looked to the future.
With the pain so raw that was probably a coping mechanism amid a painful night in which a season’s work had come up just short of the playing squad’s stated ambition.
But to begin looking forward, we first have to cast our thoughts back to the previous nine months when delivering Pompey’s play-off post-mortem.
The failure to deliver Championship football seems to generating the same common emotions among supporters, and, as the dust settles, we are returning to the same factors as the significant reasons why.
Interestingly, the reaction from supporters doesn’t seem nearly as pained as previous play-off defeats.
There could be a couple of significant contributory factors for that.
Firstly, there seems to have been a general acceptance that, in all honesty, Pompey weren’t quite good enough.
That old football truism the table never lies rings loud and clear when seeing their final fourth-placed finish. It’s about where the Blues deserved to be.
When the play-offs previously sent a dagger through royal blue hears there was a sense of injustice.
When Paul Cook’s side failed three years ago, it felt like a team who belonged at a higher level came up short. As Plymouth delivered the final blow they did so to a team on their knees and ravaged by injury.
Likewise, 23 years previously to the other play-off heartache as Leicester, offside Ian Ormondroyd leg ‘n’ all, came out on top with a 12-point gap between the sides in the Division One table.
This time there could be few arguments. Pompey didn’t deserve to beat Sunderland.
In the aftermath it was frustration and no little anger which surfaced, with the reality just a little more attacking impetus could have delivered a Wembley return. As tough as it is to say, it was an exit with a whimper.
The fact the semi-final return was the team’s 62nd game of the season throws up obvious issues over fatigue. It’s connection with January recruitment was debated in depth by chief sports writer Neil Allen this week and needs no further detailing.
Beyond that, the obvious impact of the loss of Ben Thompson was clear to see. In a conversation with a media colleague amid the new year woes, we debated if it was over-simplistic to blame the eight-game run without a win on the best midfielder in the division’s return to Millwall. It wasn’t.
So the inquest points the finger at a few critical factors for Pompey’s shortcomings this term. We truly hope those lessons are learned moving forward.