From fervent critics to Checkatrade Trophy specialists - Portsmouth's outstanding record continues

The Checkatrade Trophy has proven a happy hunting ground for Pompey. Picture: Barry Zee
The Checkatrade Trophy has proven a happy hunting ground for Pompey. Picture: Barry Zee
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For all the reticence to get involved and initiating of supporter boycotts since its revamping, the EFL Trophy has established a successful association with Pompey.

It was the 2016-17 campaign which saw the competition’s format ripped up to accommodate what was then paraded as under-23 teams.

Viewed with suspicion amid an ongoing battle to deny the Premier League crowbarring B teams into the Football League structure, the Checkatrade Trophy began life with little affection.

Regardless, Pompey have suffered just two defeats in 17 matches since the controversial change.

It appears a connection has been created – and a winning one at that.

Saturday sees the visit of Norwich under-21s to Fratton Park as the Checkatrade Trophy holders seek to retain the silverware earnt at Wembley.

Now rebranded the Trophy, Pompey’s defence has already brought a Southern Group B victory over Crawley.

Another triumph would not ensure cast-iron qualification for the knock-out stages, with two group places up for grabs between four teams.

Certainly Pompey boast an outstanding record in the much-maligned competition, yet life in the Checkatrade Trophy began with a losing start at Yeovil in August 2016.

Michael Smith bagged a hat-trick for Paul Cook’s side, only to be undone by all four of the hosts’ goals arriving in the opening 39 minutes to produce a 4-3 Blues defeat.

Pompey have lost just once more in the ensuing 16 games – against Chelsea under-21s.

That arrived in January 2018, when the Premier League club’s Charly Musonda netted a free-kick winner in injury time.

Seconds earlier, Brett Pitman appeared to have secured a 1-1 draw with a leveller, only for late drama to intervene in front of a Fratton Park crowd of 3,116.

Since that 2-1 defeat, Pompey have registered nine-successive wins in the competition, with six clean sheets.

Of course, that includes March’s penalty shoot-out triumph over Sunderland in the Wembley final, following a 2-2 draw after extra-time.

In terms of results against under-21/under-23 sides, Pompey have previously beaten Spurs and Arsenal, while drawing against Reading and Fulham.

Now Norwich are next in line for a Fratton Park visit against the team proving to be EFL Trophy specialists.