Portsmouth 0 Blackpool 1: Neil Allen's verdict - Prove it. Time for Blues players to show they're good enough for automatic promotion

Pompey’s season has reached its watershed moment, the Crewe moment if you prefer.
Andy Cannon is distraught after Jerry Yates grabs Blackpool's 82nd minute winner on Saturday. Picture: Joe PeplerAndy Cannon is distraught after Jerry Yates grabs Blackpool's 82nd minute winner on Saturday. Picture: Joe Pepler
Andy Cannon is distraught after Jerry Yates grabs Blackpool's 82nd minute winner on Saturday. Picture: Joe Pepler

The time has arrived. For too long this group of players have been perceived as promotion contenders – well, now to justify that golden tagline.

Granted, there have been a number of impressive scalps this term, primarily away from Fratton Park.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Certainly Sunderland, Lincoln, Peterborough, Hull and Charlton have all been defeated by Kenny Jackett’s side this season, each by two clear goals.

Nonetheless, as the campaign enters its business end, the Blues’ glaring inability to produce dependable displays and consistent results is infuriating.

Let’s be frank, presently this is no automatic promotion team.

Forget being blinded about individuals’ admirable achievements elsewhere. Players can be blessed with marvellous pedigree and a wondrous CV, but it screams irrelevance in the current climate.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

This is Pompey, may they be judged entirely on their contribution towards dragging this football club out of League One. In the here and now.

And, I’m afraid, Jackett’s men are demonstrating they are nothing more than solid play-off fare. They don’t deserve to be bracketed with those realistic promotion candidates.

Perhaps that’s rather harsh with 18 matches to go. Probably it is. So how about showing the Fratton faithful that you genuinely possess the ability to reach the Championship?

Prove it. Right now. From this point onwards.

This is not about one player, it’s a team, a squad, a band of brothers challenged to accomplish promotion after four seasons at League One level.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Some of this Pompey group do not deserve to be questioned. However, you are as one, united by ambition, arm-in-arm on the battlefield.

It’s time for the players to seize responsibility. This abject malaise of four defeats in seven League One fixtures cannot be spun, fifth place and seven points off the top two is no encouraging scenario.

Clubs ahead are now racing clear while you trip over your feet. There’s no patience for players to reignite form or rediscover their scoring touch – you’ve handed your rivals a head start. Stand up and begin running.

Of those present, only Jack Whatmough will recall Crewe, albeit he wasn’t included in the match-day squad for that 1-0 home defeat in March 2017.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Forgive the history lesson, yet Paul Cook’s side were at a crossroads, fifth in League Two, languishing 13 points behind leaders Doncaster, while the manager himself contemplated walking.

Skipper Michael Doyle summoned his team-mates to a Monday morning meeting, barring the doors to the coaching staff. What unfolded was full and frank.

Players were encouraged to voice their opinion, to thrash out issues and complaints, there was to be nothing left behind in that common road at their Hilsea training ground.

The Blues proceeded to claim 31 points out of a possible 36 – and the League Two title on an emotional final day.

Read More
For the latest Pompey news direct to your inbox sign up for our free newsletter
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Doyle, Enda Stevens, Gary Roberts, Kyle Bennett, Kal Naismith, Matt Clarke, Christian Burgess, Danny Rose, Gareth Evans, Conor Chaplin, Jamal Lowe, David Forde – you will forever be greeted upon your Fratton Park returns with affection and admiration.

Now is the occasion for the Class of 2021 to initiate their own constructive response. Skulk away – or scrap. The sliding doors moment is upon you.

Frustratingly, this season there have been glimpses of promotion potential, as detailed in those notable results mentioned previously. Pompey have gone toe-to-toe with the best and emerged worthy winners.

Yet flashes are not enough. If a side is to achieve its ambition, it requires consistent brilliance, not during random high-profile fixtures when the generous mood takes them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On Saturday, the Blues’ second and final shot on target was delivered by substitute Ellis Harrison, albeit it had already been announced as offside so didn’t actually count.

Admittedly, there was a positive response to the abject 3-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers in the week, yet it was marginal and barely manifested itself in an attacking sense.

To think Jackett’s admirable statistic was not losing back-to-back league matches, a run stretching for more than two years. Well, that has now occurred twice in the last month.

Suddenly this side is unrecognisable from the one which topped League One at Christmas, before five players were struck down by coronavirus and a total of three matches postponed over the festive period.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unfortunately for Pompey, the form of a large number of players has plummeted at precisely the same moment, strangling all momentum.

Marcus Harness, John Marquis and Ellis Harrison have been mid-term casualties, while Ryan Williams, Andy Cannon and Sean Raggett are now experiencing concerning dips.

As for Jack Whatmough, Pompey’s best defender, a catastrophic two-game spell continues to condemn him to the sidelines, with a non-playing substitute role on Saturday.

Rasmus Nicolaisen was surprisingly preferred ahead of him alongside Raggett, with James Bolton watching from the stands nursing a knock.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Regardless, the Dane put in his finest Blues display, even seeing his goal-bound shot somehow blocked on the line at point-blank range by James Husband in the first half.

However, crucially his misjudgment as he attempted to get ahead of Jerry Yates to nick a ball, succeeded in launching the attack which would yield the game’s decisive goal.

Yates surged down the right flank, got the better of Raggett and then drove the ball into the far corner for the match winner. There were 82 minutes on the clock.

Nicolaisen deserved his man-of-the-match recognition, but it will be tainted by his unfortunate involvement in the goal which leaves Jackett’s men five points adrift of League One’s top three.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Incidentally, Jackett surprisingly returned for Fratton Park duty on Saturday just two days after undergoing an operation to remove a mole from his forearm, with a two-week absence anticipated.

His involvement was low-key, letting Joe Gallen handle the players, nevertheless was present at the back of the dugout as his staff barked out orders.

Still, in this team effort, it is time for the entire group to raise their collective game – players and management.

From this point, Pompey need something special to chase down the clubs ahead and muscle into the automatic promotion spots.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Bang average performances interspersed with the occasional high point will necessitate the play-offs at the very maximum.

The Blues require quality displays on a consistent basis over the final 18 matches. So over to the players – show you are up to it.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

The News has launched a new subscription offer which gives you unlimited access to all of our Pompey coverage, starting at less than £1 a week.

You can subscribe here to get the latest news and transfer updates from Fratton Park - and to support our local team of expert Pompey writers.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.