Portsmouth are missing a trick in League One promotion race - if they fail they have only themselves to blame

There’s no denying it – Pompey are missing a trick this season when it comes to promotion.

Monday, 16th December 2019, 1:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 7:59 pm

You just have to look at Saturday’s league results to see why.

Fleetwood drawing at home to Gillingham, Ipswich losing at Portman Road to fellow challengers Bristol Rovers, Oxford getting beat on the road at MK Dons, Coventry going down to defeat at Shrewsbury, and Rotherham having to make do with a draw at lowly Southend.

Teams with real promotion ambitions – and sides currently above the 10th-placed Blues in the table – slipping up yet again in the race for the Championship.

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Is it any wonder leaders Wycombe are seven points clear of the Tractor Boys, their nearest rivals in a promotion battle no-one appears to actually want to progress in.

Yet it’s not just the weekend’s results which reveal flaws in Pompey’s so-called rivals for Championship football – that’s if the Blues can still be considered challengers to go up after their shortcomings were exposed at Accrington. I’ll let you decide that.

Take Ipswich, for instance.

The team currently occupying second place, as said, have recorded only one win in their past 10 outings in all competitions.

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett Picture: Daniel Chesterton

And, unbelievably, as they head to Fratton Park on Saturday, their last League One victory dates back to a 1-0 success at Rochdale on November 5.

Hardly form that warrants Paul Lambert’s side being in the conversation surrounding promotion, never mind the race to be crowned champions.

Yet, with those so-called top teams in the division struggling to perform on a consistent basis week-in, week-out, they’re getting away with it.

Talking of form and consistency, Fleetwood (17th), Coventry (16th) and Peterborough (14th) – along with Ipswich in 10th – are all struggling to build strong momentum, staying in promotion contention simply because others around them are faltering at the same rate.

Only Wycombe, Bristol Rovers, Blackpool and Oxford sit above the Blues in the current form table.

A still worrying statistic given all four currently reside above Kenny Jackett’s men in the League One standings.

But, come on, if someone had said those four teams would finish above Pompey in the table before a ball was kicked, I’d have politely told them to go sling their hook.

And even now with the Blues’ obvious deficiencies, I reckon, with some smart investment in January – not guaranteed, I know – there’s no reason why Pompey can’t trim the points gap on those above-mentioned sides.

Indeed, despite a fifth third-tier loss of the season at Accy, along with a disjointed, forgettable performance that justifiably earned criticism from the Fratton faithful, Jackett & Co remain just three points outside the play-off places.

They have a game in hand on sixth-placed Rotherham, and could even close the gap on second-placed Ipswich to five points with a win over the Tractor Boys on Saturday, dealing the Portman Road side another timely blow.

I must admit, the reason behind this article was not to come across annoyingly positive following another disappointing weekend following the Blues.

Nor was it the intention to patronise fans who are understandably frustrated with the current situation Pompey find themselves in.

Yet with a group of clubs supposedly all vying for promotion and yet all realistically struggling to stamp their authority on the division– the Blues’ own shortcomings aren’t being punished sufficiently enough by their rivals, allowing them to remain contenders.

And with the likes of 12th-placed Sunderland – one of the pre-season favourites for the title – still performing less than impressively despite a change in manager and the expected bounce that can bring, the opportunity is still there for Pompey to turn things around in their favour.

There’s certainly enough to encourage even the biggest of cynics.

However, it’s up to Pompey – a team that received incredible investment over the summer – to take those plentiful opportunities.

It’s there for the taking.

If they don’t, then the Blues will have nobody to blame but themselves. There’s no excuse.