The Cross Word: Cook will ‘just keep going’ - but we feel it

Pompey put in another very encouraging display in the draw at Crawley on Tuesday. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey put in another very encouraging display in the draw at Crawley on Tuesday. Picture: Joe Pepler
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You can feel it, right?

Adam McGurk could feel it, as he played down talk of a club soaked with invigorating impetus, albeit after just two games, in the wake of victory over Championship Derby.

Matt Tubbs could feel it as he discussed the belief Pompey will score goals and not concede them this season like it was a matter of fact, after helping down Plymouth.

And Blues assistant manager Leam Richardson could feel it as he gave a measured assessment of how his side dominated and then offered a first glimpse of a steely veneer to deal with a niggly second half at Home Park.

‘The players have set the bar now and we need to keep raising it,’ said Richardson.

Which is what Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Crawley actually feels like, in a perverse kind of way.

A team who were playing in League One last season, on their own patch putting 11 men out to contain the opposition.

The figures had Paul Cook’s side owning 70 per cent of the ball at the Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday. They topped 60 per cent on the full-time whistle.

The last time Pompey had those kind of possession stats away from home, I’m pretty sure Opta and ProZone wouldn’t have been around.

And it’s the biggest of compliments to what is stirring down at PO4.

Pompey have started the season with a more-than encouraging three wins and a draw.

But, more convincing is to witness a team going about their work with a clear, defined ideology. A convincing sense of what’s expected and how to go about their business.

It was as systematic, controlled and convincing a performance from a Blues side seen for some time in dealing with a Plymouth team who made the play-offs last season.

‘Watching Pompey is enjoyable again,’ has been the oft-repeated mantra off the back of some easy-on-the-eye early-season football.

It is, but being comfortable and convinced this is a side who can see out results has been the over-riding sentiment felt here.

Two years ago, under Guy Whittingham, the expectation was in place. That, when now analysed in the context of budgets and the fact his team was assembled from a football club in disarray, looks slightly disproportionate to where they actually stood.

Twelve months on, a decent start from Andy Awford’s side had the optimism brimming again. But, while embracing the hope, I never could quite rid myself of the thought something was missing.

A conversation with colleagues who spoke of a special season ahead a few games in couldn’t quite deliver the same optimism back then.

Whether it was the changes in starting side, an over-sized squad or not quite going for the jugular when it was there to be feasted on it, it wasn’t quite there. Those thoughts are now best consigned to the sands of time.

This is now. And this feels different.

You know things must be going well when the tweets and comments on stories at aren’t in their hundreds.

When people are angry about Pompey they type. When they’re happy they just enjoy it.

And even the national press are noticing an awakening.

‘Something is stirring on the south coast,’ read one broadsheet on Monday. ‘Perennial favourites Portsmouth are starting to justify the label at the third attempt.’

Yes, it’s the undeniable feeling of a team with a confidence and conviction.

There’s a focus on what’s important and, unlike the past, indifference to all the less consequential stuff around the periphery.

To coin what is quickly becoming a catchphrase of Paul Cook’s: Just keep going.