The facts which back cautious confidence over Portsmouth promotion

Familiar celebrations from Pompey's players in a season so far reaping 44 points from 19 matches. Picture: Joe Pepler
Familiar celebrations from Pompey's players in a season so far reaping 44 points from 19 matches. Picture: Joe Pepler
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There remains cautious confidence when surveying Pompey’s progress.

Certainly arrogance has yet to seep into the mindset of supporters whose club have now spent more than two months residing at the top of League One.

However, the fate of eight predecessors provides a chilling warning.

Kenny Jackett’s men presently lead the table with an outstanding return of 44 points from 19 league fixtures.

It’s a mighty haul at this stage of the season exceeded just twice during the last 20 years in Division Two and its re-brand League One.

Crucially, though, during the same timeframe, there are eight teams who failed to win promotion having inhabited such a giddy position.

In fact, in the 2012-13 campaign, none of the top three after 19 fixtures managed to climb out of League One, with leaders Tranmere eventually crumbling to 11th place.

That represents the sole instance of such a capitulation during the past two decades, a freak occurrence.

Of course, that is not to accuse Pompey of being destined to suffer a similar plight, yet clearly perils remain with 27 matches left.

Regardless, the Blues can focus on the remainder of the campaign from a position of immense strength. The truth is, the minority in this position fail.

During the last 20 years, only Leeds (2009-10) and Charlton (2011-12) have amassed more points at this stage in League One, each totalling 46 points.

Both subsequently earned promotion, albeit Leeds achieving it in second place having been displaced by a previously third-placed Norwich.

As for Charlton, they finished with 101 points, a tally later bettered by Jackett’s Wolves side whose 2013-14 return of 103 points remains a record.

Intriguingly, that all-conquering Wolves outfit had one fewer point after 19 matches than Pompey currently possess, while were sat in second spot behind Leyton Orient.

By that campaign’s conclusion, Orient lost in the Wembley play-off final to Rotherham. They are now in the National League.

Records also demonstrate that 50 per cent of clubs leading League One at this stage retain that position at the campaign’s finale.

It’s a statistic which could be rolled out to bolster confidence – or sound the alarm bells. However, the fact dispels any notion that peaking too soon can hinder.

With 10 of the last 20 leaders after 19 games ultimately claiming the League One title, Pompey have every chance of retaining their top spot. Any concept of a supposed curse is wildly misplaced.

Paul Cook’s Wigan headed the table at this time last year, with 42 points and three defeats clearly not matching Jackett’s troops’ present haul of 44 points and one loss.

The Latics ultimately maintained that stranglehold, finishing with 98 points to edge out Blackburn in the top-two promotion spots.

There has actually been a spell of three-successive seasons when the leaders at this juncture finished top.

That arrived courtesy of Millwall (2000-01), Brighton (2001-02) and Wigan (2002-03). Of the trio, only Wigan (41) broke the 40-point barrier after 19 games, totalling 100.

Talking of Brighton, during the 2010-11 campaign which saw them eliminate Pompey from the FA Cup, they also claimed the League One title.

They were top following 19 matches with 36 points – eight fewer than the Blues presently have.

In terms of losses, only Wigan (1999-2000) can better Pompey’s return of one at this moment, the Latics undefeated after 19 games.

Alarmingly, they ended in fourth and failed to be promoted, after losing seven times for the campaign’s duration.

Wigan aside, just Leeds and Charlton, from the aforementioned seasons in which they reached 46 points from 19 games, can match the Blues’ current single loss.

So what is the conclusion from such wide-ranging statistics?

Well, using figures from the previous 20 years, 60 per cent of those teams heading League One after 19 matches win promotion.

Furthermore, 83 per cent of those successful promotion sides (10 from 12) retained top placing to take the title. History is certainly on Pompey’s side.

Now it’s up to Jackett’s men to either follow the trend – or create unwanted records.