Substance over style the Portsmouth promotion mantra '“ but window will prove key

First it was Lee Bowyer landing a pre-match verbal dig when suggesting Pompey weren't pretty to watch.

Sunday, 23rd December 2018, 12:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:46 am
Attacking pace like that brought by Yakubu's arrival in 2003 may be crucial to Pompey's promotion hopes

Then Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel followed suit with the most backhanded of compliments, focussing on the Blues not possessing the division's best players but being full of defensive resolve.

To be fair, there's degrees of credence to both points.

Those who have watched enough of Kenny Jackett's this season will tell you it's not always pretty with functionality often trumping flair.

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And there's little doubt that substance-over-style approach is the result of the hard graft put in since the summer to make Jackett's second-season Pompey one full of steel.

Ronan Curtis, Matt Clarke and Jamal Lowe could point to the evidence of the first half of the campaign to counter the suggestion they aren't right at the top of the Christmas tree when it comes to the division's talent.

But through the assessments proferred by rival managers of late runs a common thread - and almost grudging acceptance - this team of Jackett's will stay the course in the League One title race.

It's a team consistent with those put together in their manager's career - one which has constantly delivered promotions.

Unlike last term when Wigan and Blackburn's quality was evidently more abundant than the rest, the league leaders at Christmas aren't an obviously superior specimen to their rivals.

Pompey look a well-drilled, well-organised outfit and possess two players - in Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe - with the talent to lift their attacking play above the humdrum.

Jackett has looked at what is at his disposal and carved out a style of play which has been devastatingly effective.

It's the counter-attacking might which has been behind away form which sees Pompey remain unbeaten on the road with record returns, as we turn for home in the title chase.

Fratton followers haven't seen results hit quite the same highs, although the Blues are still averaging more than two points per game at the halfway stage -  a clear hallmark of promotion sides.

Pompey have avoided a repeat of last season's crippling injury list until now, but even with the work of backroom staff on that front, there can be no allowance for a relatively clean bill of health continuing.

Naturally, the January transfer window is going to have a massive impact on the season's outcome.

The mind drifts back 16 years to Harry Redknapp's Division One side being in a similarly powerful position in Division One.

Tim Sherwood and Yakubu were recruited at the turn of year and any doubt over Pompey making the Premier League was removed.

More searing attacking pace and midfield nous '“ with Andy Cannon's signature in the bag - could be sought again to add an extra veneer of quality to ensure end-of-season celebrations.