Unpredictable and erratic '“ but nobody can write off Pompey

There is no definitive answer.

Thursday, 29th December 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:20 pm
Pompey are unbeaten on the road in more than three months. Picture: Joe Pepler

Debates can rage about the playing system, whether this side is better than last season’s, Fratton Park failings and the right-back issue.

Strong opinions thrashing around a passionate supporter base exasperated with the continued League Two presence.

What is certain, however, is Paul Cook must achieve promotion this season – and presently that is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Approaching the halfway point, the Blues reside in fourth spot – five points off the top three.

Satisfactory progress and, encouragingly, a firm platform to launch from as the club heads into the final 24 fixtures of the season.

There can be no great conviction behind upbeat predictions Pompey will turn out in League One for 2017-18.

Similarly, forecasts the Blues will spend a fifth season in the bottom division are constructed upon a viewpoint, not a fact.

Such is the infuriating inconsistency engulfing Cook’s side, estimating the outcome cannot be delivered with cast-iron confidence.

The play-offs are assured, the quality exists to remain on that particular pathway through the season’s twists and turns, although the true ambition should not deviate from promotion.

At this moment in time, though, the scales are positioned at equilibrium. Not too high, not below, but balanced.

Granted, doubts behind Pompey’s effectiveness to succeed in their promotion ambition exist, this is not a figment of gloomy imaginations.

The team which reached the League Two play-off semi-finals has not kicked on as strongly as anticipated following a summer which yielded 14 new arrivals.

Many, not unreasonably, expected Pompey to have long been entrenched in the top three come Christmas.

Instead the Blues have spent just nine days occupying the automatic promotion spots during the opening 146 days of the campaign.

Worryingly, they have won one of their last five league fixtures at Fratton Park, an ongoing ailment still to be cured during Cook’s second season.

Such a run does little to persuade those who possess absolutely no faith in the employment of the 4-2-3-1 system on home turf.

However, the league table demonstrates progress has been made from last season’s sixth-placing, albeit steady rather than preferably swift.

Cook’s men are unbeaten on their travels for more than three months and boast the second-best defensive record in League Two.

Only Doncaster and Plymouth have won more league games, while they are the third-highest scorers and possess the joint-second best goal difference.

During the last eight league matches, Pompey have won five and lost one, keeping four clean sheets in the process – the statistics flow to support either argument.

In truth, we have yet to be convinced the 2016-17 side is any better than the one which perished in the play-offs.

Hence some will write off Pompey’s chances, others remain steadfast in their optimism that success can be achieved.

Considering the erratic nature of this Pompey side, presently nobody can accurately foresee this season’s outcome.

However, fourth place after 22 matches deserves to generate hope – not power feelings of foreboding.