We’re at the half-way point of Pompey’s season, and there’s more unanswered questions than answers from Paul Cook’s side so far.
The Blues sit just outside the automatic promotion places with five months of the season to go – just four points behind third-placed Carlisle.
And with the transfer window open, Cook will be looking to bolster his ranks with the personnel he feels will (finally) get Pompey out of League Two.
However, with the finances of our community club at heart, no doubt the Pompey board will be asking questions of the boss before offering out the chance to bring in new recruits.
Gareth Evans has filled the right-back slot regularly, despite the signings of Drew Talbot and Adam Buxton over the summer.
Evans, who we know to be an impressive winger, has pipped the aforementioned duo despite both Talbot and Buxton holding more experience in the position.
A questionable return on investment for two defenders who’ve made less than a dozen appearances between them since July. Talbot – who worked with Cook at Chesterfield – was lauded as a real coup on joining at Fratton Park, with the boss preferring the 30-year-old over Ben Davies, who’d impressed for Pompey during the previous term.
That aside, the club have also seemingly failed to recruit a leader at the back and a goalscorer in attack. With the rumour mill in full turn, plenty of names have been thrown into the ring to fill gaps at both ends of Cook’s starting line-up.
But it’s not just good players who’ll see promotion – but a solid formation. Cook’s reliance on 4-2-3-1 has beared some fruit to keep the Blues within the upper echelons of League Two. But, with each match seeing Pompey waste chances in attacking areas, perhaps a second striker is the way to go.
Michael Smith has been relied upon to lead the line in recent matches but has failed to impress, as Pompey fans scratch their heads as to why Conor Chaplin (with his hunger, pace and tenacity) sits on the bench.
Of Cook’s summer purchases, only Matt Clarke, Danny Rose and Carl Baker have shown fans what they’re capable of, with Milan Lalkovic restricted to time off the bench (despite calls from many to start).
That leaves Talbot, Buxton, Smith, Tom Davies, Curtis Main, Noel Hunt and Amine Linganzi within Pompey’s regular match day squad who, as of yet, haven’t justified their signatures at Fratton Park. I’ve no doubt their time will come.
Linganzi has looked solid from what we’ve seen and I’ve omitted David Forde from that list as, despite the odd error, he’s been solid on-the-whole. He’s the kind of goalkeeper who reads the game well, but struggles low in his corners.
At the half-way point, there’s plenty for Cook to diagnose. But – and I’m sure he will – it’s important he and the club keep tabs on what price they’ll put on promotion.
You’ll always have your pie-in-the-sky fans who don’t believe in what the club are trying to do and would give their left nut to get back into the Premier League under a boom-or-bust model, but that’s not us any longer. And that’s a good thing.
We’re four points off the automatic promotion spots and there’s a hell of a long way to go. Cook may divide opinion, but he’s the boss. He’s experienced and, with a few good signings, it could be our year.
Keeping Roberts fit will be key. The creativity of Baker, Kyle Bennett, Kal Naismith and Roberts will be key. But above all, getting behind the team and building a wall of noise will be our biggest chance of unpicking League Two’s exit lock.