As the season unfolds it’s becoming clear that Pompey have the ability to churn out results away from home in League One which at any level is an outstanding attribute and the key to a positive outcome as far as promotion is concerned.
For most teams however the ability to regularly achieve a decent record of wins at home is almost a given but, as the season unfolds, it’s the results garnered away from home which sort out the wheat from the chaff.
But unfortunately it seems to me that even in recent seasons its playing at Fratton Park which presents the greater challenge to the boys in blue with home comforts not always the norm.
It’s already this season in the early weeks looking like a possible stumbling block as Pompey struggle against teams like Shrewsbury, Wycombe and now Gillingham who clearly played at a level which belies their previous results and league standing.
It’s a bit of a cliché but there’s no doubt that a visit to Fratton Park nowadays for these lower league clubs and their fans with their small stadia and tiny gates is a big occasion with a unique atmosphere to be part of. One that has been clearly marked in their calendars and hotly anticipated. Obviously a ‘big day out’ within three or four hours travel and a big allocation available.
“Their Cup Final” we say of the away fans’ visits and there’s got to be an element of truth in that. Even the all-conquering team in 2002/3 on its way to the Premier League lost three times at home.
So how can that be and what can be done to arrest this contradiction. Whatever the context Kenny Jackett has to find a way out of this before it becomes some sort of hoodoo and the team start to develop a hang-up about playing at home. Even as the rain-sodden fans took their seats last Saturday there was talk about ‘banana-skins’, of a sense that ‘we have got to lose sometime’, as if it was an inevitability.
Perhaps it’s really a question of belief, from the team being confident in themselves, and from the fans showing that belief in their approach and level of support on the afternoon. Jackett has found a way to win away, now the challenge is for him to find a way to be successful at home and turn Fratton Park into that fortress again.
Photo: Tommy McMillan