Lancashire Telegraph’s Suzanne Geldard runs the rule over Pompey opponents Accrington Stanley...
Following a nervous start, Accrington have settled in, picking up the momentum from last season’s promotion and running with it.
It took them a while, but you could see the results were coming and they have really pushed on since mid-September, playing some very good football.
This is a team heading into games with a no-fear mentally, they are confident in their own ability and focus on their own strengths rather than overthinking about the opposition.
In addition, Offrande Zanzala has started scoring goals. He just needed one to be up and running – now he has four in six games, including their only goal against Luton.
John Coleman’s side lost that Tuesday night Kenilworth Road clash 4-1, but weren’t too disappointed with the performance. Luton were the better team, although the manager didn’t feel it was a 4-1 scoreline.
Following promotion from League Two last season, Accrington weren’t just looking for survival – they wanted to see how high they could finish.
They are not the richest club, but fantastic team spirit takes them a long way.
John Coleman has a happy knack of finding the right players and they are confident of reaching the League One play-offs at the very least this season.
They are quite ambitious, fully believe in themselves without arrogance, and will just keep it going.
Of the players, Zanzala has really caught the eye since opening his goal account, while Jordan Clark has impressed and goalkeeper Connor Ripley settled in well since arriving on loan from Middlesbrough.
In truth, there’s not really one stand-out performer, it’s genuinely more of a team effort. During most games the player ratings are sevens or eights for the majority, it’s not one man carrying them, it’s a collective.
The manager somehow pulls rabbits out of hats, he keeps doing it, and considering they were in the Unibond First Division when he arrived for his first spell with the club, it has been a remarkable achievement.
He had time away at Rochdale, Southport and Sligo Rovers before returning in September 2014 after wanting to try something different. With hindsight, he wishes he had stayed or at least not gone to where he did.
But he has come back older and wiser for it. He knows the club and the club knows him – and it works really well.