Winning streak or numbers game, Pompey fans need to believe
Danny Rose can recall how the stride became a strut and finally a swagger.
Doubt became assurance. Weakness turned into strength and eventually vulnerability morphed into invincibility.
Northampton Town: The runaway League Two success who came from nowhere to shake up the fourth tier last term.
‘You win, you feel good. You win another and feel even better,’ was the Pompey midfielder’s rather rudimentary explanation of the 10-game winning run and 24 matches unbeaten which turned his former side into runaway champions.
Hardly a huge revelation then – no big secret here. And Blues legend Alan Knight is in full agreement.
Knight, of course, has played his part in winning runs which have culminated in titles and promotion.
‘There’s no real formula for it – it’s confidence and belief,’ he said of the streak put together under Bobby Campbell which culminated in the third division title in 1983.
‘There wasn’t a lot of changes to the team, but you’d get a system you were comfortable with and you knew what was expected of you.’
Both Knight and Rose are in little doubt Pompey need to produce a similar kind of winning spell over the second half of the campaign, if this season is to prove memorable.
And the fact teams south of Paul Cook’s men are now delivering them appears to underline the point.
As we go into this weekend’s League Two fixtures, the likes of Wycombe, Cambridge, Colchester and even Barnet are now showing the impressive form which has eluded the Blues for getting on towards three years now.
Five wins and two draws kept Andy Awford’s team up at the end of the of 2013-14 campaign. That pales against the current efforts being produced by Pompey’s rivals, however.
Barnet find themselves on a streak of six wins from eight league games – a run bettered by a single match by Colchester. Cambridge are six wins from seven league outings, but it’s Wycombe who are flexing their muscle most ominously of the side’s biting Pompey’s heels.
With a lengthy early-season injury list abating, the Chairboys are on a phenomenal spell of 12 wins from 13 in all competitions, to leave themselves a point off Pompey with a game in hand.
Pompey’s best, in comparison, was the four league wins on the bounce which created optimism across the latter part of August and early September.
Paul Cook has given short shrift to the suggestion an unbroken winning run will be necessary to secure promotion, though. He prefers to play the numbers game when considering what’s required to finally get out of the fourth tier.
The 80-point mark is in the Pompey boss’s sights – the figure associated with the top three at this level. Missing out on promotion with anything north of that figure would be unfortunate in Cook’s eyes.
That’s exactly what Accrington did last season with an 85-point return seeing them lose out to Bristol Rovers on goal difference.
In the previous 20 years the spread to make the top three has been between 78 points (Port Vale 2012-13 and Wycombe 2008-09) and 85 points (Bury 2014-15 and Swindon 2006-07).
Pompey are currently averaging 1.68 points per game – putting them on course for a 77-point return this term.
Whether you feel the Blues need a winning streak or not it’s evident improvement is needed – if not as much as many would have you think.
Of course, for all the analysis of figures and winning runs Pompey fans now need to feel bridging the gap to the top three is possible.
A survey at portsmouth.co.uk last weekend showed most feel more play-off heartache is in the offing.
So making the doubters believe is the challenge Cook now faces. It will define his Pompey managerial career.