2016-17 Champions Review: August
Portsmouth Football Club started the season the same way as they had the previous 3; in League Two and bookies' favourites to win the title. For the first time since their slide down the football pyramid Pompey were due to start a season with a manager who had already had a full season at the helm, and Paul Cook would certainly go on to divide opinions through the season.
Cook was busy over the summer, Danny Rose, Carl Baker, Amine Linganzi, Milan Lalkovic, Curtis Main and Noel Hunt came in as fresh faces, while Michael Smith and Matt Clarke joined the club on permanent deals after spending the previous season on loan at Fratton. David Forde was brought in on loan to avoid a repeat of the goalkeeper roundabout of the season previous.
There was also a mass exodus with Brian Murphy, Ben Davies, Matty Tubbs, Paul Jones, Danny Hollands, Adam McGurk and Adam Barton all leaving the club, as well as a large number of youth players being released. Adam Webster seemed to be the most crucial loss, moving to Ipswich for a substantial fee and Matt Clarke moving the other way, a deal which in hindsight was a great bit of business.
Pre-Season saw the usual jaunts to Havant, Bognor and Sutton accompanying new ventures to Ireland (Sligo and Bohemians), Bristol (City) and a Fratton clash against Bournemouth.
It's tough to ascertain anything from pre-season but some confident wins coupled with two entertaining 3-3 draws and a sorry defeat against Sutton saw certain players stand out. Carl Baker showed what we could expect with some cracking goals, Chaplin continued to improve and a number of youngsters were starting to leave an impression on the manager.
So the season started at home to Carlisle in what was a cagey affair. Reggie Lambe gave Carlisle and early lead as Pompey came out of the box a little sheepishly. But a rather harsh sending off for Jamie Devitt's second booking after 28 minutes gave Portsmouth a strong advantage, with Carl Baker capitalising before the break for a debut goal. The second half was as one sided as a David Haye analogy, with Pompey pressing and Carlisle unable rarely passing halfway. But, the Cumbrian's defence held out and both sides left with a single point. This would be the start of a 15 game unbeaten streak for Carlisle.
This season would not be remembered for its stunning cup runs, as Pompey fell at the first hurdle in each of their 3 cup competitions. The newly branded EFL Cup (League Cup) ended for Pompey after 120 minutes at the Ricoh Arena, despite Curtis Main and want away Kal Naismith netting, Coventry eventually emerged 3-2 winners after extra time, Andy Rose with the deciding goal.
Pompey returned to League action with a trip to Crewe which again ended in frustration. Main, Doyle, Smith and Roberts all had chances to give Pompey the lead, but it wasn't to be and the game finished goalless.
3 days later was a midweek trip to Morecambe where despite having 25 shots on goal, Pompey failed to find the back of the net. The hosts caught Pompey on the break twice in the opening quarter and as loudly as Pompey knocked on the door they just could not break it down. It compounded a miserable start where the blues picked up just 2 points from 9 and saw them drop to 20th in League Two.
Pompey's first win of the season came back at Fratton when Colchester came to town. It was looking like being another frustrating day until Gary Roberts was fouled with 10 minutes remaining. He dusted himself down and drilled home the spot kick before adding a second 5 minutes later with a composed scoop finish. Forde denied Colchester a late consolation with a double save.
Pompey left it late against Colchester, but left it even later the following weekend at Exeter. The game was heading for another goalless draw with 5 minutes remaining, when Kyle Bennett went on a mazy run and was adjudged to have been upended (although it looked a little soft to say the least). Gary Roberts once again stepped up and secured all 3 points for the Blues to end August on a high with back-to-back wins which boosted them up to 8th place.
Pompey were happy to see the month out but first they had to endure the newly formatted JPT/EFL Trophy/Check-a-trade Cup. Call it what you want, it was a joke but it did give us an entertaining game at Yeovil's Huish Park. Michael Smith netted a hat-trick as Pompey lost 4-3. Quite the waste of time, I'm sure most will agree.
The team were yet to gel as well as many would have wanted, but were showing great fighting spirit and resolve to grind out wins. It was going to be a long season at this rate!
Written by PompeyFrippy and originally posted in the forum.
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