2016-17 Champions Review: October
With only 2 points separating 2nd place from 12th place, October was billed to be a month that would see some teams pull away in the League Two title race. Pompey started the month in 4th place, with games upcoming against the 1st, 3rd and 5th place sides. It wasn't exactly going to decide the league, but it would give a good indication as to whether Paul Cook's men had it in them to be in the hunt.
The first of these games was against promotion bound Doncaster, who produced possibly the finest away performance at Fratton Park this season. Another ex-Blue John Marquis gave the visitors an early lead before Andy Williams made it too good to be true by doubling their lead. Baker pulled one back before the break and the second half saw Pompey hammer Donny's goal with chance after chance, with Chaplin, Main, Baker and Roberts all getting opportunities, but the visitor's held on for 3 crucial points which lifted them into the automatic places, where they would stay for the rest of the season.
Two league defeats on the trot had dented Pompey's early season confidence, and questions were starting to be asked of Cook, his team selection and his formation.
A brief respite from League football for the 2nd EFL Trophy game against Reading U23's followed, which saw just 1,355 fans turn up to what turned out to be an entertaining game in a joke of a competition. Curtis Main scored twice as Pompey came back from 2-0 down to salvage a point. Just for the fun of it, they had a penalty shootout afterwards with Reading picking up an extra point as 4 Pompey players missed penalties.
Performances on the road had been far from where they were the season before, and a trip to struggling Leyton Orient became a lot more important after previous results.
Orient had been out of form but had just appointed a new manager, Alberto Cavasin prior to the match. It was a game of few chances, and things didn't seem to be going Pompey's way when Chaplin's deft flick into the net was ruled out for offside. But the deadlock was broken just before the hour when Christian Burgess rose highest from a corner to open his account for the season. Pompey held on comfortably and had chances to double their lead, but the one goal was enough for all three points. Incidentally, Cavasin was sacked just 7 weeks into his job after picking up just 6 points from 30.
Pompey's toughest test of the season so far came a week later when they made the 7 hour round trip to 'local' rivals (don't get me started) Plymouth, who were top of the league and had picked up 31 points from the last 33. Yann Songo'o gave the hosts the perfect start but Pompey were level before the half when Chaplin squared for Bennett to rifle home. It was an end to end game that looked like it was heading for a draw until the 86th minute when the ball broke kindly to Danny Rose who hit a scorcher of a shot from 25 yards which rattled the underside of the bar. There was a slight pause before the referee indicated it was a goal. But like the play-off semi-final 5 months earlier, the Pilgrims had the last laugh when Connor Smith bundled home as the game finished 2-2.
The Blues were hoping to bounce back the following weekend, when Notts County visited Fratton having fallen out of form in the last few games. But the Magpies had not read the script and took the lead in the 21st minute through 21 year old ex-Newcastle striker Adam Campbell. Pompey were back on level terms 6 minutes later when Chaplin guided the ball home from a Gary Roberts pass, but as they pushed in the second half it was the visitors who stunned Fratton Park by taking the lead, Campbell again doing the damage after a mix-up at the back. Playing against 10 men for the last quarter of an hour after Aaron Collins went in late on David Forde (although from where I was sat, contact was minimal), Pompey were still unable to find an equaliser despite racking up 17 shots and the fans showed some discontent at the final whistle. It was to be County's only victory in 21 games.
Cracks were starting to appear and anything less than a win at Cambridge would have seen October end as a poor month on the pitch. But Pompey papered over the cracks with a classic away performance. Burgess pinged a 60 yard cross field ball onto the head of Conor Chaplin who guided his header past the onrushing keeper to give Pompey the lead halfway through the first half. Amine Linganzi's saw red with half an hour remaining, and Pompey old-boy James Dunne had a couple of chances to punish Pompey, but they held on for 3 vital points.
7 points from 5 games wasn't the worst return in a month of tough fixtures, and Pompey ended October in 5th place, 3 points off the automatic places.
Written by PompeyFrippy and originally posted in the forum.
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2016-17 Champions Review: August.
2016-17 Champions Review: September.
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