2016-17 Champions Review: November
After an indifferent October, Pompey were one third of the way through the season and occupying a play-off place and were not far off the automatic places, despite the recent performances being short of the mark.
Before the league resumed, there was two more cup competitions Pompey had to exit to fully focus on the league and they managed to do this in the space of 3 days.
Although Pompey are quite keen on an FA Cup run, the trophy was not coming back to Fratton this season as Pompey were drawn against Wycombe who they had beaten in the league 6 weeks previous. Pompey rested a few names but still fielded a respectable side, but it was ex-Blue Paris Cowen-Hall who opened the scoring. Gareth Evans made it 1-1 but with neither side wanting a replay, something had to give, and with 16 stone of muscle behind him, Adebayo Akinfenwa was the one to give it. Wycombe went to the second round, Pompey exited stage left.
Most fans were ready to say goodbye to the EFL Trophy as well, but after Michael Smith missed a penalty after 5 minutes, Kal Naismith scored a scorcher of a free kick in the dying minutes (in front of a record breaking Fratton crowd of 1,200) to salvage a hope of qualifying with a 1-0 win. There was relief 24 hours later when Yeovil beat Reading to qualify, which meant just 3 months into the season there were only league games for Pompey to focus on.
Mansfield were the next team to visit Fratton Park in what was to be the most frustrating 4-0 win in history. Some fans showed frustration with the players, the rest of the fans showed frustration with the frustrated fans. Pompey led 1-0 through an early Gary Roberts penalty, a lead which turned even more comfortable on the hour when Mansfield were reduced to 10 men. It was game over with 15 minutes to go as a late challenge on Doyle saw Mansfield reduced to 9. What happened next is truly bizarre. Despite having a 2 man advantage and Mansfield barely touching the ball, a small section of Pompey fans started to jeer the players who were moving the ball from side to side waiting for gaps to appear. These fans were made to look rather foolish when Pompey scored 3 times in the last 5 minutes adopting that same patient approach. Noel Hunt scored his only ever Pompey goal and Baker grabbed a late brace to take his tally for the season to 6.
Pompey were beginning to put a little run together away from home, but that looked to be in jeopardy a week later in Cheltenham. Daniel O'Shaughnessy gave the Robins the lead just after the hour following a goalmouth scramble, but Pompey were making a habit of scoring late goals, and grabbed another with less than 10 minutes remaining when a Carl Baker cross was spilled into the path of substitute Michael Smith, who calmly slotted home to send the teams away with a share of the points.
Another away game followed just 3 days later against Luton who sat one place and two points clear of Pompey prior to kick off. The Hatters looked like they were going to extend this lead to 5 points after Danny Hylton put them into an early lead, but Michael Smith cancelled this goal out with a low drive just minutes later - moments after the linesman`s flag had denied Hylton from making it 2-0. With the last kick of the first half, Gareth Evans blasted Pompey into the lead when a loose ball fell into his path following a corner. Both teams had chances to add to their tallies in the second half but it was Pompey who sealed the win in the dying minutes when Naismith tucked home from an impossible looking angle to send the large travelling contingent home delighted.
The win against Luton had proved that Pompey were serious promotion contenders, and 10 points from 4 games meant Pompey had hit a bit of form coming into a home game against mid-table Stevenage. But things are never that simple when it comes to Pompey.
Pompey could have ended the month just two points off the automatic promotion places, but an afternoon to forget at Fratton was about to put a spanner in the works. Goalless at half time, Pompey looked on top and it seemed like a matter of time before they took the lead. But two strange substitutions at half time saw a visibly shaky Pompey concede twice, and despite Smith pulling one back and a flurry of late chances it was Stevenage who left with all 3 points.
Details emerged later that evening that the two players substituted, Christian Burgess and Michael Doyle, had been involved in an altercation in the dressing room at half time. Both players issued a public apology along with a donation to the Academy, but many fans questioned whether both of them would still play at the club. In hindsight, this show of passion may have been the boost the club and the players needed as both players went on to be integral cogs along the spine of the team for the rest of the season.
Despite 3 wins and a draw, Pompey were falling further away from the automatic promotion places, and after Doncaster won their game in hand Pompey were 6 points off Plymouth and Carlisle and in a bit of disarray. December was going to be a make or break month.
Written by PompeyFrippy and originally posted in the forum.
The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.
2016-17 Champions Review: August.
2016-17 Champions Review: September.
2016-17 Champions Review: October.
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