2016-17 Champions Review.


Vital 1st Team Regular
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!
August seems so long ago now. I thought we started the season pretty well and came away from Carlisle pretty content tbh, it was a good point against a decent side - certainly a game I enjoyed.

Cannot, if honest, remember all the game, clearly anyway, but do that Exeter win. An incredibly soft penalty, still think we deserved that win but fortuitous is probably the best way to sum it up.


Vital Squad Member
Staff member
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.

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Vital 1st Team Regular
Despite not having the most encouraging starts to the season, Pompey had turned their form around with back-to-back victories at the end of August and although they didn't resemble promotion contenders just yet, things were starting to look up.

September began where August had left off (naturally!), and Pompey produced their most comfortable performance of the season with a first half demolition of Crawley at Fratton Park. Defending and goalkeeping errors were to thank for Pompey's 3-0 half time lead thanks to a Gary Roberts goal sandwiched between a Curtis Main brace. Pompey eased off in the second half but still had plenty of chances (15 in total) to add to their lead. At the other end Forde kept his 4th clean sheet in 5 games.

A week later and Pompey were back at Fratton for the visit of Wycombe, it what was an entertaining game to say the least! The visitors took an early lead before Robert's levelled from the spot. Then insanity ensued with 3 goals in first half stoppage time, starting with Robert's giving Pompey the lead from the spot. The lead lasted only a minute when Paul Haynes equalised with a fine outside of the foot strike. However, the half was still not over when Conor Chaplin produced a moment of magic to lift the ball over the defender before cheekily nodding over Jamal Blackman: a goal which was voted Goal of the Season. Carl Baker's deft near post finish at the start of the second half was enough to put the game to bed as Pompey won 4-2 for their 4th consecutive victory which lifted them up to 2nd place, a point behind Plymouth.

But all good things come to an end, and Pompey's run grinded to a halt the following weekend at Accrington. Paul Cook returned to his old haunting ground, bringing many of old faces with him and despite edging the first half it was the hosts that took the lead through Paddy Lacey early in the second. Pompey controlled possession but barely threatened after that and left empty handed as Stanley saw the game out comfortably.

Pompey were back to winning ways a week later however as Fratton Park was proving to be a fortress once again. Barnet were the visitors this time and once again Pompey had to come from behind after former Blue John Akinde's tame penalty squirmed past Forde. Pompey's strength came to the forefront soon after as Chaplin got the Blues back on level terms before a second half onslaught which saw goals from Roberts, Baker, Lalkovic and Rose. In amongst all that Robert's missed a penalty after Chaplin had been hauled down while 1-on-1, an incident which saw Bira Dembele receive a straight red card.

As good as Pompey were looking at home, they were struggling to recreate this form on the road as the month ended with a disappointing midweek trip to Blackpool. The Tangerines took the lead early on through the head of Kelvin Mellor, but Pompey were soon level thanks to another wondergoal from Conor Chaplin, who adjusted his body to produce an acrobatic overhead kick. Unfortunately this was as much as Pompey could muster as defensive mistakes led to two Blackpool goals in the second half, Brad Potts and Kyle Vassell putting the final nails in the Pompey coffin.

Pompey had slipped to 4th at the end of September after 10 games, and were one of 4 teams on 17 points. The table was starting to take shape and a lot of teams were throwing their hats in the promotion ring. Winter was coming, and with it was a crucial few months of football.


Vital Squad Member
Staff member
Despite not having the most encouraging starts to the season, Pompey had turned their form around with back-to-back victories at the end of August.

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Enjoyed, on the whole, September as we scored LOADS of goals and picked up a decent amount of points too, again, on the whole.

That Wycombe game was insane, well, those minutes ahead of half time anyway, Chaplin's goal was brilliant, just brilliant. He (Chaplin) had a very good month in September, maybe this went to his head? Second half of the season, admittedly in and out of the side, he was poor? Maybe, as said, attention went to his head or is his mind elsewhere...

Cannot believe Blackpool was as far back as September, had an overnight stay with good friends Richie, Rob and Besty, still fail to recall LARGE spells of that night... in fact the game, maybe not a bad thing?


Vital Squad Member
Staff member
Pompey started 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.

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Vital 1st Team Regular
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.


Vital Reserves Team
Nice one Frippy, i have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the Donny game despite the loss, I was lucky to have a get together in the hospitality lounge and had a chat with Mark Catlin and Carl Baker, both very nice blokes very happy to chat, particularly Baker who had obviously just lost. He was a great signing, I wish we had got him first time round!

" 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."

Sign of things to come that wasn't it?!

"Chaplin's deft flick into the net was ruled out for offside"

I don't think this was offside, best finish I have seen in a very long time, even better than the header! What happened to Chaplin second half of the season, Barnet aside, not a lot to show for his minutes?

October's a blur to me, had a 'difficult spell' from October through until the end of the year, cannot recall if I went to ANY games that month?!

Maybe we should have used the Paint Pot, whatever the hell it was called, this season to practice our penalties, as weller says a sign of things to come on that score, penalties.

Agree on Chaplin, said in the September review that he had a great month, but then completely lost his way in the second half of the season - not sure if it was attention going to his head or attention TURNING his head? Always rated Chaplin but he needs to buck up next season or Cookie's overlooking him will be justified, unless a summer exit has already been foretold...


Vital Squad Member
Staff member
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.

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Vital 1st Team Regular
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.
November, always a good month as I was born :4:

The infamous Doyle vs Burgess month too, the (former) Pompey captain had previous didn't he, had a ruck with an ex-teammate at Coventry. But Doyle and (potentially the next captain) Burgess kissed and made up and all was good and well again.

Didn't think I made many games in October, pretty sure I missed ALL in November? Did follow via the radio though.
Ok Frippy, thanks for that - probably not adding December on the front pages until Tuesday anyway so will keep a look out for New Year onwards from Thursday.