1. There must be consistency at the back.
This season has been one of the most testing in between the sticks for Paul Cook’s men, with goalkeepers getting injured left, right and centre. It has seen five different shot-stoppers start for Portsmouth this season with no real “number one”. The situation even resulted in academy keeper Alex Bass being sat on the bench for the majority of the second half of the season after Fulton and Jones were kept out with injury. Midway through the 2015/16 campaign, the Blues also had to sign Aaron McCarey on loan to solve the crisis after Brian Murphy was another added to the injury list.
However, the situation spiralled just before the play-off legs with Plymouth after no goalkeeper was deemed fit to play, including Bass. Three hours before kick-off in the first play-off game, Ryan Allsop was signed on loan in order for Portsmouth to be able to field a keeper – he was probably still learning names at this point! Consequently, there was no named shot-stopper on the bench for either leg as the Blues went out in the dying minutes at Plymouth.
2. We have the best fans in the land.
Even though I already knew that Portsmouth fans were the best in the land, this season has simply enhanced that claim. Given that the Blues had an average home attendance of 16,198, approximately 7,500 more than the next best average in League Two at Plymouth, the uncompromising loyalty of fans despite it being our third season in the fourth tier cannot be denied.
Furthermore, the 18,746 that turned out at Fratton Park on the final day of the season against Northampton, with nothing really riding on the result, proves the passion of the city when it’s a match-day. It must also be noted that Portsmouth outdid both Barnet and Accrington Stanley fans at their own grounds, a remarkable feat considering the latter was on a Tuesday night and a 550-mile round trip for Blues fans.
3. Never celebrate before the final whistle.
Unfortunately, the story of the season for Portsmouth centred around conceding last minute goals, a point proven in the second play-off leg against Plymouth after Peter Hartley headed home to send the Pilgrims to Wembley. It came at the most heartbreaking of times and it was a case of ‘not again’ for Blues fans, who had got used to seeing last minute goals fly in from various oppositions up and down the country.
In a previous blog, I looked at Portsmouth’s position if they hadn’t conceded in the last 10 minutes of games; following up from this, a recent analysis of the League Two table shows that Paul Cook’s side would have finished second on 89 points, three clear of eventual runners-up Oxford United. If there is to be a serious promotion push next season, mental strength and the ability to cope under pressure will be crucial.