Is This New Look Portsmouth Pushing For Promotion?

Yesterday evening Portsmouth extended their unbeaten run this season with a 2-0 win over promotion contenders Watford.

Dani Lane opened the scoring with an eleventh-minute header, while Nicole Barrett doubled the lead nine minutes later. Pompey keeper Hannah Haughton kept the Golden Girls at bay to send them home disappointed.

The only blemish on Pompey’s season so far has been a 2-2 draw with Gillingham. They were left frustrated after letting a two-goal lead slip, concerning a late brace from Maddison Chamney-Farrand.

The win leaves Jay Sadler’s side second in the division, two points behind Oxford United – They and Nottingham Forest are the only teams within the third tier who can still boast a 100% record.

Sadler recently celebrated his one hundred and fiftieth game in charge and in that time he has commanded some of the division’s most talented players. There have been accusations that the club have underachieved and too often failed to secure victory against sides at the summit of the National League Southern Premier.

There is merit in that statement, the club finished seventh last season, despite possessing the division’s two top goalscorers in Shannon Albuery (30) and Charelle Khassal (27). In twelve games against the six sides above them, Portsmouth picked up three draws and one win, that is six points from a possible thirty-six.

Over the summer Portsmouth saw a high number of departures that would have raised eyebrows and worried many fans, myself included. Leaving the club were Cherelle Khassal (Dorking), Shannon Albuery (AFC Bournemouth), Hayley Bridge (Worthing), Jaime Gotch (Oxford United), Evie Gane (Coventry United), Freya Jones (Studying in the US), Tamsin de Bunsen, Jade Widdows and Bekah Tonks (all Moneyfields).

On paper, it looked like replacing those names and also turning Portsmouth into title challengers would be a very difficult task and I was worried that the club would be in for a season of hardship.

After being named the team's first full-time member of staff, Sadler began to rebuild by bringing in the well-respected Kim Stenning, formerly of Crawley Wasps and Selsey, as his Assistant Coach.

While on the pitch their transfer strategy changed from targeting experienced Championship talent to younger upcoming talent. The first through the doors was Sophie Quirk (Charlton Athletic), followed by Izzy Collins (Lewes), Georgia Jenkins (Brighton & Hove Albion Academy), Mae Goulden, Taylor McDonald, Ella Wild and Tierney Scott (all Reading Academy).

In addition to the teenagers, Sadler brought in Nicole Barrett (Maidenhead United), Leanne Bell and Anaisa Harney (both Watford).

I was in no doubt that the players brought in would have received a good footballing education but I had reservations about how they might cope with the high demands of National League football. A comprehensive 3-0 win over Ipswich Town on match week one was followed by a 4-1 win over MK Dons. Last night’s win has convinced me that this new look Pompey could be on the cusp of big things this season.

Pompey Women Vlogs Host, Ian Chiverton, told me, “The main difference this year is that the side is playing without fear, that was especially evident last night. It’s a young, energetic side. As always with Jay’s teams they are organised but this season I think we are benefiting from not having a lot of pressure on one or two players to win us games. The team are working as a collective and there is a spread of goals and assists which means we are always finding a way to score.”

Photo: @PompeyWomen

While Ian is bang on, it is the team as a collective that has been so important on this run, I have to give a special mention to Sophie Quirk. She has looked superb so far this season. Quirk possesses pace, power and plays with a directness that defenders don’t like playing against. She also knows how to find the back of the net, scoring four goals in four games. Plus, she plays with a smile on her face which is something that fans love to see!

It is still early in the season but it looks as though Portsmouth may have turned the corner and will be competing for a promotion place against the likes of Oxford United, Ipswich and Watford. While those inside the club might not want to talk about a promotion push and will prefer to take it one game at a time, if they continue to stick together as a team and pick up wins against their immediate rivals and those below them then who knows?