In June last summer, Jay Sadler’s Portsmouth team underwent a change in ownership, they moved from Portsmouth In The Community (the club’s charitable arm) to become integrated alongside the men’s team under the ownership of The Tornante Company.
This move saw new investment into the women’s team, allowing semi-professional contracts to be offered to players for the first time. Also, the club were able to tap into the talent within the League One team’s executive staff at the club.
On the pitch, Portsmouth have long been well established within the third tier of the women’s football pyramid, the FA Women’s National League Southern Premier. In seasons gone past, they have failed to pick up points against the title chasing sides within their division.
A 1-0 over Ipswich Town on the final day of the 2021/22 season marked the changing of the tides. That season Pompey finished in seventh, twenty-six points of the top.
Since then, the club have changed their transfer strategy and brought in young players direct from WSL or Championship Academies, all of whom appear to have had a great football education and hungry for success.
This has lead to a change in mentality with Portsmouth going into the big games believing in themselves and securing wins against rivals. They finished the 2022/23 season fourth place, just six points behind Watford on first place – an improvement of twenty points!
This season, since adopting the semi-professional status, occupied by many other teams within the third tier, Pompey have position themselves as one of the title favourites, perhaps after this weekend they are now ahead as the title favourites.
Sadler’s team faced a trip to bottom of the London Bees yesterday. Bees were under the interim stewardship of Daniele Denyer after Tom Buzzard’s departure. Portsmouth avoided the threat of the new manager bounce by recording a 4-0. Two goals in the first half from Jazz Younger and Emma Jones. Plus another two from substitutes Dani Lane and Ella Humphreys.
In the crowd were members of the England squad. The joined joined the crowd after their training session at the nearby Hive Stadium.
The win moved Portsmouth to 27 points, with a huge goal difference of plus fourteen-two.
Their nearest rivals, Hashtag United had the opportunity to end the day on top spot but slipped to a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Cheltenham Town, thanks to a 73rd minute goal from Una Lue.
As it stands, Portsmouth and Hashtag United both have 27 points but Portsmouth have a superior goal difference and a game in hand.
It could have been even sweeter but for Natasha Thomas rescuing a point for Ipswich Town as they drew 2-2 away at Billericay Town. The result leaves them eight points behind, having played one less match than Portsmouth and two less than Hashtag United. Neither Ipswich or Rugby Borough can be ruled out of the title race but neither have room for error and anything but a win against Portsmouth or Hashtag United would leave them with hoping for a slip up.
As Sadler (also a Liverpool fan) sat down on Sunday evening and browsed the league table, he’ll no doubt have thought that Christmas had come early. Not that he, his players or his staff would have had long to enjoy the results because there is now a small matter of a Third Round tie against Southampton FC in the Adobe Women’s FA Cup next weekend.