At the end of what was one of the most bizarre football seasons we have ever encountered, we look back on how Portsmouth fared during the highs, the lows and the unprecedented times spun upon the players, the staff and the community throughout the Covid-19 outbreak.
It didn’t take long for the Fratton Faithful to take to social media in order to vent their frustrations over the nature of the team’s poor performance, lack of consistency, and a crippling inability to see out a game without conceding in the dying moments.
The Pompey supporters just about had enough when Jackett’s side blew a 3-1 lead in the 78th minute to draw 3-3 against a 9-man Coventry on August 20th. This spurred on a series of ‘late-losers’, amassing to a total of 10 dropped points from the final 10 minutes of matches in the space of 3 months. The full list encompasses:
- Late 1-0 loss against Wycombe away.
- Late 1-0 loss against Wimbledon away.
- Late 2-2 draw away to Bristol, where Pompey comfortable led 2-0 up until the 78th minute. Craig MacGillivray’s stoppage time own goal casting a curtain on any hope of 3 points.
- Late equaliser for Oxford at home resulting in a 1-1 draw.
Adding to this, a pre-Christmas humbling away at Accrington Stanley where Pompey managed to conclude a 1-0 lead with a 4-1 loss, made those “We want Jackett out” chants even louder.
Seddon the Saviour
The winter transfer window saw some much needed activity from Kenny. Arguably, the most important of which, was the arrival of Birmingham left-back Steve Seddon, who showed his talent right from his first appearance in Jackett’s side.
Seddon went on to be somewhat of a fan favourite at Fratton Park. His connection with Ronan Curtis down the left flank sparked several positive moments for Portsmouth, and his attacking mindset landed him 4 assists and 1 goal from 14 starts.
Seddon admittedly sees no future at Birmingham City, and is keen to find a permanent home somewhere, but there is yet no indication that this may be Fratton Park, although I believe I speak for the majority of the Pompey fanbase when I say that he would be welcome back with open arms, should the opportunity for a permanent deal arise.
Sean Ragget: From 0 to Hero
Sean Raggett was one of Kenny Jackett’s attempts to fill the gaping hole left by Matt Clarke in the summer of 2019, who was snapped up by Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion for an undisclosed fee.
Raggett made 38 appearances in a Pompey shirt, making him one of Jackett’s most used players this season. His display however sparked quite a bit of controversy amongst Pompey supporters. The Norwich City loanee faced a lot of criticism for a number of individual mistakes, particularly in matches in the first half of the season.
Playing under intense criticism cannot be easy, and credit to Sean Raggett where it is due, his performances started to turn around. Hard graft and a level of consistency alongside centre-half partner Christian Burgess has allowed the Norwich loanee to rise back up and become somewhat of a fan-favourite.
Sean Raggett’s story is definitely a unique one amongst the squad of 2019/20. At the end of 2019 he was the first name on the list of players that need slashing out of the club in the next window; come July 2020 Raggett’s permanent return to Fratton Park is on the cards, now as a free-agent.
The return of the South Coast Derby
2019 saw the return of the South Coast Derby for the first time in 9 years. Portsmouth were drawn at home to rivals Southampton in the Third Round of the EFL Cup in September.
Despite Pompey’s 4-0 loss, the game made for a good spectacle, with Fratton Park sold out.
A high volume of police officers patrolled the scenes both inside and outside of the ground however, Hampshire constabulary were ill-prepared for a pre-game incident on Goldsmith Avenue, where a drunken 52 year old local was jailed after punching a police horse.
New decade, new goalkeeper
The switch of the calendars also saw a switch in the first-choice keeper for Kenny Jackett’s side.
Alex Bass, who up until December 31st was a consistent cup keeper, and on 2 occasions, a solid cover for Craig MacGillivray when the Scot was on international duty, in a shock switch-up by the gaffer, made an appearance in the starting line-up with the No.1 keeper fit, and on the bench.
From then on, until the end of the season, the Pompey academy graduate started every game, totalling one more clean sheet than the Scot (7) with less minutes played (43%).
On the edge of their seats: Leasing.com Trophy semi-final vs Exeter City
If the Covid-19 pandemic never happened, at the time of writing this, we would have know whether Pompey successfully completed their defence of the Leasing.com Trophy. In reality however, we are still yet to learn the new date of the much-anticipated Wembley final against Salford City.
Jackett’s side kept Fratton Park, and all of those watching on Sky Sports, on the edge of their seats, right up until the 78th minute. The game was a 0-0 tie, until Jake Taylor’s goal sent the travelling Exeter fans crazy, and simultaneously opened up a 15 minute rollercoaster of emotions for all involved.
Portsmouth came from behind twice in that game. First with a bit of Marcus Harness brilliance, and then with a strike from distance from Cameron McGeehan. A second consecutive visit to Wembley was confirmed with a winning header from John Marquis, sending the Fratton End wild.
Covid-19 outbreak and player testing
The positive Covid-19 testing of 5 Pompey players coincided with Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Fratton Park, where Mikel Arteta, the Gunner’s manager, tested positive for the disease just 10 days after the game, making it entirely possible that the Spaniard had contracted the virus before the FA Cup 5th Round clash.
Several Portsmouth players tested positive for Covid-19 in the coming weeks, and the full list includes: James Bolton, Andy Cannon, Ross McCrorie, Sean Raggett and Haji Mnoga.
Vegan Van Dijk is off to Belgium
It’s fair to say that Christian Burgess departs Fratton Park as a Portsmouth legend, on and off the pitch. His efforts throughout this season will not go unnoticed, as he proved himself to be a reliable and consistent centre-half, as well as a caution in the opposition’s box.
Burgess’ contribution to the community should also be highlighted, especially throughout the Covid-19 crisis, where he volunteered his time to help the less privileged and vulnerable get through the tough times.
Burgess leaves Fratton Park with an impressive 4 goals this season. He was also Kenny Jackett’s most used player in all competitions in the 2019/20 campaign.
What will a post Covid-19 match-day look like?
Will we see fans at League One games in 2020? Will there be reduced capacity throughout the entire season?
So many questions are yet to be answered by the EFL, and the club.
Presumably, much like retail buildings and other event venues, the number of visitors allowed inside for a prolonged period of time may be down to the size of the building and its capacity in terms of physical size. Fratton Park is the second largest stadium in League One in terms of seat capacity, meaning that if a 1-2 metre social distancing regulation was to be imposed by the EFL, Fratton Park could still welcome fans in their tens of thousands.