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Portsmouth: Let chimes ring out for a happy 25th

Portsmouth's 0-0 draw at Cambridge United on Tuesday night won't live long in the memory of most Pompey fans, even though it inched them another point closer to the holy grail of promotion from League One.

But, while neither the performance nor the result grabbed many headlines, there was still something to celebrate for Portsmouth's followers with the club registering a 25th successive League One match without a defeat.

It is a run that dates back to 11th March when Pompey were pipped 1-0 at Fratton Park by Sheffield Wednesday, a defeat that preceded a late but ultimately fruitless push for a play-off place and this sparkling start to 2023/24.

While Pompey boss John Mousinho, his staff, players and supporters can take much pride in this fantastic seven-month unbeaten run, the burning question is; will it be the foundation of a season that ends with promotion back to the Championship?

Portsmouth's Odds

To win league - 7/4
To be promoted - 4/7
To finish in top two - 4/5
To finish in top six - 1/10

Last-gasp heroics key to stunning run

Mousinho was still getting his feet under the table at Fratton Park when the new head coach took his side to Accrington on 18th March, fresh off a pair of losses against Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday.

It was one of those nights when everything clicked. Just ten minutes had gone when Stanley keeper Lukas Jensen was shown a red card and three minutes later Pompey punished the hosts as Joe Pigott opened the scoring.

Portsmouth bossed the game and despite also having a man sent off, held on for a 3-1 win. They haven't lost a league game since.

There have been some close calls in the intervening 25 league matches. Ten days after the win at Stanley they were 2-0 down at home to Port Vale but fought back to draw 2-2.

And twice this season, at home to Bristol Rovers and away at Derby County, they have been trailing going into added time and snatched late levellers, both games ending 1-1.

This season they have come from behind to beat Peterborough United, Lincoln City, Wigan Athletic and Wycombe Wanderers, securing 14 points from losing positions and eight points from stoppage time goals.

This is a team that simply does not know when it's beaten and that will be a good habit to have come the business end of the season.

Mousinho defied doubters to become a Special One

It is no exaggeration to say Pompey fans were underwhelmed when chairman Michael Eisner, on the recommendation of sporting director Richard Hughes, decided Mousinho was the man to replace Danny Cowley at the turn of the year.

Mourinho they'd have understood, but Mousinho?

It was to be expected that Cowley's days were numbered. This is a club which has won the Football League, the FA Cup, graced the Premier League and played in Europe, yet had been out of the Championship since 2012.

But in the quest to return to the second tier the proud Hampshire club were basically gambling on a rookie 36-year-old who hadn't quite wound down his playing days with Oxford United.

What he did do during the fading embers of his Oxford stay was start coaching under the highly-regarded Karl Robinson and, according to insiders at Portsmouth, he shone when interviewed.

Transfer window the platform for progress

Mousinho has backed up his words with deeds, introducing an aggressive, front-foot style of play. Only Bolton Wanderers have had more possession than them this term, whilst only Wycombe and Peterborough have taken more shots.

Eight goals this season from set-plays shows a meticulous training-ground approach in that area too.

A first transfer window saw 14 new faces arrive at Fratton Park and again questions followed over the extent of the reshape which a lot of fans feared would be unsettling.

But key figures remained, including inspirational skipper Marlon Pack, a class act in central midfield, and Colby Bishop, arguably the best striker in League One with eight goals already.

And Pompey have undoubtedly been improved by the summer arrivals of Conor Shaughnessy and Regan Poole, who are pillars in central defence. Portsmouth boast the best defensive record in the division by a distance.

Australian youngster Alex Robertson has signed from the Manchester City academy and looks like he has what it takes to play at the highest level.

The X factor comes from players like Abu Kamara and Tino Anjorin - unpredictable but match-winners.

Pompey ready for overdue Championship return

Pompey are now 4/7 to end what would be a seven-season stay in League One by winning promotion and are 7/4 to win the title.

Regan Poole hailed his team as "the best in the division" following the 0-0 draw with Cambridge, the result that brought their unbeaten run to the milestone 25 mark.

But that has yet to be seriously tested. If the top six are the best teams in the division, then they have yet to play three of them - Oxford, Bolton and Blackpool - home or away.

The bigger tests will come, but Portsmouth, under their unlikely hero Mousinho, are ready for all-comers and they have no intention of stopping at 25.

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