Awford demands Pompey retain their steel

Johnny Ertl. Picture: Joe Pepler
Johnny Ertl. Picture: Joe Pepler
Mohamed-Labib Maouche. Picture: Colin Farmery

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The Blues showed gutsy resilience to grab a draw at Luton.

Now boss Andy Awford has challenged his troops to prove it was not a one-off and repeat that much-desired intensity.

Led by the recalled Johnny Ertl, Sunday’s Kenilworth Road display was full of heart and passion.

The Blues even fought back to level through Ryan Taylor, having fallen behind to a Luke Rooney goal in the 13th minute.

The performance was in contrast to the AFC Wimbledon match on Boxing Day, when many fans walked out of Fratton Park early.

And Awford is convinced his players can continue from where they left off at Luton.

He said: ‘It is there, we have seen that this season.

‘We have come from behind so many times and turned losing positions into draws and wins, so the determination is there.

‘We have got to have that level of intensity, that level of desire and determination, and maybe we didn’t have it on Boxing Day.

‘I watched the AFC Wimbledon game back and there wasn’t a lot in it, to be honest.

‘They scored from two set-pieces where we switched off. It was a mental thing, we didn’t get organised quick enough and that was disappointing.

‘We were second best against Wimbledon in that first half.

‘Forget the goals, I am talking about the level of performance.

‘In the second half we got on the front foot and then Dan Butler gets sent off, but against Luton there was a steel in us and we had to defend for long periods.

‘I know we have steel there, I know we have character. I am now looking at whether we can do it again. We haven’t had it for prolonged periods.

‘We had it at Cheltenham, we had it against Accrington after being two down.

‘I know the character is there in the squad and I know they are a good set of lads who give it absolutely everything.’

Luton represented a second successive away point for the Blues, following five straight defeats on their travels.

But they have now lost two consecutive games at Fratton Park.