Awford: Exeter result won’t decide season

Pompey hero Paul Walsh

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Andy Awford has warned the Fratton faithful not to judge the season ahead on their Exeter opener.

The Blues’ campaign kicks off tomorrow with a trip to Paul Tisdale’s side.

Andy Awford. Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford. Picture: Joe Pepler

At the same point last season, Pompey slumped to a 4-1 home defeat to Oxford in front of what would prove to be the largest League Two crowd of the year.

Pre-season euphoria and optimism were destroyed within 90 minutes on that depressing Fratton Park occasion.

A little over 12 months on, the Grecians are the opposition.

Once again tipped by the bookies for promotion, a degree of expectation surrounds the Blues.

But Awford is only too aware his side’s destiny will not be decided in Devon.

He said: ‘The Oxford game last year grew as the week went on and it didn’t quite go to plan but I have to say the sending off probably played a massive part in that and it was a very difficult game for us.

‘You want to get off to as good a start as you can and if you can set the tone for the season then great.

‘I spoke to Jim (Smith) on Wednesday and he reminded me of his Derby team. They hadn’t won for eight games and then got promoted.

‘He told me not to be too worried, it’s a long season.

‘Last year we went from 22nd to 13th and very nearly ninth in seven games, so it can change so quickly.

‘Of course we want to get off to a good start.

‘But the phrase it’s a marathon and not a sprint is never truer.

‘We have to make sure we are equipped to go the whole season.’

Meanwhile, new recruit Paul Robinson is pushing for selection against the Grecians.

The 32-year-old trained with his Blues team-mates for the first time yesterday and proved to Awford he can potentially be thrown straight into the action at St James Park.

That would put the central defensive places of Ben Chorley and Jack Whatmough under threat.

However, Awford could opt to instead employ a back three, enabling the trio to line-up alongside each other for tomorrow’s fixture.

Regardless, Robinson is in the frame and match fit according to his new manager.

Awford said: ‘Paul looked fine in training yesterday.

‘He settled in straight away which is what I would have expected of a lad who has played that amount of games and the experience behind him.

‘He has not missed a day of pre-season and has played friendlies, so is fully fit and raring to go.

‘If he wasn’t match fit I wouldn’t have brought him in. I wanted someone ready to go.

‘The schedule we have got is hectic so there was no point bringing in one who needed two or three weeks to sharpen up.

‘They are all difficult decisions when naming the team, we have good players.’