Awfs thinks outside box as Sonny shines up front

Sonny Bradley. Picture: Joe Pepler
Sonny Bradley. Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin could start againsyt Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey v Plymouth: pre-match talking points

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Andy Awford explained his surprise game-changing substitution at Bury and admitted: We needed something out of the ordinary.

With the Blues trailing the Shakers 3-1 and little more than 10 minutes left to play, the caretaker boss turned to his bench eager to extend a five-game winning run.

The decision to introduce defender Sonny Bradley to proceedings as his third and final substitute could have been seen as peculiar, particularly given the Blues’ plight and the availability of striker Jake Jervis.

But if Awford was being questioned by Blues fans at the time of his decision, he was being congratulated for a tactical masterstroke on the whistle, as the makeshift target man was in the thick of the action in the visitors’ last-gasp 4-4 draw at Gigg Lane.

Awford said: ‘I just felt we needed something different.

‘It needed to be an out-of-the-ordinary substitution because we were out of the game.

‘We needed something unexplained and off the cuff.

‘I asked him (Bradley) if he fancied it (playing up front) and he said he did.

‘If he’d had said no, then I wouldn’t have done it.

‘But I just felt it was the right thing to do.

‘Sometimes it will come off and you’ll look good, other times it won’t work and you’ll look stupid.

‘Thankfully, for us it did – and we’re delighted with a point.’

Awford saw his side fall behind for the first time in his spell as Blues caretaker boss in a lacklustre first-half display.

Bury striker Hallam Hope, on loan from Everton, scored a well-taken double in a dominant opening period for the Shakers.

And former Fratton Park skipper Awford admitted he only had himself to blame as he freshened things up at the interval in a bid to overturn a 2-0 deficit.

Adam Webster replaced Johnny Ertl as the Blues’ 4-2-3-1 formation gradually transformed into an all-out-attacking 4-2-4 system with the further additions of Patrick Agyemang and Bradley in place of Ricky Holmes and Danny East.

Awford said: ‘We changed the system slightly at half-time with Johnny coming off.

‘That was no reflection on his performance, though, as he did great in the first half.

‘I take responsibilty for the shape in the first half – I didn’t get it 
right, so that is a learning curve for me.

‘In the end we had four up top and it was a case of trying to get the ball forward as quickly as we could.’

And it paid dividends as the Blues, who trailed 3-0 and 4-2 as Hope completed his hat-trick after Andy Procter nodded in, hit back.

Danny Hollands, Ryan Taylor, a Pablo Mills own goal – under pressure from Bradley, who proved 
a real handful – and Wes Fogden’s late leveller completed an 
incredible fightback. But Awford, who will resume talks with the Blues board today to become permanent manager, joked that Saturday’s events came at a great personal cost.

Awford explained: ‘I’m going greyer by the day!

‘The heart-rate was already high in the first-half and at the end of that second-half it was even higher.’