Cambridge 2 Pompey 6

Matt Tubbs scores his third goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Tubbs scores his third goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey's Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler

Evans: Player talk has lifted Pompey form

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For Pompey fans, football is fun once more.

A delicious last-minute winner from Jed Wallace provided a euphoric outcome nine days ago against Exeter City.

Then followed a stunning triumph over Cambridge United on Saturday as Blues hit six goals away from home in the league for the first time since October 1963.

Suddenly Andy Awford, the manager who so narrowly avoided the sack less than a month ago, has inspired a remarkable resurgence.

The Fratton faithful are smiling at the full-time whistle again.

And boy doesn’t it feel good as a fading season now begins to offer the faintest of hope.

That’s 11 points from the last 15 on offer since Awford’s prized vote of confidence – a return which surely must place the boss in the running for February’s manager-of-the-month accolade.

If that return once seemed improbable, at the Abbey Stadium his side also collected a first away win since August.

In the process, a remarkable performance saw Pompey double their goal return on their league travels during the current campaign.

Awford was restrained and grounded when addressing the media afterwards – in complete contrast to his joyous behaviour during the six goals registered.

His buzzwords centred on team effort and hard work in training, clearly resisting the urge to gush over a magnificent display.

Regardless of his steering, there could be no ignoring the outstanding achievements of Matt Tubbs and Jed Wallace during the 6-2 demolition job lapped up by the travelling faithful.

For Tubbs, a hat-trick. Curiously his first-ever in the Football League despite a highly-impressive scoring record at several of his clubs.

As for Wallace, the midfielder was involved in five of the goals scored, including grabbing a second-minute opener.

Cutting in from the left and receiving a fortuitous bounce when challenged by Michael Nelson as he broke into the penalty area, the 20-year-old then calmly stroked the ball past the keeper into the far bottom corner.

Throw in a goal and an assist for Ryan Taylor in the final 16 minutes and the ‘flair’ players Awford was disappointed with at Dagenham & Redbridge in the previous away outing, had roared back.

The Blues were irresistible at times, some of their attacking moves a joy to witness and the finishing clinical and classy.

There was energy, there was drive, there was passion, no aspect of a display bristling with such quality should be downplayed.

It was Wycombe – with goals.

How those 1,433 visiting fans rejoiced, suddenly all those dreary away performances endured this season were forgotten about.

The previous 15 League Two matches on the road had yielded one win and a mere six goals, among those fixtures the alarming failure to beat four of the bottom five.

In fairness, since Cheltenham the away performances have improved considerably, yet wins had remained elusive.

That was until Saturday when in one fell swoop both the goal return and wins were doubled over the duration of a remarkable 90 minutes.

To think Cambridge had suffered one defeat in the last 13 home games in all competitions heading into the match, with even Manchester United unable to topple them.

Boos cascaded down at the half-time and then full-time whistles from the disgusted home faithful, while ex-Pompey striker Ryan Bird was hauled off at the interval.

Granted, they twice breached a Blues defence who conceded for the first time in 304 minutes – such has been their own superb transformation.

That arrived in the 24th minute when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was sent clear down the left by Jordan Slew and finished from a tight angle.

The winger, who made eight appearances for Pompey in the 2012-13 campaign, was marking his debut following a loan switch from Peterborough. Within two minutes, the character and belief ripping through the Blues side at present came to the fore as Tubbs restored their lead with a smart finish inside the box from Wallace’s through ball.

And from that point onwards the visitors never looked back as they seized complete control of proceedings at the Abbey Stadium.

On 33 minutes, Wallace’s curling shot from the right was saved by Chris Dunn and the ball fell to Paul Robinson 10 yards out to confidently drill home.

Then on the stroke of half-time it was 4-1 after Taylor released Wallace down the left and his pin-point cross was delicately steered home by the head of Tubbs.

That was enough action for Bird, who surprisingly was named in the starting line-up having made just two of the previous five squads.

The striker, who started the season for the Blues, failed to make a favourable impact against his former team-mates.

On one occasion when Jack Whatmough misjudged a high cross, he failed to control the ball at the far post for what was a glorious opportunity to net.

Not quite the same story for Mendez-Laing, who certainly impressed the home fans with his forays down the left flank throughout.

Still, Robbie Simpson pulled one back with a far-post header to following Greg Taylor’s excellent cross from the left-hand side.

Moments later, the Cambridge man struck the bar with a header as the hosts threatened to make it 4-3.

Then on 74 minutes, Wallace clipped a looping ball into the penalty area, substitute Richard Tait made a hash of clearing it and Taylor battled to make a connection, prodding home for his fourth of the season.

There was still time for Tubbs to grab his third and Pompey’s sixth, instigated by Taylor.

The striker fired in a cross from the left and Tubbs was there to net from close range to record his fourth goal for the Blues since joining last month.

The rout was completed and a remarkable scoreline achieved as Pompey moved into 14th spot, still 12 points adrift of the play-offs.

Momentum, though, is with them as finally Awford’s side is producing the quality many felt they were capable of.

Now two home games on the horizon in the form of Tranmere and Oxford.

But let’s not think about those just yet. Just sit back, smile and reflect on the fun of football.