Goodbye and good riddance to Pompey’s season

Jed Wallace scores against Northampton Town in August. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace scores against Northampton Town in August. Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe battles Osman Sow for the ball. Picture: Joe Pepler

O’Keefe: Pompey have finally clicked

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It was meant to be a play-off push.

Instead, Pompey stand on the brink of a lowest-ever finish in their Football League existence.

To be brutal, this campaign has been an abject disaster.

No time for fumbling around seeking positivity or implementing sick-inducing spin, in this instance the truth does not hurt – but the league table should.

As Jed Wallace so succinctly said with eight matches remaining, the Blues have ‘failed’.

It wasn’t meant to be like this of course, 11,047 season-ticket subscribers anticipated brighter times during a second successive season in League Two.

Andy Awford’s breakneck surge to safety had proven inspirational, a spell-binding period constructed upon a foundation of flowing, free-scoring football.

It deservedly earned him the job on a permanent basis after six matches.

There was barely a whimper of protest among fans upon a routine appointment, Twitter remaining docile while tumbleweeds drifted through the message boards. No outrage to see here, move along.

Pompey’s supporters were as unified as they could ever be over the naming of the Hall of Famer at the Fratton Park helm, while there was a rise of 387 season-ticket holders on the previous term.

To assist him, Awford was equipped with a budget dwarfing the one initially presented to Guy Whittingham upon his April 2013 appointment.

It was ‘competitive’, as we were frequently told by those above.

By all accounts not the highest in League Two, but certainly featuring prominently amid the chasing pack.

In addition, the arrivals of James Dunne and Nigel Atangana were for undisclosed sums.

Most will agree value for money, yet transfer fees remain a rarity among clubs in the environment Pompey currently exist.

What’s more, the budget was expanded on several occasions during the campaign, most notably upon the January signing of Matt Tubbs, while a total of 12 loanees arrived. The majority of them awful.

Certainly, the Blues boss was provided with sizeable financial backing from the board, albeit figures creating the level of expectation which would ultimately lead to his departure by mutual consent.

According to chairman Iain McInnes, reaching the play-offs was a necessity. Sadly Pompey came absolutely nowhere near.

And today, with York officially bringing the curtain down on this wretched season, there is the possibility the Blues may not even amass as many points as last term.

They are also in perilous danger of failing to match that all-time Football League low of 13th spot recorded in 2013-14.

Perhaps most worrying of all, nobody can possibly climb to their feet and argue Pompey have deserved more from this season. They haven’t.

The excellent first five fixtures and a magnificent February were out of the norm, dock leaves growing among stinging nettles ready to alleviate the agonising pain.

The visits of Peterborough and Northampton prompted wonderful home displays in August, then there was the February which deservedly earned Awford his manager-of-the-month accolade.

During that period they were undefeated in six matches, registered four clean sheets and racked up 14 points from a possible 18.

In the midst of it was Cambridge United, a 6-2 away triumph to salivate over with Wallace – the club’s best player this season – involved in five goals and a Tubbs hat-trick.

The stunning late fightback against Tranmere that same month also provided one of the highlights, Ryan Taylor netting twice as the hosts recovered from 2-0 down after 75 minutes to win 3-2. Rovers went on to collect a mere five points from the next 39, sealing their relegation.

Incidentally, Pompey managed to take just five points from a possible 12 against the two sides who tumbled out of Football League. Dreadful.

They failed to beat Cheltenham either home or away, while slipped to a 3-1 defeat at Rovers in November, which would prove to be Alan McLoughlin’s last as first-team coach.

Yes, the messy and undignified removal of Macca was another low, even if Gary Waddock has greatly impressed players and the board alike with his subsequent input.

In terms of players, there has been the alarming slump in form of Danny Hollands, the artist formerly known as a goal-scoring midfielder.

Craig Westcarr, a striker selected ahead of alternative summer swoops for Tubbs, Reuben Reid and Stuart Beavon, has largely failed to convince, despite a goal of the season contender.

Then there was Awford’s January purge of his wingers – Ricky Holmes, Miles Storey and Lee Holmes, leaving the mercurial Wallace and Andy Barcham as the only wide options.

No arguments over Lee Holmes, yet Ricky has gone on to be a revelation at Northampton, while Storey – who has not made a single appearance for the club in 2015 – remains second on Pompey’s assists list.

Meanwhile, utilisation of the loan market has been woeful, with Michael Drennan, Cole Kpekawa, Alex Wynter, Matt Fish, Paul McCallum and Lee Holmes not impressing.

Thank goodness for Paul Robinson, however. He has been immense.

Other criticisms are the failure to deal with the full-back positions, Accrington away against 10-men, Tubbs played on the right of a three behind the striker for three games, both FA Cup fixtures against non-league Aldershot and ultimately elimination, three league away wins, both AFC Wimbledon matches and the Home Park team selection.

A season which began with such promise has come to this – a battle to avoid 16th spot in League Two.

Failure.