Loan finds have exorcised Pompey ghosts of Kpekawa & Co

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It was cruel that so few were present to witness the finest moment of Cole Kpekawa’s unforgettably forgettable Pompey career.

Representing Paul Hardyman’s reserve side against their Peterborough counterparts, he rose highest to head home Ben Close’s right-wing corner.

The only goal of the April 2015 fixture, it ensured the loanee from QPR was an unlikely match-winner amid a team containing only two players above the age of 18.

Kpekawa never played a match for Pompey again, at any level.

Come 13 days later, he was spared the agony of a lingering Fratton Park death by being recalled ahead of the natural May end to his loan.

The defender endured a hapless two-game first-team spell with the Blues, during which his performances were substandard.

Kpekawa was among 11 loanees during the 2014-15 campaign, the vast majority struggling to perform as Pompey slunk to the lowest finish in their Football League history.

Others fared just as poorly, yet it was Kpekawa who epitomised the disappointing loan market activity of Andy Awford.

In contrast, the current regime has recruited the likes of Matt Clarke, Caolan Lavery and Marc McNulty to aid the season’s target of promotion from League Two.

The trio have proven superb signings by Paul Cook, with the management and Fratton faithful eager to see their impressive stays renewed next month.

Clarke, whose stature and footballing maturity defy his age of 19, can expect a regular starting berth once more in the injury absence of Christian Burgess during the next month.

It has been entirely through the form of Adam Webster rather than the decline of the Ipswich youngster which prompted his move to the bench in the first place.

As for Lavery and McNulty, they have totalled nine goals in 16 games between them to finally provide the cutting edge so glaringly absent.

In addition, striker Jayden Stockley has also enjoyed fine moments in a spell robbed of nine matches courtesy of an ankle injury.

A last-gasp leveller in the storming fightback against Morecambe and the winner at Bristol Rovers means, effectively, he has earned Cook’s side four points.

However, the extension of his presence from Bournemouth must be in some doubt, particularly having failed to make the bench against Hartlepool last weekend.

Then there was Aaron McCarey – a decent enough goalkeeper to cover for the injury absence of Brian Murphy, Paul Jones and Michael Poke.

Following the end of his one-month loan, the 23-year-old returned to Wolves before heading out straight to Bury and injuring his groin after one match. He was sent back.

Overall, unquestionably successful forays so far from the canny Cook in the loan market as his side sit fourth in League Two.

Inadequate short-term signings, however, were not merely confined to last season, as the whimpering impacts of Bjorn Helge Riise, Luca Scapuzzi and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing from recent times illustrate.

Carl Dickinson, a two-time loanee, also had his critics, despite his whole-hearted approach and popular routine of applauding the Fratton end.

Then there was last season – a campaign which introduced the Fratton faithful, in date order, to Paul Robinson, Alex Wynter, Miles Storey, Michael Drennan, Matt Fish, Marcus Bean, Lee Holmes, Paul McCallum, Josh Passley, David Cornell, Nyron Nosworthy and Kpekawa.

Robinson was a masterful signing which turned permanent, while Cornell was purely goalkeeping cover not required to appear.

Awford was keen to keep Bean, only for Wycombe to offer a longer deal, with the midfielder becoming a key member of the side which reached the League Two play-off final.

Storey’s treatment remains puzzling. His loan from Swindon was cancelled early despite three goals and five assists in 22 appearances.

At the time it devastated the youngster, who currently has seven goals in 12 matches for Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Premiership.

Passley showed glimpses of quality, although his poor timekeeping and attitude took the legs away from all that was good about his stay.

The other seven will never be mentioned in favourable terms by any Pompey follower.

Today Fish is at Ebbsfleet, Drennan at Shamrock Rovers, Holmes with Exeter, Nosworthy alongside Passley at relegation-threatened Dagenham & Redbridge, while Wynter is at League One Colchester.

McCallum, who was banned for seven Pompey games following a sending off against Southend, scored three goals in his first month at Leyton Orient this season.

However, he is currently sidelined for six months with cruciate knee ligament damage.

Then there is Kpekawa.

It was difficult to not feel a genuine sympathy, having interviewed him following that reserve-team performance at Furze Lane.

Polite and eloquent, the youngster so highly-regarded by QPR explained how he had been schooled as a left-back or left-sided central defender.

At Fratton Park, however, he had been asked to operate as a left wing-back for the first time in his career.

Then there was his debut at AFC Wimbledon, hampered by the back spasm suffered while jogging during the first five minutes of his warm-up.

His ability judged upon a mere two games – but the impassioned defence was, in fairness, rather persuasive.

Still, Kpekawa finished the season making his Premier League bow for the R’s as a substitute at Leicester.

Last month he was sent on loan to a League Two club, where he has established himself at left-back.

That club is Leyton Orient – Pompey’s Boxing Day opponents.

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