Morecambe 3 Pompey 1

Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler
The Archibald Leitch-designed South Stand at Fratton Park

‘Future of Pompey’s home looks promising’

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There was already a hint of blue sky congregating above the wind-torn Globe Arena.

Yet it was an 18-year-old from Worthing who supplied the glorious sunshine.

And with it, Conor Chaplin lifted the spirits of Pompey supporters on another gloomy afternoon in a season whose lights were switched off long ago.

The Fratton faithful will gratefully embrace any positive at present, such has been the demoralising campaign they have been forced to endure.

On 85 minutes that moment emerged.

Matt Tubbs spun and cut across the face of a congested penalty area before having the presence of mind to slide a pass into the left channel.

There was Chaplin, who took one touch before driving an angled left-foot shot across the Morecambe keeper and into the far corner of the net.

It was a finish of marvellous quality to reduce Pompey’s deficit against Jim Bentley’s side to 2-1.

Perhaps more importantly in the context of this dead rubber run-in, it was a maiden goal for a homegrown talent who has won admiration at all levels throughout the season.

The leading scorer for both the Academy and reserves this season, back in October Chaplin’s immense progress earned him a professional deal until the summer of 2016.

Those who have watched him at both levels this season will gush about a youngster with lightning quick feet equipped with a low centre of gravity and blessed with the ability to net.

And there he was, in Morecambe, opening his account for the club he has been associated with since the age of six.

Of course, in the context of Pompey’s miserable campaign, the striker’s goalscoring arrival will not propel them into the play-offs and potentially out of a league which has sucked the enthusiasm from so many of their followers.

Yet it represents a slither of positivity to cling onto at a time plenty of fans are wishing May 2 to hurry up to put them out of this never-ending agony.

For that alone, Chaplin’s contribution on Saturday should be lauded, regardless of the final 3-1 scoreline against a side previously without a home victory for a day more than two months.

Not that Awford can have any complaints over the result which heaps more pressure on his position as Blues boss.

The previous two fixtures encouragingly reaped four points, including a home victory over play-off hunting Plymouth Argyle following a good second-half showing.

However, their away form continues to cripple any aspirations of progress and, rather inevitably, the trip to Morecambe stretched the abject return to two league wins in 21.

For a team set the target of challenging for the play-offs, occupying 14th spot with four matches remaining is nothing to be proud of.

Woe betide anyone employed by the football club to publicly attempt such unpalatable spin. The fans will not be fooled.

In fairness, in recent weeks the management and players have not sought to sugar-coat a wretched campaign which has also produced FA Cup elimination to a non-league team for the first team in the club’s history.

Incidentally, Aldershot’s 1-1 draw at Braintree Town on Saturday puts them at 18th in the Vanarama Conference, their relegation concerns now at an end.

Still, in fewer than three weeks’ time, the 2014-15 season will be over and the on-going presence of those responsible for such underachievement will come under intense scrutiny.

In the meantime, Pompey fans have the progress of Chaplin to enjoy – and who could possibly begrudge them that?

At the Globe Arena, scouts from Charlton, Sheffield United and Fulham were all present, presumably monitoring Jed Wallace in the orderly queue which lengthens with each performance.

For this audition piece, the 21-year-old was below par, much like the majority of his team-mates during a desperately disappointing display.

Not that it should dent the on-going interest in the Blues’ prize asset, everybody has an off day.

Whereas in Pompey’s case, outside of August and February they have barely had an on day.

Morecambe’s own gaze towards the play-offs this season has been obstructed by their awful home form, yet they had no issues overcoming that barrier on Saturday.

Awford named a match-day 18 unchanged from that on duty in the 2-1 win over Plymouth on bank holiday Monday, hardly surprising considering the injury list.

With Jack Whatmough, Paul Robinson, Danny East, Paul McCallum and Ben Chorley not available, the manager’s selections have been hampered in recent matches.

Nonetheless, they travelled to Lancashire with confidence following their Easter programme – yet once again their travel ailments were there for all to see.

Over the duration of the 90 minutes plus 11 minutes stoppage time for Josh Passley’s head injury, Pompey mustered only three shots on target.

The first arrived mid-way through the opening 45 minutes when Wallace’s marvellous cross-field pass from deep sent Tubbs scampering through and his shot was palmed away by keeper Danny Ward.

By that stage, the Blues were already one goal down after Jamie Devitt’s 10th minute left-wing corner was headed home at the near post by Alex Kenyon.

At the start of the second half, Wallace saw his left-foot half-volley from close range blocked on the line by Ryan Edwards.

Then the second of Kenyon’s goals arrived in the 69th minute when, following another corner, Paul Jones pulled off a point-blank save only for the midfielder to follow up with a spectacular scissor kick.

Moments later, Passley was knocked unconscious following an aerial challenge which sparked concern among both sets of players during 11 minutes of medical on-pitch attention.

The 20-year-old spent the night in hospital but the club later announced there were no serious repercussions from the injury.

Still, with five minutes of normal time remaining, Chaplin provided hope of Pompey completing an unlikely comeback.

It ended when Padraig Among leapt upon a loose ball to crash a half-volley past Jones in the lengthy stoppage time.

Another defeat – but at least Chaplin brought a smile to Pompey faces.