Nottingham Forest 2 Pompey 0

Jamie Ashdown can't stop Dexter Blackstock doubling Nottingham Forest's lead at the City Ground
Jamie Ashdown can't stop Dexter Blackstock doubling Nottingham Forest's lead at the City Ground
Oli Hawkins has impressed in defence and in attack for Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss: I’m open-minded over Hawkins’ best role

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Within seconds of the final whistle the City Ground rose to their feet.

Heads turned in the direction of the away supporters and applause began to flow.

Not a polite clatter of hands, rather a booming rendition harnessing heightened support with every clap.

Neighbour after neighbour joined in the moment, no nudging necessary.

This was nothing to do with politeness, it was genuine respect.

Forest fans had been mocked by their visiting hordes on occasions during the previous 90 minutes.

They had been ridiculed over a perceived quietness, even when winning.

They were also ridiculed over the fact their team were struggling to beat relegated Pompey on home soil.

Yet come the final whistle, large swathes of home support wanted to salute the Blues faithful.

It was a beautifully touching moment on another emotional day.

The performance of the Pompey supporters during such grim times has been startling.

With every body blow delivered, their fighting spirit and determination has multiplied.

Unquestionably there is anger burning deep within over how their club has been so continually let down by those with the responsibility to run it.

When it comes to the match situation, however, the unwavering focus has been backing their team.

Saturday’s Championship farewell was no different.

Many wore fancy dress for what should have been a maudlin all-black affair.

What’s more, 2,319 turned up in Nottingham for a lunch-time kick off in effectively a dead rubber of a match.

Their commitment and humour certainly won them the admiration of those Forest fans who applauded in recognition.

For Saturday was about the Pompey support, not football.

It seems almost an irrelevance Michael Appleton’s men tumbled to a 2-0 defeat at the City Ground.

There was certainly no massive outcry over the decisions to leave out both Greg Halford and Jason Pearce.

Explained away as a financial decision, potentially sabotaging mooted moves could not be risked.

Pearce is expected to join Leeds today, while Halford’s departure is also in the pipeline.

Hence the playing absence of two mainstays of the side with 88 appearances between them.

Both still journeyed to Nottingham, however, and were on the pitch after the game to pay tribute to the supporters.

Those players who did feature in the match didn’t let the fans or themselves down.

Effort could not be faulted and it took two Dextor Blackstock goals in the final 20 minutes to settle a tight contest.

The likelihood is the vast, vast majority of those on display will be following Pearce and Halford out of Fratton Park.

Wages, the need for transfer fees and Appleton’s desire to start with a clean piece of paper dictates that.

Pompey’s boss is genuinely relishing the opportunity to mould a squad in his own vision, a precious fresh start.

Afterwards he spoke of one or two of the existing senior players remaining to join the promising youngsters at the club.

The likes of Jamie Ashdown, Ricardo Rocha, Marko Futacs and Kelvin Etuhu will all come under consideration to stay.

Yet a dramatic reduction in wages will ultimately have the final say.

Certainly a glance at the bench revealed names of players who will have a big say in the future of the club.

Alex Grant, Jed Wallace, Sam Magri and Adam Webster were all present, while others from Andy Awford’s Academy had also travelled.

In addition, Ashley Harris featured in the starting line-up once again and weighed in with another encouraging showing.

The Pompey fans sung ‘One Ashley Harris’ following his substitution. Expect that chant to be heard plenty more times next season.

No sign then of Tal Ben Haim, Benjani, Dave Kitson and Kanu for this swansong.

Appleton doesn’t want the quartet and for the good of the football club nor should any one else.

A new Pompey has to be built on a prudent management model – and there is no room for such players.

Of course, there is also an uncertain future for Blues fans in the patient wait for a prospective owner.

Balram Chainrai is the safety net and has reiterated his stance that he will not let the club be liquidated and let his money evaporate.

Such a potential return will divide fans, some of whom refuse to forgive and forget his previous tenures at the club.

Certainly the many local businesses still not paid the money Portpin promised them would struggle to get behind such a comeback.

Nonetheless, at least Chainrai would ensure there is League One football next season.

Trevor Birch himself has in the past week cast doubt over the purported two interested parties.

Then there is the Trust, who remain on the scene and are still pushing to raise funds to launch their own bid.

With around a month to go, the race is on to generate such a financial backing.

Yet on Saturday, such concerns, politics and divisions were put aside as the fans staged what has been described as a ‘relegation party’.

There were Smurfs, there were Robin Hoods, there was Mr Bean and David Hasselhoff, Captain America – and a Crayola crayon.

The Mario Bros raised a few laughs as did the character dressed up as Ali Al Faraj.

Yet it was Samantha Piggott from Hilsea dressed as Postman Pat with her wheelchair decorated as his van who really stole the show – and the hearts of fans.

This was a club relegated to League One after the worst season in a generation.

A club whose future remains unclear, whose first-team squad will be sold off or paid off this summer.

A club whose fierce rivals are back in the Premier League, a passage secured that very same day.

Regardless, at the City Ground those Pompey fans sang their hearts out, cheered opposition goals and generated another magnificent atmosphere.

Portsmouth Football Club has had enough shame heaped upon it over recent years.

Its fans, though, remain a credit and its biggest selling point.

As the banner unfurled on the pitch by Marko Futacs and Chris Maguire after the match said: For sale, world’s best fans come free.