Plain and simple pays off for Awford

Jed Wallace and Ricky Holmes offered width in the 4-4-2 formation on Tuesday night. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace and Ricky Holmes offered width in the 4-4-2 formation on Tuesday night. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey's Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler

Evans: Player talk has lifted Pompey form

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For Andy Awford it was simple, a back-to-basics approach designed to drag out the best from his misfiring players.

That old-school classic 4-4-2 was tempted out of early retirement on Tuesday night for another hurrah at Fratton Park.

And with it, Pompey deservedly collected their first win in seven matches – a 3-2 success over Stevenage.

A tried-and-trusted formation, yet these days it is more fashionable to look elsewhere when lining-up teams from the Premier League downwards.

Nonetheless, in Awford’s case, the desire to scrap the spluttering wing-back format was accompanied by a wish to employ an uncomplicated system.

Cue the comeback of the 4-4-2 along with six changes to the team which had lost so disappointedly at Bury previously.

Awford said: ‘Plan A wasn’t working so we had to try plan B.

‘I thought long and hard about the team, about selection, who to play and who not to play, which system to play and thankfully it paid off on Tuesday night.

‘I felt we needed more stability and had to make it very easy for the players to understand what was required of them, so it was a case of “this is 4-4-2 and this is what we are going to do”.

‘I just made it plain, clear and simple to the players that this is what we were about that night.

‘I think the easiest system to coach and make it black and white is 4-4-2.

‘It was 4-4-1-1 at times with Westy (Westcarr) dropping in to try to get on the ball and Miles stretching them when you haven’t got the ball.

‘Apart from that it is a solid, two banks of four, get it wide to Jed, get it wide to Ricky, full-backs support it, get it into the box – and wasn’t too much different to that.

‘It was simple, taking all the fancy stuff out of it, everybody knew their roles and responsibility and what was required and they have done it in abundance. I am delighted for everybody.’

The system saw Ricky Holmes and Jed Wallace restored to opposite flanks and instructed to provide more width than in previous games.

A flat back four resulted in Joe Devera moving across to right-back for the first time this season – and then popping up to net the winner.

Meanwhile, Miles Storey and Craig Westcarr were paired as a mobile front two seeking service from the wings.

The result was three goals and a Pompey victory over Boro to lift them into 11th spot in League Two.

Although Awford admitted both sides had fortunate moments.

He added: ‘The whole team was outstanding but I have to say we had a slice of luck when Chris Whelpdale hit the post with the score at 1-1.

‘Then again, they have had a huge slice of luck when the goalkeeper has handled the ball outside the box.

‘Afterwards I looked at it on the video and it is very difficult to see but I actually thought it was outside the box, that was the first contact with his hands,

‘Both teams rode their luck in those two decisions but we have shown terrific character to come from behind and then from an individual error to win the game.’