Pompey 0 Swansea 0

Hermann Hreidarsson is off target with a header
Hermann Hreidarsson is off target with a header

THIS WEEK IN 1980: Fratton boycotted by Plymouth fans

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After eight months and 17 days it was back where it all started.

No goals for Pompey, four substitutes and a member of the Chainrai family watching from the stands.

It seems some things never change – despite 260 days passing since the campaign opened at Coventry.

Still, at least Saturday didn’t end in 2-0 defeat, unlike that Ricoh Arena fixture.

The Blues shared a goalless draw which largely restored the fans’ faith in a group of players who had eased up considerably over the previous few games.

With nothing to play for but pride, Steve Cotterill’s troops rolled up their sleeves and cranked up the commitment levels.

They could have won it too, had Aaron Mokoena not wasted a free header from Hayden Mullins’ third-minute free-kick.

Instead, he criminally steered his effort wide from four yards out.

It was the best opportunity for either side to break the deadlock over those 90 minutes in a match Pompey deserved to have won.

Swansea hardly represented a side still embroiled in a play-off push with less than two weeks of the season remaining.

As for Cotterill, afterwards he spoke to the assembled media about feeling he had arrived back to square one. It was hard not to agree.

Scratch beneath the surface of an encouraging result and many of the old problems remain.

So much for squad strengthening, so much for takeovers, it is largely as you were at Fratton Park these days.

Glancing at the substitutes’ bench revealed Ibrahima Sonko, Kanu, Danny Webber and Darryl Flahavan, numbering a mighty four.

That’s exactly the same amount he was naming at the season’s beginning, in matches against Coventry, Reading, Preston and Cardiff.

As ever, the size of his squad continues to be an underlying theme and a limiting factor in Pompey’s progress this term.

What’s more, there is a chance there may not be a single outfield player present among the substitutes for today’s Burnley trip.

Scaremongering? Not really.

On Saturday, Liam Lawrence (calf) and Nadir Ciftci (ankle) were both absent, while Ricardo Rocha is suspended for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, David Cotterill was not allowed to face his parent club, although will be back for the Turf Moor trip.

Matters worsened during the clash with the Swans as Dave Kitson came off in the first half with what appeared to be a rib problem.

In the second half, the outstanding Ritchie de Laet limped off, while Mokoena crumbled to the ground twice with a knee problem but managed to carry on.

It remains to be seen whether any of the walking wounded and the treatment room’s new arrivals will be available today.

Cotterill didn’t remain hopeful, though, in the match’s aftermath.

Intriguingly, watching it all was Deepak Chainrai, part-owner and brother of Balram, on a rare Fratton Park visit.

Let’s not forget, the family were also present at the opening match of the season at the Ricoh Arena.

According to Keith Harris of Seymour Pierce and a source in the South China Morning Post, the Chainrais should have sold the club by now.

The fact Deepak was present in the directors’ box against Swansea suggests Convers Sports Initiatives are not over the finishing line just yet.

Indeed, he was excitingly filming and photographing the action on his mobile phone as the players came out for the kick off.

Although that was more to do with the fact at least one of the Chainrai family were serving as one of the mascots on the day.

As a Pompey board member, it no doubt also represented the ideal opportunity to check on the season ticket situation.

After the club’s encouraging announcement about the reintroduction of credit card facilities and the bring-a-friend initiative, he can expect more money flooding into the Fratton Park coffers over the next week.

In the meantime, we all eagerly await takeover news and the hope of a new dawn. It is certainly taking long enough.

Actually, for the first time since the turn of the year, the Fratton directors’ box was absolutely heaving.

Although it is unclear whether that is because the fabled Russians were present or down to it being a sunny day which made a trip to the south coast a pleasure.

Anyhow, the wait continues for the fans, having been given that tantalising glimpse through Harris’ bold statement three weeks ago.

Not forgetting Cotterill, of course, who longs for the matter to be finalised so he can start bringing in players he has already lined-up.

Otherwise, come the start of next season, he could yet again be hampered with a four-man bench and a squad obscenely short of numbers.

Regardless, against Swansea his patched-up side did him proud in the face of one of the most attack-minded teams in the Championship.

With Rocha banned, Mokoena came into the centre of defence, while Mullins was back from a ban to replace the injured Lawrence.

There was also a rare start for Carl Dickinson, recalled for winger Cotterill who, under terms of his loan, could not feature against his parent club.

The on-loan defender’s last start was in January and on his comeback he was asked to occupy a wide left midfield slot.

A square peg in a round hole, nonetheless he went about his job with trademark gusto and enthusiasm and didn’t let anyone down.

Neither did his team-mates, in a fixture which represented a Blues dead rubber.

The hosts tackled with plenty of aggression and effort, much to the satisfaction of the crowd.

Played in glorious south-coast sunshine in front of a large away following, there was a cracking atmosphere in the penultimate Fratton match of the season.

The next time they will be back will be next Monday, an occasion which also marks the inaugural Fans’ Day.

Then it is season over as far as the famous old ground is concerned.

Let’s just hope it won’t be back to square one when the 2011-12 season kicks off on August 6.

We’ve been there before and we are all thoroughly fed up with it.