Pompey 1 Blackpool 0

Erik Huseklepp volleys home. Picture: Barry Zee
Erik Huseklepp volleys home. Picture: Barry Zee
Former Pompey player Eoin Hand, right

Pompey favourite at Fratton Park to sign autobiography

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September 24 - a date which is rapidly earning a Pedro Mendes feel to it.

Last term it was the 6-1 thumping of Leicester which provided high drama on a Friday night.

That was a result which lifted Pompey off the bottom of the Championship after failing to win any of their first seven league matches.

Talk about season defining, the scoreline paved the way for six wins and a draw during the subsequent seven matches.

Steve Cotterill’s men never returned to the relegation zone during the rest of the season.

Then there was Saturday.

Just when the Blues were desperate for a positive result to quell growing fan unrest, the date duly obliged once more.

On this occasion, Erik Huseklepp’s flying right-volley settled the contest against Blackpool in the fourth minute of time added on.

A truly perfect moment for the Norway international to open his goal-scoring account for Pompey.

How that inspiration was needed in a fixture heading for a goalless draw.

The celebrations which followed consisted of jubilant players mobbing their manager and the rest of his coaching staff.

Promotion achieved, relegation survival secured, an FA Cup won? No. Although, it appeared that way.

Here we are, not even out of September yet.

Still, the importance of such a result was certainly not underestimated by the players.

According to skipper Liam Lawrence, the festivities carried on in the Fratton Park home dressing room long after the final whistle. Don’t dare suggest this current crop are disinterested in the club or aren’t firmly behind their manager.

The compelling evidence, your honour, came at around 4.49pm on Saturday afternoon.

Genuine, raw emotion and the release of pent-up frustration from players who themselves have been just as disappointed as the fans over a fitful start to the campaign.

As Lawrence also later reminded, you can’t act that.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the Blues now embark on a season-changing run.

Without question, they have some encouraging fixtures on the horizon in the form of Leeds, Barnsley, Ipswich and Doncaster.

First up are Peterborough tomorrow, though.

And it’s a match the supporters will rightfully be expecting to win on home turf.

Nonetheless, the significance of Saturday’s triumph was there for all to see.

Such are the demands among some fans these days, nothing short of a win against Ian Holloway’s men would have been good enough.

Scouring Twitter and various message boards in the glorious aftermath, it appears even that mission accomplished ultimately wasn’t sufficient to satisfy some.

Still, when Greg Halford let fly with his trademark long throw and Ian Evatt could only let the ball skim off the top of his head it created one of those great Pompey moments.

Huseklepp swivelled and delivered a technically brilliant volley to send the ball into the top corner of the net and Fratton delirious.

Mendes himself would have been proud of that.

But that’s September 24 for you, a date which can potentially dictate a season.

Cotterill had certainly come dressed for the grand occasion, ditching his tracksuit in favour of a suit and tie.

This time last year, the switch was vice versa from the superstitious Blues boss.

Yet the outcome was the same.

Of course, the Blackpool encounter didn’t quite have the same entertainment value as that Leicester hammering.

There were more goals in that contest than shots on target from both teams put together on Saturday afternoon.

This time around it was a tight affair, a match during which even early-season goal-scoring pace-setter Kevin Phillips would endure a quiet time.

It would be early in the second half before Pompey had their first telling attempt on goal.

That was when Huseklepp’s sublime ball from the left was hammered goalwards by Lawrence, only to be deflected for a corner.

And it would be deep into time added on before Matthew Gilks was forced in his first save.

That was when Joel Ward drove in a low curling shot from distance which the Tangerines’ keeper had to brilliantly tip around the post.

Regardless, it was a far superior performance from that produced against Hull a week earlier.

There was more energy, more drive and more determination about the hosts’ display against a team which was sitting in seventh heading into the occasion.

In Ward and Lawrence they had two players who conjured up their best showings of the campaign so far.

The pair, so influential last term, have largely disappointed during the early stages of this season.

But on Saturday there was more than a suggestion their form is beginning to return at last.

As for David Norris, clearly given licence to attack, he pushed forward at every opportunity to add more of a threat in the final third.

And knitting it all together was Hayden Mullins, displaying the form which rightly saw him crowned The News & Sports Mail player of the season last term.

The midfielder was tireless and involved in everything, particularly during a dominant period for the Blues at the start of the second half.

Having said that, the scoreline would have been entirely different had Matt Phillips not spurned two golden opportunities during a four-minute spell.

On 16 minutes, a malfunction in Pompey’s off-side trap allowed the former Wycombe winger to surge through on goal unchecked.

Fortunately Jamie Ashdown stood firm as the last line of defence to save with his legs.

Moments later, another faulty off-side trap saw the same player wriggle free, this time down the left channel.

On that occasion he drove past the far post as he entered the penalty area.

They were crucial moments Holloway would refer to during his post-match interview.

At the other end, Ward sent two headers over the bar, Jason Pearce headed wide from a corner, while Mullins curled a shot into Gilks’ arms.

Then there was an elaborate free-kick during which Norris and Pearce theatrically pretended the move had broken down before the latter fired in a shot as the opposition stood looking bewildered.

Sadly the training ground routine didn’t come off but certainly caught the attention of those present.

And so the game headed into four minutes of time added on with the scoreline still goalless.

Then up popped Huseklepp with his wonder goal.

It remains to be seen if that is as fondly remembered in the history of Portsmouth Football Club as that delivered by Mendes back in March 2006.