Pompey 1 Bournemouth 1

Jack Compton was a threat down the Pompey left. Picture: Allan Hutchings (122768-047)
Jack Compton was a threat down the Pompey left. Picture: Allan Hutchings (122768-047)
Fan-funder Steve McLenaghan cuts the ribbon to officially open the Tifosy pitches at Pompeys Copnor Road training base. Also included are, from left, James Pollock, Tifosy, Blues chief executive Mark Catlin, manager Kenny Jackett, academy boss Mark Kelly and Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Ken Ellcome. Fans were also present at the opening ceremony

Football’s reaping success from Pompey pioneers

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In the life of Portsmouth Football Club, Saturday, August 18 should never have happened.

Pompey were meant to have ceased to exist by then, overburdened by mountainous debt and immovable baggage.

An act of mercy, putting the wounded beast out of its misery, sparing the pain and agony it continues to endure.

Had liquidation occurred this summer, the likelihood is there would not even have been a Pompey to follow in non-league football for a year.

Competition application deadlines would have ensured that.

As it was, the fans wouldn’t let their club die.

They rallied, they bought season tickets, they bought match-day tickets and they joined the Trust.

And as the only interested ownership party at present, the Trust is keeping Pompey very much alive.

The visit of Bournemouth was not merely the start of the League One season and a delicious prospect of a south-coast derby.

It represented an occasion which so often since the end of last season many feared would never occur.

Trevor Birch, Michael Appleton, backroom staff, office staff and, of course, the supporters to a man, woman and child have all dared to contemplate the worst.

It’s an entirely natural reaction considering the severity of the situation in which the club continues to remain entangled.

Nothing defeatist or wallowing in self-pity in that, just cold, harsh facts.

Delusion has long since packed her bags to find another club to infect.

Liquidation deadlines, bidders suddenly pulling out, highly-paid players delaying their exits and former directors lodging financial claims, it has been a summer on the brink.

But there Pompey were on Saturday, fielding 12 debutants, a crowd of 17,703 and that wondrous Fratton roar back in full voice once more.

Admit it, it felt good. What’s more, there must have been plenty of people present who for a brief second surveyed the surroundings with a lump in their throat.

Irrespective of a subsequent honourable draw with the Cherries, Saturday was special.

And it was all down to them, the supporters, and the desire not to let others kill their football club.

The fight has never waned even during the close season.

After all, Pompey fans wanted to make sure there was a season to come back to.

Birch, of course, deserves plenty of credit for keeping the club running in administration since February.

That is certainly no mean feat considering the financial problems and the characters he has had to negotiate with during that period.

Let’s not forget, there still remains plenty of work ahead to preserve the club’s future.

There is no time to stand back and applaud.

Then there is Appleton, the ever-dignified manager whose latest battle saw him go head-to-head with Balram Chainrai himself.

There is no love lost between the pair and thankfully in this skirmish it was Appleton who emerged victorious to a hero’s welcome.

Don’t underestimate the damage his very public criticism of the owners-elect – in the light of his budget cut – did to their pride.

Both the administrator and manager were instrumental in fanning the flames of hope this week which have swiftly engulfed the city.

The arrival of 14 players since Thursday has been the squad overhaul everybody has long since craved – and all but Liam Walker and unused substitute Simon Eastwood took to the field against Bournemouth.

Of course, it would have been a fairy tale if this rag tag bunch had pulled off a victory in their first outing together and in front of their own disciples.

As it was, the new-look Blues had to settle for a point against a Cherries side which gave them a stern examination during the second half.

However, for their first-half display alone, Appleton’s men warranted a point against a club which has been splashing the cash this summer to manoeuvre themselves among perceived promotion contenders.

It was the hosts who took the lead too, albeit with generous assistance from Shwan Jalal.

There seemed no danger when Izale McLeod took aim and let fly with a low shot from around 25 yards which arrowed straight at the Cherries keeper.

Yet, inexplicably, he allowed the shot to travel straight through him and enter the net.

For a split second there was silence, disbelief among all those present – then Fratton Park erupted.

Just 12 minutes earlier, Wes Thomas had struck the foot of the left-hand post after Marc Pugh had threaded through a pass for him.

That aside, the opening 45 minutes were dominated by the hosts who staged wave after wave of attacks.

Mustapha Dumbuya’s cross from the right was a matter of inches away from the outstretched foot of Luke Rodgers, then there was Jalal’s smart save from Jon Harley’s vicious left-foot shot.

McLeod blazed over after Jalal had failed to keep hold of Rodgers’ dangerous cross, while Paul Connolly headed wide Jack Compton’s excellent delivery from the left.

It was, though, very different after the break, although McLeod could well have put the game out of Bournemouth’s reach.

In the 49th minute, Rodgers conjured up a sublime 30-yard pass into the path of McLeod.

But the goalscorer’s attempted lob was not cleanly struck and the on-rushing Jalal parried it to safety.

It was a golden opportunity and from then on Pompey were clinging on to their narrow lead.

Mikkel Andersen had to brilliantly deny substitute Lewis Grabban with a flying save in the 71st minute.

However, six minutes later Simon Francis crossed from the right and Lee Barnard was there unmarked to send a free header past the Pompey keeper.

Agony for the hosts, if not entirely unexpected – although there was still time for a late twist in proceedings.

Well there would have been had substitute Ashley Harris’ long-range shot not struck the inside of the far post and bounced to safety.

As it was, Bournemouth finished the stronger and Appleton’s men fought to keep hold of their opening-day point.

At the final whistle the Fratton faithful cheered, they applauded, they saluted their team and they left the stadium.

Saturday football continues at Fratton Park. For the time being.

And for that the fans should be cheering, applauding and saluting themselves. For it is entirely down to them.