Pompey 1 Middlesbrough 3

Greg Halford scores from the spot. Picture: Barry Zee
Greg Halford scores from the spot. Picture: Barry Zee
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett has been looking for the right blend of youth and experience. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss bidding for right blend

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They stayed behind, in excess of 500 of them.

For one hour and 15 minutes after the final whistle, those Pompey fans refused to budge, their voices would not surrender.

Only once Michael Appleton approached, waving a hand of acknowledgement, were they satisfied.

It was the moment those fans had been waiting for, even the stewards had given up and gone home.

The reality is, however, some of those loyal followers won’t be present at the Blues’ next Fratton Park game.

That is if the mooted return of Balram Chainrai comes to fruition.

The strength of feeling against the man attempting to become owner for a fourth time cannot be underestimated.

Make no mistake, that is the way the club is heading following a weekend of the Hong Kong businessman attempting to win hearts and minds via the media.

Still some way to go, granted, but a meeting took place with administrator Trevor Birch yesterday afternoon.

Should he be successful it would stave off the threat of liquidation.

Crucially for Chainrai, it would preserve his debenture and the purported £17m against the club.

On the flip side, inevitably such a move would deter the match-day presence of some supporters sick of his long-term involvement in the continued woes of Pompey.

There are fans who have had enough, the endless renditions of the now all-too familiar ‘get out of our club’ chant provided irrefutable proof yet again on Saturday against Middlesbrough.

There are fans who will refuse to attend Fratton Park should Chainrai be allowed to take the helm once again.

Season ticket holders, long-time followers whose support comfortably pre-dates the Premier League years, prepared to make a stand.

Away fixtures will remain part of their Saturday routine. Not, however, games at Fratton Park.

These are not merely pockets of dissenters, or “not on this planet” as Chainrai once branded those who dared complain.

Check message boards, peruse social networking sites, chat to people in the street, the list of those ready to make a stance is a lengthening one.

They are not going to be distracted by a timely Portpin PR campaign currently being waged in the national media.

It’s fair to say few want Plan B to occur.

But, unquestionably, for some it offers a more attractive proposition than the alternative.

In the meantime, Pompey’s future remains uncertain, in desperate need of a new benefactor to keep it alive.

As the ‘reluctant owner’, Chainrai could fulfil that requirement. In the meantime, Erik Huseklepp and Liam Lawrence have departed on loan for the remainder of the season.

Others will follow as the administrators look to chip away at a £12.5m wage which is the legacy of David Lampitt’s tenure.

Fitting, perhaps, Stephen Henderson was the star of the show in the 3-1 defeat to Middlesbrough.

It was an outstanding display from the 23-year-old during a week which marked his maiden Republic of Ireland call up.

Alongside Joel Ward and Jason Pearce, the trio were the last to leave the field after applauding the home supporters.

They represent the club’s most precious commodities.

With March 22 representing the end of the emergency loan window, it appears to be an impossible mission to retain the threesome.

As in Huseklepp, as in Lawrence, the decision has to be made for the good of the club rather than the player’s preference.

Fans may not like that, yet they remain realists and understand tough decisions are crucial if the club is going to survive.

Many may crave the departure of Tal Ben Haim and his reported £36,000-a-week wage – he certainly couldn’t wait to leave the pitch at the final whistle without acknowledging the crowd.

That was a disgrace in itself while his team-mates remained to applaud magnificent Fratton Park support once again.

Yet having been effectively up for sale for two years there remain no takers, prompting sacrifices from other parts of the playing squad.

This is about money, not quality. Ben Haim’s ability, which cannot be questioned, is irrelevant as cash needs to be saved first and foremost.

As it was, Saturday’s match made it six matches without a victory for the newly-installed relegation strugglers.

Not that anyone would have realised having encountered those fans at the final whistle who insisted on remaining inside the ground.

Those supporters, however, respect effort, endeavour and passion among their team.

There is plenty of that on the pitch, while Appleton and the dignity he carries himself rightly continues to be lauded off it.

In a first half of few goal-scoring opportunities, Henderson made a stunning stop from Nicky Bailey to ensure it was goalless going in at the break.

The match developed into an absorbing fixture in the second half, however, with all four goals arriving.

Boro were controversially awarded a penalty in the 56th minute when Ricardo Rocha was adjudged to have tugged back Seb Hines.

Up stepped Barry Robson to net from the spot, albeit the ball just creeping under the body of Henderson.

Barely seven minutes later, Matthew Bates finished from close range following Lukas Jutkiewicz’s flick on.

However, Greg Halford prompted thoughts of a comeback when he finished from the spot after Jutkiewicz had handled Rocha’s shot.

But seven minutes from time substitute Marvin Emnes settled matters, slamming home after Henderson had pulled off a smart save from Adam Hammill.

Rhys Williams saw red in stoppage-time after receiving a second yellow card following a foul on Jason Pierce.

Not that it mattered, the result had already been decided.

In truth, not that the scoreline really mattered with bigger concerns in the minds of Pompey fans.

The clock is ticking down, the money is running out.

Perhaps Chainrai is the answer as he once again attempts to seize control.

What is certain, though, is it would not be a universally appreciated move among supporters.

There are fans who remain thoroughly unimpressed by his previous actions at Pompey’s helm.

It promises to be another fascinating, yet highly controversial, week ahead at Fratton Park.