Pompey 1 Southend 2

Southend players and fans celebrate their equalising goal in the Shrimpers' 2-1 victory at Pompey on Saturday Picture: Joe Pepler

Southend players and fans celebrate their equalising goal in the Shrimpers' 2-1 victory at Pompey on Saturday Picture: Joe Pepler

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Frank Burrows strode onto the Pompey pitch, doffing his cap to three sides of the ground in gratitude to the warm embracing applause.

Barely 45 minutes later and the current incumbent of the managerial role he used to occupy was given a contrasting reaction.

The booming boos, the chants of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’, the abuse from one sole fan when Awford collected a stray ball – the situation has reached untenable levels.

As for Iain McInnes’ programme notes referring to the encounter with Southend as a ‘must-win’, the message was clinical.

Today Awford is scrapping to remain as Blues boss.

There was no sign of the white flag being unfurled by the 42-year-old during his interviews with the media following that Saturday loss.

The fight remains deep inside a proud man desperate to achieve as boss of a club he unquestionably adores.

Yet results are continuing to disappoint and with it the belief among many he is equipped sufficiently to succeed.

An element of supporters are convinced it is time for a parting of the ways following 10 months in charge.

In addition, the cold, harsh statistics certainly add a weighty case to those calling for Awford’s head.

Only bottom club Hartlepool have fared worse in League Two during the last 10 matches.

Even then, they have picked up the same amount of points as Awford’s men over that period – six.

That does not take into account the 10 matches before that and the seven fixtures before that, for this hasn’t been merely a blip for the Blues.

A return of five wins in 27 matches cannot be sugar coated, particularly for a side with play-off ambitions and boasting one of the largest player wage bills in the division.

If Awford’s job did emerge intact from today’s board member discussions, a trip to Wycombe next up would surely represent delaying the inevitable.

A sad demise for a good man with Pompey at heart who has given absolutely everything to his task.

The truth, however, is the Blues languish in 18th spot, three points above the relegation zone.

Saturday’s 2-1 defeat prompted the strongest reaction yet that many don’t see Awford’s future as manager of the club.

The fans have spoken – loud and eloquently.

The hotly-disputed decision to bring off the lively Andy Barcham on 74th minute lay down an important marker to the Blues boss.

A rendition of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ was the first time at Fratton Park that criticism in song form had been directed at the under-pressure Awford.

His plan involved bringing on Ryan Taylor to give his side three centre forwards as they chased getting back into the match, leaving three midfielders behind.

The reaction from elements of the Fratton faithful was simply damning.

With Taylor on the pitch, there was actually a rally, Daniel Bentley making several late saves as the hosts poured forward.

It was a period which summed up Pompey under Awford, capable of attacking pressure yet only in brief spells before dropping back into the mundane.

Come the final whistle, the boos rang out again, a familiar outcome at Fratton Park these days, irrespective of the manager.

It has now been November 22 since the Blues last won a game, the doubts are realistically Awford won’t be around to try to end that.

Yet against Phil Brown’s side the hosts did take the lead in the 24th minute, Adam Webster in the thick of it.

When Jed Wallace was fouled, Craig Westcarr swung in a free-kick from the right and there was Webster at the far post with a header.

It took a deflection off Adam Thompson to enter the net, regardless Awford’s men had the lead they craved and a glint of that prized victory.

The advantage, however, was to last just five minutes before the Shrimpers levelled.

Nicky Shorey lost his footing and the man he was marking, David Worrall, as a diagonal ball arrived from the visitors’ left.

Worrall steered a looping header into the box and there was Ryan Leonard to steer the ball home for the equaliser.

It broke Pompey’s belief alarmingly as they subsequently struggled to raise an attacking moment, with Southend seizing control of proceedings.

An indication of the fragile confidence of Awford’s players despite an encouraging start to proceedings from their unchanged side.

For only the fifth time this season Pompey’s boss had opted the name the same team, keeping faith in the team which drew at home to Burton the previous weekend.

That meant recent loan recruit Paul McCallum remaining on a bench once again missing Jack Whatmough.

Awford’s men reached the interval at 1-1, offering the chance to reorganise and regain their composure, yet there was not a change.

Brown’s men continued to dominate in all but goal-scoring opportunities and it came as no surprise when substitute Barry Corr controlled a pass down the right-hand chance and Joe Pigott pounced.

His right-foot drive took a deflection off Paul Robinson to wrong-foot Paul Jones as it entered the net for the winner.

There was late drama when Danny Hollands, Robinson and Wallace also saw efforts well-saved by Bentley as the Blues pressed.

Then Corr, who earlier received a yellow card, was dismissed for a second bookable offence following a foul on Hollands.

Not that the numerical advantage remained for long, McCallum given a straight red in stoppage time during a melee in which he appeared to put his hand into the face of a Southend player.

It rules the striker out for the next three matches and for what is now threatening to become a relegation battle.

Whether he plays under Awford again remains to be seen, certainly it will become clearer as today develops.

Following 39 matches in charge, the third manager during community ownership is on the brink of leaving the club.

Gary Waddock would be the obvious stand-in as a caretaker should that moment arrive at the hands of McInnes and his six fellow directors.

Regardless, it’s another wasted season for Pompey.

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