Pompey 1 York 1

Jed Wallace gives a boot to a young Pompey fan after the final whistle. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace gives a boot to a young Pompey fan after the final whistle. Picture: Joe Pepler
Dion Donohue. Picture: Colin Farmery

New boy’s bitter-sweet Pompey experience

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As Jed Wallace made his way from Fratton Park, he found his path blocked by a locked gate.

Displaying that trademark self-confidence, he turned round and grinned: ‘They definitely don’t want me to leave this club!’.

The time was 6.23pm and, following the arrival of a steward in possession of a key-card, he was released.

Wallace’s final act as a Pompey player was to sign every autograph and satisfy all picture requests from the youngsters who had patiently gathered beneath the Fratton end.

Nobody was left disappointed.

With that he was off, a destination still to be confirmed – yet most likely Fulham.

Or is it Wolves, maybe it’s Sheffield Wednesday, potentially Charlton, or another club yet to have their name publicly added to the list.

What is certain is that on Saturday against York, Pompey fans saw the last of Wallace representing their football club.

The youngster’s desire to leave League Two and a compensation clause in his contract will conspire to dictate his exit towards a Championship club this summer.

Details require thrashing out, yet after 30 goals, 121 matches and successive seasons as top scorer, Wallace’s time at Fratton Park is effectively at an end.

That is unless the next manager has remarkably persuasive patter and can deliver a cast-iron guarantee of League One football next term.

Then again, Wallace was convinced to commit his future last season on a three-year deal and Pompey have subsequently recorded their lowest-ever placing in the Football League.

A classy gesture then from Gary Waddock to substitute the 21-year-old with two minutes remaining, offering the opportunity for an emotional Fratton farewell.

A clearly-emotional Wallace left the field to chants of ‘Super Jed’ and a standing ovation. It was a chance to personally say goodbye to the supporters, while they could deliver their own gratitude.

The poignant moment left a lump in the throat of many present who recognised the implications of such a substitution.

Earlier, he had been named The News/Sports Mail player of the 
season, as voted for by the fans, finishing comfortably ahead of Paul Robinson.

It was one of five trophies handed over to the ex-Lewes player on the pitch before the match, another reflection of the impact he has provided.

Almost a week earlier, Wallace had been named alongside Matt Tubbs in the PFA’s League Two team of the year, although curiously didn’t make the top two in the Blues’ own players’ player of the season vote.

Still, with 17 goals to his name and numerous assists, Wallace has enjoyed the best season of his career and is destined for football at a higher level.

The club he is about to leave behind have at least another season in League Two following another wasted campaign.

Against York there was to be no farewell goal, however, although he did come close with a right-foot half-volley which cannoned off the inside of the post.

Moments earlier, Wallace leapt in the air and howled in disbelief after Bobby Olejnik brilliantly tipped an angled left-foot drive past the post.

It would have been marvellously fitting to net on a final appearance, particularly in front of the Fratton end, but football doesn’t always work like that.

It wasn’t even a particularly impressive performance from the player of the season, even if he did liven up considerably against the Minstermen after the break.

Conor Chaplin was encouraging on his maiden Pompey start, Ben Close once again shone in midfield, while Tubbs sealed the golden boot with his 21st league goal of the campaign.

Yet, as ever, Saturday remained the Jed Wallace show, albeit the final episode for the Blues.

However, that should not be allowed to detract from a number of his team-mates who have finished the season strongly to suggest there are players at the club who have Pompey futures.

Adam Webster has been a revelation since Waddock restored him to the centre of defence against Stevenage and now clearly must be kept at Fratton at all costs.

His composure on the ball in a system which has encouraged playing from the back has shone through, while his defending has improved immensely.

The home-grown youngster also struck the bar early in the second half with a far-post header from Wallace’s left-wing corner.

Another player out of contract is Close, who weighed in with another assured performance during his third successive start.

It was his precisely-weighted ball down the middle which fed Tubbs, whose pinpoint finish from outside the box presented the hosts with an 83rd minute lead.

Close’s use of the ball throughout was intelligent as it was excellent, displaying a willingness to probe rather than strive for safety.

Johnny Ertl is another who caught the eye at the centre of defence and remains an integral squad player and important dressing room presence who was often the easy option for Awford to jettison from the squad.

Let’s not forget, this is a group of players which started out on a play-off hunt and finished with a 16th position, a new low in Pompey’s history.

They were also privy to FA Cup elimination to Aldershot, who incidentally ended up 18th in the Vanarama Conference.

A clear-out is required, especially if the Blues are to emerge as promotion contenders next term, whether automatically or through the play-offs.

Tough decisions to be made and the manner of York’s leveller once again demonstrated the frailties, arriving barely two minutes after Waddock’s side had taken the lead.

Substitute Femi Ilesanmi started it off down the left channel of the penalty area and the ball eventually fell to Brad Halliday on the other side.

He beat Dan Butler far too comfortably, leaving the left-back on the turf before driving a shot into the far corner of the net.

It was a rare attempt on goal from the visitors, who also notably struck Pompey’s crossbar through Keith Lowe’s overhead kick on three minutes.

So the campaign ended the way it had started at Exeter– with a 1-1 draw.

Yet while the likes of Wallace, Robinson, Tubbs and James Dunne have consistently delivered during the duration, crucially so many haven’t.

Goodbye Jed Wallace.