Pompey 2 Scunthorpe 1

Gabor Gyepes scores Pompey's opening goal. Picture: Steve Reid (122177-690)
Gabor Gyepes scores Pompey's opening goal. Picture: Steve Reid (122177-690)
Pompey hero Paul Walsh

Pompey favourites reunite for Baffins’ stand launch

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There was something notably different about Michael Appleton’s side on Saturday.

Certainly, those awaiting autographs in the Fratton end car park post match would have noticed a marked change.

Unquestionably, the players looked resplendent – newly-decked in their TM Lewin suits.

Gone were the tracksuits and white polo shirts in favour of a fresh dress code.

With it the suits, in the eyes of Appleton, portrayed a polished squad with the appearance of being equipped for a day at work.

In terms of football, merely superficial of course.

Yet while they looked the part off the pitch at Fratton Park – for once they also acted it on it.

And it has been a long time coming.

Alarmingly, before Scunthorpe’s visit, Pompey had failed to collect a league win on home soil in their first four matches of the campaign.

An unthinkable statistic amid a backdrop of the club’s continued uncertainty and squad size problems.

For most of the time against the Iron it appeared those disappointing figures would be extended in the form of a draw.

For six minutes, many fans would even have feared a fourth home defeat of the campaign.

Granted, it was not a classic Pompey performance, especially during an unforgettable second half.

It was played in a flat atmosphere, occasionally punctuated by sporadic yet highly-audible anti-Portpin chants from the Fratton end.

But what Appleton’s men did display were guts and a battling spirit often absent from their play this season.

Too often in recent weeks the seemingly talented side which Appleton has assembled has fallen flat on its face.

A wretched and insipid defeat at Notts County last weekend was the worst yet.

Pompey fans will forgive a lack of technique or perceivable absence of skill from players provided desire and effort is shown.

At Meadow Lane – and in many of those Fratton Park league defeats – the passion was certainly called into question.

Not so on Saturday, however, in an often full-blooded performance from Appleton’s men.

It might not have been pretty, the flowing brand of football the manager has regularly preached did not appear after the break.

But it was undoubtedly effective, with a 2-1 success the result.

Admittedly, it took Wes Thomas to settle matters in the 89th minute – nodding home from close range.

A debut goal from the striker who is only expected to be on loan at Fratton Park for a month.

Certainly, if he continues that form and Bournemouth maintain their alarming run of results, that will not be extended.

But the effort and attitude of Appleton’s troops to a man could not be called into question.

A side sapped of confidence, nonetheless there was a steely mettle about their display against the Iron.

Coming from behind, they even shrugged off the body blow of Brian Howard’s penalty miss.

Then Thomas popped up to finish off the Pompey skipper’s delivery from the right.

Even the much-maligned Izale McLeod rose to the occasion in a performance which had Appleton drooling.

The post and bar denied the ex-Barnet man what would have been a well-deserved goal in his best Pompey display yet.

The sublime also lurched to the ridiculous for McLeod, though, with an air kick on 12 minutes in the build up to the hosts’ equaliser.

Still, two genuine moments of class saw him strike the woodwork in each half and form an instant rapport with Thomas.

Now perhaps he can start winning over the Blues fans who continue to doubt.

That, of course, is down to McLeod, who has too often flattered to deceive in his fledgling Pompey career.

Of course, behind the scenes the club continues in administration, reaching day number 228.

Darel Russell’s hamstring injury during the second period saw him join Josh Thompson and Luke Rodgers on the sidelines.

It’s more injury despair for Appleton in his 19-man squad, while Gabor Gyepes is a doubt for tomorrow’s trip to Yeovil.

Then there is the expected return of Portpin, with Fratton Park more vocal than ever on Saturday against such a scenario.

A noisy minority chanted against him, particularly after the final whistle when the backing of the team was no longer a priority.

But the fact not all the ground joined in should not be foolishly mistaken for others not sharing such beliefs.

Still, there was a football match to provide a welcome distraction – and how welcome the result was.

It started so badly, too, when Jimmy Ryan forced his way down the left in the sixth minute.

The left-sided midfielder pulled the ball back to Leon Clarke, who duly stroked it home.

Appleton persistently berates his side for their habit of conceding the first goal in matches this season.

At least on this occasion they managed to recover from such an early setback.

Within six minutes, Howard swung in a corner which was met by the head of Lubomir Michalik, prompting a save from Iron keeper Sam Slocombe.

Following up, McLeod completely missed his kick but Gyepes was there to slam the ball high into the roof of the net.

On 30 minutes, Pompey won a penalty when Thomas was tripped by Niall Canavan after cleverly rolling the defender.

But James Severn, on for the then-injured Slocombe, flung himself to his left to beat out Howard’s spot-kick.

The second half was less open as the first and, as a result, the entertainment level dipped.

The match appeared destined to drift to a draw – unsatisfactorily for Pompey.

Then Thomas swooped from close range and the stadium erupted. There was still time for McLeod to produce a fantastic run and shot which struck the inside of the far post.

A case of job done then for Appleton’s men at their more regular place of work.

Time to don the suits and shirts and leave Fratton Park.

Except, on Saturday it wasn’t just the atire which had changed.

This time there was a spring in their step and a weight off their shoulders.

Let’s just hope fortunes can now continue to be very, very different.