Pompey 3 Forest 0

Erik Huseklepp brilliantly bends the ball beyond the reach of helpless Forest keeper Lee Camp to give Pompey a first-half lead
Erik Huseklepp brilliantly bends the ball beyond the reach of helpless Forest keeper Lee Camp to give Pompey a first-half lead
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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Pompey’s past and present locked horns at Fratton Park.

Some 79 miles away at the Emirates Stadium was the Blues’ future.

Michael Appleton, the successful candidate identified to become the next manager, was fulfilling his West Bromwich Albion duties.

That 3-0 Premier League defeat at the hands of Arsenal could yet prove to be his swansong.

The Baggies are fighting to hold on to their first-team coach.

It was a scenario conceded by Roy Hodgson in his post-match press conference.

Yet the lure of a first managerial job is strong for the highly-ambitious 35-year-old.

After 24 days of waiting for Steve Cotterill’s replacement to arrive, Pompey fans will certainly be hoping for a successful conclusion.

It has become a painstaking process, yet thankfully the end does appear nigh.

Still, in the meantime, the Fratton hot-seat has been kept warm in impressive fashion.

Not since Tony Barton in 1991 has a caretaker management been in charge for so many Pompey matches.

Nonetheless, Guy Whittingham and Stuart Gray have responded magnificently.

Another win, this time against Cotterill’s Forest on Saturday, took their points tally to 10 from six matches.

That record consists of three successive home victories, in addition to the midweek point at high-flying Crystal Palace.

Just as crucial, it’s a superb haul which has bought Pompey the time to identify the right man for the job.

That man is Appleton, who will inherit a backroom team who have truly proven their worth since Cotterill walked out.

Once a deal can be thrashed out with West Brom by chief executive David Lampitt, of course.

How sweet then for the caretaker bosses that their final match at the helm should yield victory over their former Pompey colleague.

It was Cotterill’s departure on October 14 which saw power thrust upon Whittingham and Gray.

Few could have anticipated they would still be in charge when he returned with his new club 22 days later.

Even fewer would have banked on them masterminding a 3-0 triumph in that same fixture.

But on Saturday Pompey and their fans had the last laugh.

And how they did laugh, especially those in the Fratton end with some highly-creative songs aimed towards their former boss.

Erik Huseklepp, the last player the ex-Pompey manager signed on a permanent basis, was the chief architect.

Dave Kitson, an early Cotterill signing and a player who didn’t always see eye-to-eye with his former boss, was just as inspirational.

Between them they grabbed all three goals in the 3-0 victory.

Not forgetting, of course, the contribution of one particular wonder save from £100,000 snip and another Cotterill recruit Stephen Henderson.

It sealed a miserable south coast return for the visitors’ manager, much to the delight of many.

Not that Cotterill was given a red-hot reception befitting somebody who walked out on the club.

Indeed, there was a smattering of applause from some home fans when he took his seat in the dug out.

As for the staff he left behind, they notably lined up to shake his hand and embrace before kick off.

Perhaps a reflection of the respect held towards his achievements in steadying the ship and providing a platform.

Regardless, the stick was hurtling his way during the second half, albeit entirely good natured.

Still, there was no suggestion of the heartache lying in wait for the former Pompey boss during the first half.

And what an utterly forgettable first half it would be, too.

Matters started brightly enough, although in Forest’s favour.

In the 14th minute Chris Gunter crossed from the right to pick out the dangerous Lewis McGugan.

But as the midfielder dallied over shooting, Henderson came in with a superb sliding block to thwart the danger.

It would take until the 28th minute before the hosts had their first attempt on goal.

That was when Kitson saw his shot deflected for a corner rather than trouble visiting keeper Lee Camp.

Forest continued to dominate yet somehow found themselves trailing at the break.

The decisive moment came in the 45th minute after Hayden Mullins’ shot struck the post.

Huseklepp eventually picked up the lose ball and cut inside before unleashing a wonderful right-foot shot into the far top corner of the net.

That would signal a far brighter display from Pompey after the break.

David Norris saw a shot saved following good work down the right from Luke Varney.

Kitson then lifted the ball over Camp and the bar after he and Norris had forced their way through the heart of the Forest defence.

Although, it took Mullins’ intervention at the other end to block Luke Chambers’ header on the line in the 51st minute.

Meanwhile, Henderson produced a stunning point-blank stop to deny Robbie Findley from close range.

Pompey doubled their advantage in the 76th minute when Kitson netted with a header from Huseklepp’s left-wing cross.

And the scoreline was completed in the 84th minute when Huseklepp steered home Norris’ cross from close range.

By that stage Cotterill had already been treated to a renditions of ‘You’re going to be sacked in the morning’ and ‘4-4-2, 4-4-2, 4-4-2’.

The subject of taxis were also raised on several occasions during some good-natured ribbing.

Then sounded the final whistle, bringing an end to the misery for the former Pompey boss.

It also signalled the curtain to be brought down on the temporary spells of Whittingham and Gray in charge.

By the time the Blues travel to Watford on November 19 they will have a new man at the helm.

The likelihood is that will be Appleton.

Then again, the manager hunt has not been a straight-forward one.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned the position down, while Sean O’Driscoll and Steve Coppell didn’t get beyond first intervals.

Without question Appleton is the chosen one.

It just remains to be seen whether he will indeed become the future of Portsmouth Football Club.

For everyone’s sake, it is about time someone does.