Scunthorpe 1 Pompey 1

Ramon Nunez opens the scoring for Scunthorpe
Ramon Nunez opens the scoring for Scunthorpe
Milan Lalkovic. Picture: Shaun Boggust

Pompey v Walsall: Pre-match talking points

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So that’s that for the 2010-11 campaign then.

It was a season that started with such uncertainty over the club’s future and saw manager Steve Cotterill unable to fill the substitutes bench.

And it ended with uncertainty over the club’s future and manager Steve Cotterill unable to fill the substitutes bench.

Yes, you can say that again.

In fairness, it’s a very different Pompey that ends the campaign to the one that started it.

Some giant strides have taken place both on and off the pitch and major changes to the 11 that started this draw and the one that started the defeat at Coventry City on that opening day.

In fact, just four players were in both 15-man squads – Jamie Ashdown, Aaron Mokoena, Hayden Mullins and David Nugent – a statistic that emphasises the changes to the playing staff.

At the very least, administration has been exited and the threat of liquidation that hung over the club’s head is thankfully a thing of the past.

But there are some striking parallels as Cotterill goes into the summer with serious questions needing to be answered over exactly how he rebuilds his squad yet again with the ownership issue still to be resolved.

As a season – and avoiding dragging up all the circumstances Cotterill and his players have had to deal with over the past 10 months – it was a bit like the advert on TV that suggests it wasn’t too bad, wasn’t too good but somewhere in the middle.

And after such a dreadful start, most Blues fans would have gladly taken that.

In fact, plenty of Pompey fans may have looked at the fixture list at various points of this campaign with a healthy dose of uncertainty about this rare trip to Scunthorpe.

Like a DIY job you’ve been putting off for months, it just kept nagging away at you silently every time you walked past that tear in the wallpaper.

Back in September, some were questioning whether it would it be a relegation do-or-die battle at Glanford Park.

But in March, the optimists were dreaming about a dramatic late play-off bid coming down to the wire at the home of the Iron.

As it transpired, it was somewhere between the two with the Blues’ fortunes decided long before they made the lengthy hike north for a dead rubber.

Some wrote the fixture off and effectively called time on the season after the defeat by Norwich City last Monday with nothing of note riding on the outcome of this clash.

But 1,500 noisy travelling fans decided otherwise and made the journey for their final day of the season selling out the away section in the process.

You get the feeling if Pompey were playing an under-11 side in Azerbaijan on a cold Tuesday in February, a sizeable away following would still be there being characteristically rowdy.

As ever, they were in party mood with some of the male physiques on show not exactly flattered by their decision to wear grass hula skirts.

For the crime of forever tainting a fashion item that used to evoke pleasant images of sultry Hawaiian women, some should never be allowed out in public dressed like that again.

On the pitch though, considering the way Pompey played for the first 45 minutes, most of the wannabe Hawaiians were thankful it wasn’t a battle for survival.

Scunthorpe were the side whose League One destination had already been secured for next season.

But if you hadn’t looked at a league table beforehand, you’d have sworn it was the team in black who were attending their own wake.

A bobbly pitch that had been turned into a skating rink by some torrential downpours didn’t help but Pompey were awful.

It said it all when – in first-half stoppage time – Liam Lawrence cut in from the left and fired wide as the travelling supporters cheered loudly with more than a hint of irony at seeing their side finally muster an attempt on goal.

Pompey had fallen behind to a fine individual goal from Ramon Nunez – a player whose quality makes it decidedly unlikely he will line up for Scunthorpe in League One next season.

But Ashdown played a part in the assist with a poor clearance to set the winger running at the Blues defence before curling his shot beyond the keeper’s right hand.

Mokoena was then caught in possession by Mark Duffy, only for Ashdown to make a brave block to keep it at 1-0, while Nunez was a constant thorn to a defence that creaked at regular intervals.

It was obvious Cotterill was less than pleased with his troops when Pompey emerged from the half-time break five minutes early for the second period.

But – as they have so often this season – they improved immeasurably and began to look far more of a threat.

David Nugent soon struck a post with a sweet strike from distance that had the goalkeeper beaten.

But Scunthorpe had their own chances to make the game safe as Ashdown – who had one of his more erratic games of an ever-present campaign – made one remarkable save to deny Bobby Grant’s follow-up after fumbling Duffy’s long-range effort on to his post.

Pompey continued their search for an equaliser and the introduction of Danny Webber – in what was his last outing for the club – played a part in Nugent’s equaliser nine minutes from time.

Lawrence saw his shot saved by the Iron’s scrambling substitute keeper Sam Slocombe prompting Webber to poke the loose ball across goal.

Fellow sub David Cotterill – who impressed after coming on – tried to turn the ball home but it eventually fell to Nugent, whose deflected drive squirmed through Slocombe and just about crossed the line for his 14th of the season.

As a spectacle, it won’t make the goal of the season DVD – a large helping of slapstick saw to that.

But it was perhaps poignant Nugent grabbed it with all of the noises suggesting it could well be his last goal in a Pompey shirt.

Whether it was, remains to be seen.

But it’s fair to say that it will be a very different Pompey side that kicks off the 2011-12 campaign in August.

After 46 games, we’ve seen some great highs, plenty of lows and big changes at Pompey.

Just another regular season at Fratton Park.