DCSIMG

Pompey 1 Carlisle 1

Liam Walker sends Mark Gillespie the wrong way to equalise for Pompey. Picture: Barry Zee

Liam Walker sends Mark Gillespie the wrong way to equalise for Pompey. Picture: Barry Zee

 

They turned as one to applaud the Fratton faithful at the final whistle.

Pompey’s players, staff, even Carlisle boss Greg Abbott, gave a nod of respect towards those long-suffering supporters.

In truth, in terms of atmosphere, there was nothing particularly special about Fratton Park during that 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Neither is the game which unfolded likely to remain entrenched in the memory banks, such was its often uninspiring nature.

Nonetheless, during the worst winless run in the club’s history, the Blues followers keep on coming, keep on singing and keep on supporting their team.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of PKF’s appointment by the court as administrators of the club – defying the wishes of Portpin.

A year on Portpin remain key players, while Pompey remain in administration.

During that time the Blues have dropped 30 places in the Football League, losing 32 of their 53 games in all competitions.

They have conceded 91 goals – scoring 54 in the process – and won just 10 matches.

Over that period, a staggering 74 players have been used, with just three of the current squad appearing in the Championship last season.

On Saturday, despite securing a second consecutive draw, Pompey slumped to the foot of League One for the very first time in a season of remarkable lows.

Hartlepool’s last-gasp win over Leyton Orient condemned them to that fate, although relegation to League Two has long been an inevitable finale to the campaign.

Yet still those fans still come out in their numbers to give immense backing to their football club.

There were 11,466 present at the weekend, of which 516 were travelling Carlisle fans, who themselves did their side proud with their efforts during the 90 minutes.

Only once during a year in administration has a Fratton league crowd dipped below the five-figure mark – that statistic arriving against Orient when 9,955 were in attendance for a midweek fixture.

The Blues lost that November encounter, too – a feeling the fans are all too familiar with as they continue the plummet down the leagues.

Regardless, they continue to stand by their beloved club, even launching their own bid to give it a future after years of dubious ownership.

The fact Keith Harris’ recent attempts have been laughed off by many speaks volumes of the steely resolve of the fans to ensure that is one clash where they taste victory.

Certainly they have had nothing to cheer about on the field of play since defeating Shrewsbury on October 20 – almost four months ago.

Of those who started that match, just Johnny Ertl and Gabor Gyepes currently remain at the club, reflecting the south coast exodus which has occurred since.

To think that triumph lifted Michael Appleton’s men into 11th spot in the table – today they are rock bottom in 24th.

In their club’s constant time of need those supporters refuse to desert.

And on Saturday they observed a Pompey team which once again showed it is prepared to give its all.

It may now be 21 matches since the players won a game but in recent times at least they are displaying a heart and desire which has been lacking all too often this season.

Guy Whittingham’s side’s latest outing was hardly inspiring, Liam Walker’s 78th-minute penalty equaliser arguably their only shot on target all match.

There can’t have been many more off target either as they struggled for an attacking edge and creative purpose in front of their own fans.

A dull first half was only livened up by Sam Sodje performing a double step-over on the right-hand touchline to let a ball go out of play, such was its lack of spark.

Meanwhile, the Cumbrians’ Jon-Paul McGovern struck a post from a curling 30-yard free-kick which had beaten Simon Eastwood only to bounce back off the keeper himself before it was cleared to safety. A slice of good fortune in the most-threatening moment of the opening 45 minutes as the two sides went in goalless at the break.

The deadlock was broken, however, in the 51st minute through a well-worked goal started by McGovern.

The midfielder fed Lee Miller who was given plenty of time to control and then turn before slipping a through-ball into the penalty area.

Rory Loy was ahead of Yassin Moutaouakil and took the ball around Eastwood before slotting into an empty net.

Whittingham afterwards spoke how in weeks gone by his side would have crumbled at that set-back. And he had a point.

But this time they battled on regardless, even if the goal-scoring opportunities were scarce.

There was no capitulation and no crumbling, despite the fragile confidence such a barren winless run inevitably attracts.

The display of guts was no doubt respected by a Fratton faithful sick to death of witnessing half-heartedness by far higher-profile players.

However, it was the 62nd minute introductions of Walker and John Akinde from the bench which would provide the crucial turning points.

On 77 minutes, Akinde flicked the ball in the path of Patrick Agyemang who cleverly controlled the high ball from over his shoulder with his first touch.

His second was an inch-perfect left-foot pass into the path of Akinde, who was felled by keeper Mark Gillespie as he surged past. Walker then calmly stepped up to net the penalty, marking his second goal for the Blues but his first at Fratton Park.

Unfortunately, Pompey could not muster another meaningful attempt on goal to build on that leveller and the match fizzled out for a draw.

Another game without a victory but for now the losing streak has shuddered to a halt and for that it is something to be grateful.

The generous applause from home fans at the final whistle reflected their thoughts on a second draw in a row from a group of players who once again gave everything.

Of course, by that time news of Hartlepool’s result against Orient and its significance had still to filter through.

Not that it would have mattered – Pompey are heading for League Two football next season anyway, that is absolutely certain.

And those Pompey supporters will still be there every step of the way, you can be sure of that.

 

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