DCSIMG

Pompey 2 Colchester 3

Jed Wallaces fifth-minute header loops in to the back of the Colchester net to cancel out Gavin Masseys second-minute opener for the Us at Fratton Park

Jed Wallaces fifth-minute header loops in to the back of the Colchester net to cancel out Gavin Masseys second-minute opener for the Us at Fratton Park

 

Focusing on the future continues to provide a mild sedative from the pains of the present.

Yet in James Keene there is a contributor who will not be part of that arm-in-arm march towards a seductive sunset.

Nonetheless, in the here and now he is a short-term fix who provides inspiration and perspiration.

The 27-year-old joked after Pompey’s latest defeat he had scored with his first shot since returning to the club.

Pedantically speaking, not strictly true following two previous appearances this season.

The inference was understood, however, from a player who has consistently run himself into the ground for the Blues.

Albeit almost exclusively outside the actual penalty area, such has been his lack of satisfactory service.

Keene’s all-round game can be picked apart comfortably over a pint. He plainly has weaknesses which are only too obvious in a match situation.

However, here is a player who cares for Pompey and will push himself through exhaustion in the process.

There have been enough hired hands with their hollow words and glib praise for the fans during the descent down the leagues over recent years.

Certainly more talented performers have turned out for the club than the long-serving Elfsborg striker.

With Keene, however, there is a level of effort and desire which can only be applauded – and respected – by the beleaguered Fratton faithful.

They demand commitment and a willingness to work for the cause above all else, especially in the current climate which provides so few reasons to cheer.

Izale McLeod anyone?

Scrambling around in the dirt for any encouraging signs during this 17-match winless run, you don’t need a metal detector to unearth the attitude of Keene.

There may have been just three matches so far from him, but he has been a breath of fresh air amid the gloom which continues to surround Fratton Park.

A shame then that he may have just one more game – against Scunthorpe tomorrow night – remaining before a parting of the ways.

Perhaps he could face Bournemouth next Saturday at a push as a swansong – a team he once joined on loan from Pompey eight long years ago.

He will definitely be in the frame for tomorrow’s trip to Scunny as his loan reaches its end.

Yet with Elfsborg’s campaign effectively starting next month, with the Swedish Cup ahead of the league, it remains to be seen whether his one month stay is prolonged.

In the meantime, Keene is putting the hard work into his Blues stay – and on Saturday netted that precious maiden goal.

Having made his Pompey debut on May 7, 2005, it had been a long time coming. But you could see what it meant to the home-grown player.

A classy move emanating from a Johnny Ertl backheel, it was substitute Liam Walker’s sublime first-time ball over the head of Josh Thompson which created the opening.

That pass picked out Keene in the right-hand side of the penalty area and he rifled home a classy finish to reduce Colchester’s two-goal advantage.

Certainly a moment to treasure for Keene, who possesses Somerset relatives who are fervent Pompey supporters following his first spell on the south coast.

The striker himself was among the Wembley crowd at the 2008 FA Cup final a lifetime ago, having travelled with his dad and cousins. Sadly, that maiden strike against the U’s was never going to spark a romantic comeback. An abject first half had seen to that.

Pompey struggle for goals, unquestionably, and falling 3-1 behind after just 20 minutes effectively condemned them to defeat number seven in a row.

A nightmare introduction for Sam Sodje then, who was making his bow in the centre of defence in place of Gabor Gyepes.

With Guy Whittingham opting to rotate his experienced centre-halves during the congested fixtures at present, the recent recruit found himself in the line-up.

It took just 98 seconds for the altered Blues defence to be breached by fellow strugglers Colchester.

Freddie Sears was fed down the right and he delivered a magnificent cross which cut out Sodje and found Gavin Massey at the far post, with Yassin Moutaouakil the wrong side of his man.

Yet on five minutes Jed Wallace had levelled with a piece of quality.

Dan Butler’s corner was delivered to the far post, where Wallace popped up to steer a finish with the outside of his foot into the top far corner of the goal.

It was a second goal in three league starts for the 18-year-old, who continues to impress during his extended run in the side.

Pompey conceded again, though, when Sears burst into the box and Sodje’s slide challenge upended him.

Despite the defender’s protests – which carried on as the referee left the field at half-time – it was a cast-iron spot-kick and Sears finished it calmly.

On 20 minutes it was 3-1, although Massey’s second did have an air of good fortune about it.

A clearance fell to the midfielder on the edge of the penalty area and his shot took a wicked deflection off Ricardo Rocha and looped over the helpless Simon Eastwood.

Rocha himself would last just seven minutes, before limping off with an ankle injury, to be replaced by Gyepes.

The goals against Pompey thankfully stopped, although Massey and Jabo Ibehre both should have extended the lead further.

The half-time break was a relief for the hosts and also prompted a rejig, with the injured David Connolly replaced by Walker.

He was part of a transformed Blues side as they set upon Colchester with added energy and steel, much to the delight of the home fans.

Former Pompey player Thompson had to clear his own header off the line at one point after a mix-up with his keeper as the home side pressed.

However, it wasn’t be until the 73rd minute when the deficit was reduced, with Keene finishing off an excellent team move.

It was the breakthrough, yet the leveller never looked like arriving.

As Pompey poured forward, Colchester hit on the break and the sight of Keene chasing midfielders in the left-back area would not have escaped the attention of some.

Tremendous commitment from a player who may not be at Fratton Park this time next week.

With two years left on his Elfsborg contract, conceivably he might not be able to play for Pompey ever again.

Yet he represents a stop-gap signing many players could do with emulating in the future.

 

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