DCSIMG

Pompey 3-1 Shrewsbury

Izale McLeods gets on the mark for Pompey  Picture: Barry Zee

Izale McLeods gets on the mark for Pompey Picture: Barry Zee

 

Michael Appleton stood there, visibly emotionless as he surveyed the Fratton Park pitch.

Ringing in his ears were jubilant Pompey fans and another rendition of the ‘Aye, aye, Appy’ song which has become such a favourite in recent times.

Victory over Shrewsbury made it 13 points from a possible 15 after Pompey temporarily plunged into the League One relegation zone.

Izale McLeod, once a much-maligned figure so prematurely in his south coast career, has scored in five successive matches and now has nine overall for the season.

Meanwhile, the Pompey Supporters’ Trust are tantalisingly on the verge of taking ownership – a prospect which prompted a late rush for Saturday tickets.

Dare it be said but times are changing at the Blues – hopefully, at last, for the better.

Then there is Appleton himself. The figurehead of the football club for the past 11-and-a-half months and now an in-demand manager.

It is highly rare for Pompey bosses to have songs created in tribute of them, yet his is these days common place at every fixture.

Come Saturday’s final whistle, the 36-year-old waited patiently for his players to leave the pitch, greeting every one with either a handshake or pat on the back.

Next it was the turn of the referee and his officials, politeness and respect personified.

Then he turned, applauded the Fratton end and then those still present in the south stand, before making his way down the tunnel.

It certainly was not milked as a farewell, the tears were not wiped away from the eyes. It was unquestionably an understated moment.

Yet Pompey’s next fixture at Fratton is on the weekend of November 3-4, when they take on Notts County in the FA Cup.

It remains to be seen if Appleton is still around to lead his team out for that one or whether elsewhere occupies his interest.

Admirers Burnley have, interestingly, announced they aim to make an appointment within the next week.

Appleton remains high on the Championship club’s shortlist and has done little to distance himself from the position during the past week.

Of course, Pompey fans have long appreciated his honesty and straight talking during an era of worthless promises from the majority in authority.

Intriguingly, he has largely embraced the constant Turf Moor speculation.

It has represented a badge of honour rather than a millstone around his neck.

For somebody who has spent nearly a year craving stability to enable him to manage, the potential lure of Burnley must surely be obvious.

The Trust’s anticipated arrival represents the dawning of a new era, but few would welcome such fresh beginnings without the iconic Appleton.

Particularly with results now starting to roll in and the table climbed during what has been an impressive past five league matches for the Blues.

Granted, there were the odd few howling for his head following defeat against Wycombe in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

It was a competition often deemed as an irrelevance yet, suddenly, was important enough for some to dismiss the manager over.

Overall, though, the overwhelming majority of Pompey fans want the former West Brom coach to remain at the front to lead them into this brave new world.

Indeed, the non-return of former owner Balram Chainrai should have strengthened the Blues boss’ Fratton position.

Instead, Eddie Howe’s return to Bournemouth could hasten his exit to the north west, where both Burnley and Bolton lie in wait.

Meanwhile, back at home, with the prospect of a court case to wrestle Fratton Park’s charge off Portpin, it could comfortably be another month before the Trust’s takeover is finalised.

A necessary delay which could yet see Appleton finally run out of patience.

In the meantime, the team he has thrown together in the most trying of circumstances continues to pick up points, coinciding with the striking up of the exciting McLeod/Wes Thomas forward partnership.

Shrewsbury represented their sixth match as a strike pairing – and come full-time they had netted nine times between them during that period.

It is a staggering return from the duo, which is likely to last only another two matches before Thomas’ loan from Bournemouth expires.

Still, he has certainly brought out the best of McLeod during his three-week stay so far.

After the striker grabbed his second of the match in stoppage time, there was also a rendition of ‘He scores when he wants’.

Proof McLeod is at last being accepted by the Fratton faithful.

On Saturday, it took a while for the deadlock to be broken – 55 minutes to be precise.

A stale first half of few opportunities for either side never suggested the second period to follow.

In fact, it was Shrewsbury who should have scored first – Paul Parry somehow missing from two-yards out after Marvin Morgan’s good work.

Embarrassment for the Shrews’ joint-top scorer, who was then denied netting a free-kick by Mikkel Andersen’s stunning save on the stroke of half-time.

Yet, after the break, Michael Hector completely missed his clearance when attempting to deal with McLeod’s flick-on.

That allowed Thomas to gallop through and grab his third Pompey goal.

Just three minutes later and the scoreline was doubled when McLeod brilliantly clipped Brian Howard’s pass over the Shrewsbury keeper.

On 60 minutes Morgan reduced the deficit, following-up after Andersen couldn’t hold Luke Summerfield’s long-range shot.

Seconds later, though, the Shrews’ striker was shown a red card by referee Fred Graham after initially fouling Howard.

The Essex official objected to Morgan’s reaction and dismissed him.

In the closing stages, Pompey were indebted to Gabor Gyepes clearing off the line twice and another fine Andersen save.

Yet, during six minutes of time added on, McLeod steered home Johnny Ertl’s pass to make it 3-1.

Pompey fans sung about owning their club as they made their way home at the final whistle.

It just remains to be seen if the ever-popular Appleton will be the manager to lead them into the sunset.

 

Comments

 
 

Back to the top of the page