Hope after the longest winter of discontent

David Connolly, left, celebrates his goal at Crewe with Jed Wallace  Picture: Joe Pepler
David Connolly, left, celebrates his goal at Crewe with Jed Wallace Picture: Joe Pepler

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There were 485 Pompey fans who witnessed it.

It took 23 games and 134 long winter days for it to finally arrive.

But, at last, after 4,472 miles on the road and 12 fruitless pilgrimages to Fratton Park, a royal blue success was tasted.

There may be those who ridiculously attempt to deny supporters their chance to savour victory.

Well, just try it.

It may not have been Wembley, it may not have been under the lights against AC Milan and it may not have been a promotion party or big-boy scalp.

This was Gresty Road, the home of Crewe Alexandra.

A sunny March afternoon in the Cheshire railway town which doubles as a League One backwater.

And it might just be the venue for the start of the journey back on the pitch for Portsmouth Football Club.

The last time Pompey won a game, then-boss Michael Appleton had not even thought about Blackpool let alone Blackburn, Izale McLeod was being cheered not jeered by the Fratton end and it was still British Summer Time.

It’s been the longest, hardest winter of discontent in Pompey’s history since then for so many reasons.

With the clocks going forward later this month, it was fitting the smell of spring was in the air at Crewe.

Because there’s an undeniable feeling the first green shoots of recovery are now beginning to sprout for Guy Whittingham’s side.

Let’s be clear here, this was a single win against a side who have been struggling for their own form of late.

But it wasn’t the three points that were the greatest cause for celebration here.

What mattered was supporters could come away from what they witnessed with the optimism things are moving the right way on the pitch for their club.

They could actually walk away from Saturday’s game and say: ‘You know what? That team might just do okay in League Two’.

With a bit more experience for the young players making their way into the first-team, and a few more wise heads around them, there could be a squad that may just be able to bounce back.

Guy Whittingham has been whispering it quietly for the past few games.

But there was the under-stated conviction his team are starting to get it right.

Four goals conceded in the past five games, when 19 had been shipped in the seven before that, spoke of defensive progress. That meant the back-to-basics approach employed by Whittingham and Andy Awford was showing signs of progress.

That has allowed them to begin thinking a little more about things going the other way.

And there was evidence of that alright on Saturday.

Pompey could conservatively have been four goals to the good at the interval.

It was a similar story in the first-half against MK Dons last week, so much so that the normally mild-mannered Whittingham gave his team both barrels for not making more of their dominance.

No-one is getting too carried away but the Crewe win offered signs of hope.

And that is why it was celebrated all the way down the M6 on Saturday. No apologies for that.

But it remains far from clear whether Pompey will be able to start next season on an even footing with their rivals.

The Football League are playing their cards close to their chests when it comes to when the 10-point deduction heading to PO4 is going to be actioned.

A board meeting as and when the club exits administration will decide how the punishment is applied.

The suspicion is the deduction will be used to its greatest effect, opening the way for minus-10 in the points column at the start of next season.

Whatever happens there, those 485 supporters at Crewe are thankful for being afforded a glimpse of a positive future on the pitch.