Pearce: I'll never forget my Pompey second coming
Jason Pearce reflected on his time at Pompey and promised: I will never forget it.
The departing Blues captain has looked back on his rollercoaster second spell at Fratton Park after completing his £500,000 move to Leeds.
And the 24-year-old has pinpointed the derby day trip to Southampton as the highlight of his campaign.
Pearce established himself as a key player for the team – where he came through the ranks – following his return from Bournemouth last summer.
The central defender went on to play 44 times at for the Blues and cleaned up at the end of campaign awards – picking up The News/Sports Mail Pompey player of the season.
It proved a tumultuous 11 months for Pearce and his team-mates, with turmoil behind the scenes eventually leading to relegation.
But there were highs, too – none more satisfying than the last-ditch derby day leveller at St Mary’s last month.
David Norris rescued a 2-2 draw for Pompey in a blood-and-thunder clash which showed the resilience in Michael Appleton’s ranks.
That was a moment that stood above all others for Pearce.
He said: ‘I’ll never forget this season. It’s been tough but a learning curve.
‘There have been a few highlights and some good performances earlier in the season.
‘The Southampton game and the equaliser late on was a great moment. Everyone expected us lose to the team at the top of the league – who were our rivals.
‘To draw that and put in a good performance was a highlight.
‘It was a proper derby day. There were tackles flying in and goals.
‘I think they are the sort of games you want to play in as a professional and you cherish them. I’ll never forget that day.’
Pearce bagged two goals throughout the campaign for Pompey.
The second of those came in the comprehensive 3-0 success at Peterborough in January.
Pompey were good value for their win that day as they picked off opponents who could worry any Championship side on their day.
Pearce felt that victory – and the clean sheet – made the result another stand-out moment.
‘Peterborough was another brilliant team performance,’ he said.
‘People expected us to get a result that day and we duly delivered.
‘Peterborough can score a lot of goals and can be dangerous.
‘I got the second that day – and keeping a clean sheet was another highlight for me.’
Among some positive moments came wave after wave of hits for the Pompey squad to withstand as financial problems left the club foundering. The demise of former owners Convers Sports Initiatives led to an inevitable 10-point deduction.
News of that loss, which proved decisive in the relegation fight, was a low for Pearce.
And the failure of Pompey to put a consistent run of form together – picking up back-to-back wins just twice – was another key factor in relegation.
Pearce said: ‘If we had not had the 10-point deduction, we would have stayed up. And that happened with us losing key players.
‘The problem this season was consistency, though.
‘We would win one game, play really well and then lose the next – that was our undoing in the end.’
It was an inauspicious start to his second spell at Pompey, as Pearce served a three-game suspension following a red card in his final Bournemouth appearance.
Despite being signed as a squad player, his importance soon became evident.
He featured in every game after the ban, before being left out on the final day of Forest as part of the terms of his move to Leeds.
That outstanding run is something Pearce will always savour.
He said: ‘I knew I’d have to fight for my place as soon as I came in.
‘I was on a losing battle because I had the three-match ban at the start.
‘It was tough but Steve Cotterill gave me a chance in the fourth game and I never looked back.’