Plymouth 1 Pompey 1

The question has become as frequent as Jed Wallace's goal contribution of late.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 14th October 2013, 7:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 8:30 pm
John Marquis heads just over the bar as Pompey push for a second-half winner. Picture: Joe Pepler
John Marquis heads just over the bar as Pompey push for a second-half winner. Picture: Joe Pepler

Certainly there can be no escape for the teenager-of-the-moment from the issue of his Pompey contract.

The consistent lack of a definitive answer – and his soaring displays – ensures it is becoming an ever-growing concern for supporters.

It has been more than a month since chief executive Mark Catlin tabled the club’s first offer, complete with duration and wage.

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As of yet negotiations have not got under way, with Wallace and his representatives having still to provide an official response.

Not that the 19-year-old is letting the situation affect his performances, quite the opposite in actual fact, as he once more displayed on Saturday.

Nor is he changing his long-held view that he would like to remain at Fratton Park, an encouraging statement of intent he continues to present to both fans and the club’s hierarchy.

Wallace sensibly appreciates the importance of first-team football in his on-going development.

Those who have witnessed his remarkable blossoming at first hand since the turn of the year will testify to that. What a transformation it has been.

Yet the nagging doubts are still there and with every goal, every assist and every impressive display comes the fear he is edging further away from that pen.

Privately there are some behind the scenes at the Blues who are convinced Wallace will not sign, a gut feeling and nagging doubt mind, nonetheless it fails to disperse.

And through it all the scouts are converging in rising numbers while Wallace’s level of performance remains so consistently high.

On Tuesday night, Arsenal scout Martin Keown was present at the Kassam Stadium to survey – at Home Park it was the Sky television audience settling into a seat to take in the talents of the youngster.

Pompey have a massive battle to retain the services of the former Lewes player who has become so crucial to any ambition the team may possess this season.

Against Plymouth, neutrals would also be educated in the talents of a player who belies his years in terms of maturity, decision-making and confidence within his game.

None more so than the 39th minute when Yassin Moutaouakil’s cross from the right was not cleared well enough and up popped Wallace to pick up the loose ball.

His first touch was with his left foot and he then calmly steered the ball into the net with the outside of the right, first-class composure in a heart-skipping position near goal.

That’s three goals in his last four matches since being dropped against Fleetwood – including that York wonder goal in his previous League Two away outing for the Blues.

Overall, Wallace has scored 10 goals in his first 37 appearances in first-team football for Pompey, unquestionably an outstanding return from somebody still making their way in the game at this level.

And they are watching, clubs across the country have their eyes trained on his every match, with the knowledge his existing contract ends in the summer of 2014.

By his own admittance, the youngster didn’t believe he performed at his best in the midweek Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in front of the likes of Keown and no doubt other members of the scouting fraternity.

A touch overly-critical perhaps but encouraging that Wallace can analyse his displays in such a frank manner and refuse to slip into a bubbling bog of ego and self-loving.

He was, though, back on song against Plymouth, a match in which he once again emphasised there is plenty more to his game than merely goals from midfield.

The fixture was bereft of ideas, particularly in the second half.

But Wallace gives you energy, enthusiasm, work-rate and always a hint that something can be conjured up out of nothing.

While the overriding sense from Pompey’s display was they were satisfied with a Home Park point, the right midfielder was doing his best to chip away and unearth all three.

It never came, though. Neither side deserved to win the televised occasion, a fair result if ever there was one – both team’s lack of adventure thankfully not being rewarded in the interests of justice.

At least the Pilgrims made two substitutions – and how the pair upped their performance levels in the final 18 minutes of the match.

Whittingham and first-team coach Alan McLoughlin spent much of the time in conversation on the touchline as the match wore on, yet decided against similar measures – opting not to use any of their seven-man bench.

Perhaps the injury-enforced absence of David Connolly and Tom Craddock had something to do with it, although Andy Barcham must always be considered a fine option to throw on.

Still, a draw it was, although Pompey may not have even got that following Moutaouakil’s wretched 21st-minute error.

When a cross came in from the right, the defender found himself well positioned to deal with it at the far post area with nobody in his vicinity.

Yet he managed to miscontrol the ball on his chest and Conor Hourihane pounced to lash the ball past a helpless Trevor Carson. Moutaouakil, who admirably agreed to speak to The News afterwards and apologised for his mistake, did bounce back and played a crucial part in Wallace’s leveller 18 minutes later.

In fact his overall response to the blunder was impressive, with several good deliveries from the right in attacking positions. All the same his mistake was an awful one.

The first half was where all the action took place and John Marquis should have done far better in the 10th minute when Ricky Holmes pulled the ball back, only for the on-loan Millwall man to screw his shot well wide.

Then shortly before Wallace’s goal, Luke McCormick produced a stunning save to beat out Marquis’ goal-bound drive after Hourihane had lost the ball.

At the other end, Carson once again impressed with his positioning and sure handling and late on saved from Tyler Harvey.

Moutaouakil also came to Pompey’s rescue to deny Reuben Reid at the far post with a brilliant challenge as the striker closed in on Lewis Alessandra’s right-wing cross.

Yet it would have been unfair if either side had snatched it, an honourable draw, no complaints from anyone involved.

For Pompey, the positive response since that abject York display continues. Thankfully.

Now Jed, about that contract...