Pompey 2 Bury 0

Connolly puts Pompey one ahead'Portsmouth V Bury'Npower League One'Fratton Park'9/3/2013 Sat 15:00
Connolly puts Pompey one ahead'Portsmouth V Bury'Npower League One'Fratton Park'9/3/2013 Sat 15:00
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Adam May. Picture: Mark Robinson

Pompey boss: Youngster can prove critics wrong

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Suddenly Fratton Park is awash with belief.

From the directors’ box to the dressing room, a renewed conviction is beginning to course through Portsmouth Football Club after the most barren of winters.

A feelgood factor is being welcomed back down the end of Frogmore Road like an old friend returning from months away in sunnier climes.

The chants of ‘we are staying up’ which welcomed Pompey’s first back-to-back wins since the successes over Shrewsbury and Crewe in October, may have been stretching it at touch.

But everywhere they turned on Saturday reasons to be cheerful smiled back at the Fratton faithful.

There was the club’s prospective new chairman Iain McInnes hanging over the front of the directors’ box lauding victory 48 hours after administrators PKF had exchanged contracts with the Pompey Supporters’ Trust, as their takeover inched towards a successful conclusion.

There was the sight of promising 18-year-old Jack Maloney entering the fray for his league bow in stoppage-time, one of five teenager’s in caretaker boss Guy Whittingham’s squad.

Then there was the ovation for David Connolly and his two goals as he was replaced in stoppage-time, with Connolly’s presence confirming the return of genuine cutting edge to a side who finished the game playing with the vim confidence brings.

And finally there was the view of the League One table on Saturday tea-time, as fans supped their post-match pints with their side off the bottom.

Yes, there may be snow in the air around Portsea Island today but so is the smell of spring.

And hope springs eternal around these parts right now.

You wouldn’t have guessed it, though, at 3.45pm on Saturday.

After the joy of a win at the 24th time of asking at Crewe, Pompey chose their Fratton homecoming as the time to deliver as bleak a 45-minute display as they have all season.

Bury may have had one win in six to their name – and were trying their best to take all the unwanted attention away from their opponents as their players go unpaid with the club under a transfer embargo.

But the Shakers could and should have gone in at the half-time break in front.

Craig Fagan was the man to blame for that not happening, as he opted for power and blazed a gilt-edged chance high into the Fratton end when clean through in the 12th minute.

But there were other opportunities, too, with Mark Carrington firing wide on the turn and the handy Steve Schumacher and Zac Thompson clocking up efforts.

Pompey were disjointed, horribly wanting for any kind of poise and devoid of any passing quality.

‘It was terrible,’ admitted match-winner Connolly afterwards.

‘The worst performance I’ve seen in a long time.’

It was Connolly who made that point to his team-mates in a half-time inquest which was to be key in turning the game in the home side’s favour.

Whittingham revealed he and Andy Awford had a few things to say to the players at the break.

But it was Connolly who emphasised in no uncertain terms the standards he has set himself in a long career at the highest level were not being met.

Those words proved game-changing, with Pompey a different team following the restart.

Connolly has stressed his belief goals will flow for him if the supply lines are manned properly.

The first real piece of quality delivery came from Jed Wallace after 50 minutes.

And it gave the wily, old marksman the chance to back his words with actions. He didn’t disappoint.

Connolly’s manager continually espouses the wisdom the big secret – when it comes to goalscoring – is hitting the back of the net with little more than a 10-yard pass.

His goals proved textbook examples of that, with his second arriving as he pounced on Trevor Carson’s save from Johnny Ertl’s shot.

Defender Ashely Eastham was left foundering as Connolly stepped inside his challenge before stroking the ball home. Clinical.

Connolly’s enduring threat is a testament to his commitment to his career.

The fact the press are kept waiting for the hitman to conduct his post-match press duties, while he warms down on an exercise bike underlines that.

On the weekend clean-living Bernard Hopkins became boxing’s oldest world champion at 48, the pair are showing it’s the right lifestyles that fuel Indian Summers.

But for every consumate professional in football there’s a hundred juvenile divas, as Fagan showed us six minutes from time.

The Bury striker took his withdrawl as the time to launch a tirade towards the Pompey bench, ostensibly because his team were losing and he missed a sitter.

It was Fagan’s Justin Bieber moment as he threw his toys out of the pram and stamped his feet, every inch the spoiled brat. The manner in which Awford’s withering glare disarmed the player was priceless, however.

It was another moment to generate a grin on the type of day that has been all too infrequent in the recent life and times of Pompey.

What it means in the League One picture for Whittingham’s side is negligible.

They remain eight points from safety with the Football League still weighing up how to enforce their 10-point deduction to greatest effect.

A near-miraculous run over the final nine games would force the league to deliver the hit sooner rather than later.

But the survival spirits of 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2006 would all need to be raised for that to happen.

And the end result would still be football in England’s basement division.

No, any notion of survival has long left PO4. But how gladdening to have happy days return.