Stevenage 1 Pompey 0

Adam Webster impressed in the Blues' 1-0 defeat at Stevenage  Picture: Joe Pepler
Adam Webster impressed in the Blues' 1-0 defeat at Stevenage Picture: Joe Pepler
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There was no fresh start or new dawn, life after Andy Awford had a familiar ring as Pompey suffered yet more away woe.

Stevenage were the latest to benefit from the Blues’ agonising travel sickness, last night running out 1-0 winners.

Irrespective of the man at the helm, it was same again for a team clutching just two league victories away from Fratton Park all season.

Gary Waddock had stepped in following Monday’s end to Awford’s 55-game spell as boss during a season which painfully limps towards a welcome conclusion.

Granted, his side did rally in the second-half against the League Two play-off challengers and the Blues showed a guts and determination so often missing from their away performances this season.

But despite such encouragement for the travelling faithful it was the same conclusion as Pompey created little, while shipping in another early goal.

On this occasion it took Tom Pett a mere 137 seconds to break the deadlock and it was a strike from the edge of the box which proved decisive.

Hosted on a Lamex Stadium pitch not conducive to playing the ball on the ground, Graham Westley’s side were hardly impressive themselves, despite their positive league placing.

Nonetheless, they had too much for the Blues, whose fans are counting down the 17 days before this dreadful campaign can be declared dead and buried.

As for meeting the board’s target of the play-offs, Pompey instead find themselves 14th with three matches to go.

Waddock made three changes to the side who suffered defeat in Awford’s final match in charge, two of them prompted by injury.

Jed Wallace was sidelined by a hamstring injury, while Josh Passley cannot play for seven days in accordance with medical advice following his concussion at the Globe Arena.

Meanwhile, Wes Fogden was given a breather and dropped to the bench following a recent burst of match action after returning from long-term injury.

That meant a recall for Nicky Shorey, back in the side for the first time since the 2-1 defeat at home to Southend in January.

With the veteran slotting in at left-back, Dan Butler was pushed onto the left-hand side of a midfield in an unfamiliar role.

Adam Webster was back in the team, albeit in his favoured central defensive position, with Joe Devera moving across to replace Passley at right-back.

Finally, Danny Hollands returned and was handed the captaincy, coming into the centre of a four-man midfield to partner James Dunne.

The 4-4-2 also allowed Matt Tubbs to come back into a central striking role, working with Ryan Taylor as the striking pair.

Regardless of the changes, the Blues found themselves behind after just 137 seconds as the play-off contenders took the lead.

The ball bobbled around the penalty area and when it fell to Pett he struck a ferocious first-time shot from the edge of the area which rattled past Paul Jones.

The Boro retained the early control and forced a succession of corners to pen Waddock’s side deep into their own half

On 11 minutes Pompey staged their first meaningful attack.

Taylor flighted a left-foot cross from the right which picked out a header from Tubbs.

But the ball flew straight into the hands of Stevenage keeper Chris Day.

Mistakes from both Webster and Nyron Nosworthy then let in Pett down the left and the midfielder whipped in dangerous cross which the latter headed out for a corner.

The corner-kick was delivered by Simon Walton and met with a powerful header by Bira Dembele at the far post which was saved low down by Jones.

On 21 minutes, Butler was given the ball in an encouraging position down the left, yet the ball bobbled and his left-footed cross instead ballooned over the stand behind the goal.

But Stevenage were the dominant force and Nosworthy superbly stuck out a foot to block Chris Whelpdale as the midfielder drove in targeting a right-foot shot on goal.

Waddock was forced to make a substitution on 27 minutes when Taylor hobbled off to be replaced up front by Craig Westcarr.

There was a scare for the hosts on 29 minutes when Atangana clipped in a shot from the right which deflected off the foot of Jerome Okimo and looped goalwards, with Day taking it at the second attempt stood on the goal line.

The match descended into a scrappy affair, certainly with little in the way of entertainment for either side.

But crucially it was Westley’s side who had a lead which was proving comfortable.

There were three minutes of added time for the first half.

And Dembele almost extended the lead for the home side.

But his spectacular scissor kick, from a Walton corner, landed on the roof of the net.

No changes were made at the break.

But despite the predicament on the field of play the away supporters remained in fine voice.

On 49 minutes Butler found himself with space down the left bearing down on goal following Westcarr’s clever pass across the pitch.

But the youngster, with the opportunity of netting his maiden Blues goal, struck it at the keeper’s near post and Day was able to beat it away, much to Butler’s disappointment.

Pompey began to rally, applying more pressure in the final third.

And Nosworthy saw a far-post header from Butler’s corner cleared during one goal-mouth scramble.

At the other end, substitute Keith Keane curled in a left-foot cross to present Chris Beardsley with a chance.

But the striker’s header was a poor one, glancing the ball harmlessly wide.

With the score only 1-0, Pompey were at least still in with a chance to snatch something from the contest.

Butler did well to dispossess Beardsley in a dangerous position.

However, the ball fell to Whelpdale on the edge of the area only to strike it straight at Jones.

Pompey did get the ball in the net on 70 minutes when Butler whipped in a cross from the left and Westcarr steered it home, but the celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.

That prompted Paul McCallum to be introduced for the ineffective Tubbs, alongside Westcarr.

But the loan striker made little impact.

And Stevenage held out to record another victory to boost their push to reach the play-offs, aspirations the Blues once had.