The unlikely goal hero during Portsmouth’s lowest point

0
Have your say

Concord Rangers are without a win since August, a statistic lengthened following last weekend’s St Albans loss.

It’s mid-table occupancy at present for Sammy Moore during his maiden managerial campaign with the National League South outfit.

In his final match as boss, Richie Barker oversaw the lowest league placing in Pompey history.  Picture: Joe Pepler

In his final match as boss, Richie Barker oversaw the lowest league placing in Pompey history. Picture: Joe Pepler

Aged 31, the player/boss is not ready to relinquish his boots, although the midfielder has yet to feature for the 13th-placed Beach Boys.

It has been four-and-a-half years since his dramatic goalscoring intervention prevented Pompey from entering League Two’s relegation zone.

Today, ahead of Wycombe’s visit, Kenny Jackett’s outfit reside at the top of League One during the ever-arduous clamber back up the ladder towards more familiar surrounds.

Unbeaten following eight league matches, optimism among the Fratton faithful is soaring, albeit during such formative steps into the campaign.

History divulges that it was March 25, 2014, when Pompey occupied 22nd in the bottom division – the club’s lowest placing in post-war history.

Yet had it not been for Moore’s contribution that same evening, the Blues would instead have languished joint-91st in the Football League, sharing a second relegation spot.

What’s more, the former Ipswich trainee’s rescue act occurred 158 miles away in Northampton.

A 3-0 defeat at promotion-bound Rochdale had condemned Pompey to remain in 22nd spot, while heralded Richie Barker’s dismissal as boss two days later.

The former Crawley manager ultimately paid the price for six matches without a win, a barren period yielding just one goal – Jed Wallace’s strike at Fleetwood.

Chairman Iain McInnes and board member Ashley Brown were present at Spotland to witness the latest abject display under Barker, whose post-match press address demonstrated he had forfeited all hope.

Nonetheless, the name of Sammy Moore was being sung in appreciative terms by members of club hierarchy.

While scrambling around for a sliver of salvation amid such gloomy moments, the very matter of not occupying joint-second from bottom represented a joyous embrace. How a single placing difference can bolster morale.

Certainly that initially wasn’t the case as struggling rivals Northampton headed towards a crucial 2-1 triumph over 10-man AFC Wimbledon that very night.

Victory would have drawn them level on points and goal difference with Pompey, effectively tying for the final League Two relegation place with seven fixtures remaining.

Only goals scored would have crowbarred a separation between the clubs, the Blues (38) having superiority to Northampton (33) in that instance.

Regardless, it represented a significant fresh low for a club which before the 2013-14 campaign had, in its history, spent just one week below 14th in the bottom division.

Then arrived deliverance from AFC Wimbledon’s number eight.

Deep into stoppage-time, defender Alan Bennett pumped a ball left-footed into the penalty area. It fell to Moore who pounced from six yards out with a right-footed finish.

Delirium for the visitors, who had endured a numerical disadvantage since midway through the first half after Jack Midson had been dismissed for handling on the line.

And cheers also among the Pompey contingent at Spotland as suddenly Northampton had been denied a precious victory at the death.

The swiftly recalculated league table pinpointed the Blues in 22nd spot – while, a little more reassuringly, distanced two points above the relegation zone.

Not that the Moore-inspired respite could save Barker, with Andy Awford stepping up as caretaker to secure safety just four games later following four successive victories.

As for Northampton, they went on to finish 21st. Their manager was Chris Wilder, the boss overlooked by Pompey in favour of appointing Barker earlier that season.

Instead Bristol Rovers joined rock-bottom Torquay in tumbling into non-league, despite having been outside the bottom four with seven matches remaining.

Remarkably, the Blues’ late-season surge under Awford saw them collect 17 points from a possible 21 and remain undefeated to claim 13th position in League Two.

It deservedly earned the Hall of Famer the job on a permanent basis. Although subsequently failing to rediscover that caretaker magic, they never plummeted as low again.

Today Pompey dwell at League One’s summit, six wins and two draws positioning them a point ahead of second-placed Peterborough.

Outside the Premier League, only the Blues, Leeds, MK Dons and Forest Green are currently unbeaten during their respective league campaigns.

Encouraging times indeed.

Yet, during the 2013-14 season, Pompey spent seven days rotting at 90th spot in the Football League.

Had it not been for the current manager of Concord Rangers, a famous club which twice won the top flight title would have ignominiously sunk into the League Two relegation-zone reckoning.

The past makes the present so much more pleasurable.