Tranmere 2 Pompey 2

Gypes scores Pompey's first goal at Prenton Park. Picture: Steve Reid (123963-000)
Gypes scores Pompey's first goal at Prenton Park. Picture: Steve Reid (123963-000)
Fratton Park underwent extensive refurbishment in 1988, including the demolition of the Fratton End's upper tier. Picture: Pompey History Society Archive

POMPEY PICTURES: History of Fratton Park

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In four days’ time the fate of Portsmouth Football Club is expected to become clear.

That weary feeling of the club’s destiny being decided off the pitch is set to return like a familiar old friend you are fed up of putting up with.

A court room in Holborn will be the venue for the biggest fixture in Pompey’s recent history.

And a judge who probably knows as much about the DNA of this club and its importance to the city it inhabits as Rylan from X Factor does about quantum physics, will make a decision which will decide its destiny.

The supporters’ battle for the soul of their side now looks certain to reach a final, dramatic conclusion.

Short of a late thawing of relations between the Pompey Supporters’ Trust and Balram Chainrai’s Portpin, we are headed to a showdown that will see a valuation placed on Fratton Park which will make or break the fans’ bid.

So the war for survival goes on off the pitch.

The good news is Pompey seem to have found the stomach for a fight on it.

A chilly winter’s afternoon on the Wirral – and a clash with the league leaders – is not for the faint-hearted.

Yet those who wear the star and crescent twice found the resolve to battle back and claim their gutsiest point of the season.

Their determination to fight to the bitter end was rewarded with a point at Coventry – a side who put five past one of their relegation rivals on Saturday.

At Prenton Park, the same willingness to push on until the dying embers of the game have been extinguished nearly delivered all three.

Scott Allan’s typically fearless run into the heart of Tranmere’s penalty area almost delivered the ultimate reward.

The final kick of the game was actually from Ash Taylor, who knocked the ball within a whisker of Owain Fon Williams’ bottom corner when he converged with Allan and took the ball from his toe as the Scot pulled the trigger.

It was the last act of a breathless second-half which spoke of a determination from this group of players to turn the season around.

What we have seen from Pompey so far in League One has not been good enough. Not by a long stretch.

The reasons for that are many and varied but the final, undeniable truth is the team have underperformed.

As caretaker boss Guy Whittingham has pointed out: You can’t lose seven games on the bounce and say the team has played well.

A number of the side have failed to reach the levels expected of them as we approach the halfway point of the season.

Players like captain Brian Howard possess the talent to be doing more than they have shown at times to date. Howard is straight enough to acknowledge that.

But there was evidence in the 29-year-old’s performance at Prenton Park of what he can achieve over the second-half of the campaign.

Howard’s early range of passing set the tone for a bright start from Pompey against a side flying high but in a period of inconsistency themselves.

Somehow the early impetus evaporated into the drizzly Birkenhead afternoon, however, as Tranmere slowly built a head of steam.

Confidence was clearly in stronger supply in the Rovers camp, as they began to remember why they were top of the table after an uncertain run of home form.

It first took Ricardo Rocha to throw his body on the line to deny Liam Palmer a certain goal in the 23rd minute.

Then Simon Eastwood made the first of a number of top-drawer stops which justified goalkeeping coach John Keeley’s faith in the 23-year-old.

If Joe Hart, Manuel Neuer or Iker Casillas had made the stop which denied Andy Robinson what looked a certain goal in the 26th minute, the pundits would have been purring.

Instead, Eastwood had only the heartfelt appreciation of the 750 or so Pompey fans who had made the trip up the M6 and a disbelieving Tranmere captain and crowd as recognition.

He could do nothing, however, about their opener after 30 minutes as defender Taylor was afforded the space needed to head home Adam McGurk’s cross.

That was the cue for Pompey to rock back on to the ropes in the face of a side with conviction coursing through them once again.

The concern was the visitors would remember every one of those confidence-sapping losses of late and disappear under the barrage.

We fearfully asked the question does this team have any of the mettle, any of the leaders required to fight back?

Four minutes after the break we had our answer.

It was Gabor Gyepes, a potentially crucial figure in the coming months, who rose highest to head Howard’s pinpoint free-kick home.

All of a sudden, Pompey were the team playing with fluency and freedom and, crucially, a belief in what they were doing.

Then arrived 60 seconds which may just prove pivotal in their season – if the courts allow that to be the case.

First came a blow from Tranmere which looked decisive with 16 minutes left, as Robinson found space to reach the byline and pick out Michael O’Halloran who made no mistake.

But, just as Pompey looked like being counted out, they rose to their feet and delivered a jarring counter-punch Scouse heavyweight David Price would have been proud of.

And how sweet it was for Jake Jervis to deliver the blow a few weeks after an indifferent stint on loan at Tranmere came to a close.

Jervis was barracked by the home fans but responded by rifling home an arcing drive from just inside the angle of the box.

He took the opportunity to remind the Tranmere crowd of the name on his shirt as he was mobbed by jubilant Pompey players and subs.

There was still time for Eastwood to make a point-saving stop from Palmer before Allan’s late, late opportunity.

But it was a return which builds the momentum created against Coventry to a trundle.

Players are pointing to a framework being put in place which is allowing them to breathe on the pitch, with simple instructions which leave no room for confusion.

So far, so good when it comes to Pompey responding to their caretaking team. But they have no control over what comes next.

As Whittingham again suggested, it could be a new future or it could be the death of a proud football club. No sensationalism needed here.

Next Saturday could herald the first step towards a new life for Pompey – or it could mark its death.