Mansfield 1 Pompey 2

Jed Wallace is brought down by Ritchie Sutton as Pompey win a first-minute penalty. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace is brought down by Ritchie Sutton as Pompey win a first-minute penalty. Picture: Joe Pepler
Share this article
Have your say

Aweekend to buck football’s time-honoured trends.

Watford laughing in the face of the requirement for management stability to clinch glory by getting through four in one season to reach the Premier League.

Mark Palios dispelling the theory behind the necessity to have a ‘football person’ in charge of a club, only to oversee Tranmere’s demise from the Football League.

Steve Cotterill’s Bristol City reaching 96 points to demonstrate being handed one of the highest playing budgets in the league actually can be a guarantee of success.

And Pompey winning away from home in the league.

Who would have thought it?

Certainly lessons to be learnt for everyone, although perhaps exceptions to standard protocol rather than the norm.

For the Blues, it was a third League Two victory away from Fratton Park – the occasion being achieved at Mansfield in their penultimate match.

Triumphs over the yellows of Oxford United, Cambridge United and now the Stags to bring a little colour to the cheeks of the consistently large number of away followers.

Just a shame, then, that there have still been another 20 league fixtures on their travels where they have failed to record victories this term.

In total, 18 points from a possible 69 underpins a season which is threatening to produce Pompey’s lowest-ever finish in their Football League history.

Currently 16th, even a home triumph over York next weekend may not be enough to lift them into 13th – last season’s placing.

Not forgetting the additional low of being eliminated from the FA Cup by non-league Aldershot – another away defeat.

As for the two sides relegated out of the Football League – Tranmere and Cheltenham – Pompey took a mere five points out of a possible 12 during this season’s encounters.

Another damning statistic in a campaign which started with the challenge of reaching the play-offs and instead disintegrated into the mundane.

Still, Saturday was a result to savour, a rarity in this season of immense disappointment, as the Blues sampled a 2-1 win away from Fratton Park.

In the context of the season for either side, it was meaningless, another dead rubber ahead of bringing the curtain down on the whole wretched mess next weekend.

The progress of Chesterfield’s play-off push at home to Bristol City would have surely garnered more attention among the Fratton faithful during the afternoon.

Incidentally, the Spireites lost but results went their way to ensure they have now sealed sixth spot under Paul Cook to qualify with a fixture to spare.

It remains to be seen how that impacts on the time-frame of potentially appointing him as Pompey’s new manager – compensation permitting, of course.

Nonetheless, the Blues and caretaker boss Gary Waddock ended their away campaign with a victory, a feat made possible by the awarding of a penalty after 41 seconds.

A notable weakness of the side on their travels this season, irrespective of the man in charge, has been a penchant to concede early.

At Field Mill, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock, with the added bonus of the Stags reduced to 10-men during the incident.

Jed Wallace was in the process of receiving the ball from Matt Tubbs inside the box when Ritchie Sutton tugged at him to send him sprawling.

The referee showed Mansfield’s captain a straight red card, while Tubbs was given the penalty honours to produce a calm finish into the bottom corner.

Despite being the designated penalty taker, Wallace had agreed to hand over the duties to his team-mate to aid his golden boot bid.

Sure enough, Tubbs netted for a 20th of the season, positioning him two ahead of Dagenham & Redbridge’s Jamie Cureton heading into the final game.

Presented with a numerical advantage, the Blues were comfortable as they sought to retain their goal advantage, although Adam Murray’s side displayed admirable courage throughout.

Certainly their 10-men didn’t appear to be outnumbered and they ended the match putting Waddock’s men under considerable pressure in the subsequent 2-1 win.

Paul Jones was even called upon to produce a smart low save from Junior Brown within minutes of the second half start, a crucial block then preventing Matt Rhead from following up.

However, with some inevitability it was Wallace who increased the lead on 55 minutes, weighing in with another customary goal from distance.

Craig Westcarr nudged the ball in his direction and the midfielder controlled it on his chest, allowed it to bounce before rifling in a right-foot shot from 25 yards.

The ball bounced in front of Lenny Pidgeley on the way, lifting it alarmingly over the diving keeper on its way into the net for a 17th of the season, as the Blues took a 2-0 lead.

That was reduced on 68 minutes when the impressive Jack Thomas weighed in with his first senior goal.

The 18-year-old is tipped for big things by Mansfield followers having climbed his way through the ranks, winning a number of player-of-the- season awards before kick-off.

And his sublime curling right-foot shot from outside the box sparked thoughts the hosts could go on to haul themselves onto level terms.

It didn’t materialise, however, as the visiting defence marshalled superbly by Adam Webster stood firm to hold onto their victory.

The late emergence of Webster in his favoured central defensive role has been breathtaking and suddenly the youngster who has been around forever appears to be coming of age.

Encouraging progression, albeit for a player among 11 out of contract this summer with many of them waiting for a new manager to give the nod on renewals.

Regardless, only the visit of York remains before the season draws to a close and is condemned as one of the most demoralising the Fratton faithful have been forced to endure.

Not that the football really matters at this stage – the on-going manager hunt is the biggest challenge the club is presently undertaking.

As Watford, Tranmere and Bristol City have discovered, you need the right man in charge to achieve your footballing ambitions.