Firstly apologies to regular readers for Toast not appearing on Easter Sunday as usual due to the fact that my laptop has a problem and hopefully the part will arrive in the next few days!!
What an Easter, what a month!! When we fans sat and viewed the table after the Rochdale result things seemed grim and there was little hope of any improvement – Pompey were doomed! The board (OUR Board) however saw the light and made a very brave decision with just seven games left to make a dramatic change in direction. Out went Richie Barker and in the ever revolving door of Pompey managers came Andy Awford. That was a very brave decision to make but one that has proved to be an absolute blinder.
How things have changed in those three and a half weeks is truly unbelievable with the same personnel on the pitch but a completely different mind-set. Andy has no magic wand other than the fact that he is a Pompey man through and through and has managed to get that simple message across to the charges he was left by Barker – he has admitted that he was left a good squad of players and gives credit to Richie for that.
Awfs was seen by many as a last hope and also by others as too weak a character to take on the task, he has certainly proved them wrong. Should he now be offered the job on a permanent basis is the questions on everybody`s lips? Would he accept or would he prefer to return to the managing of the Academy where he has done such a fine job? These are questions that will once the season is complete and before the task of getting out of League two begins in earnest.
The Golden (Easter) Egg
Easter Saturday and the Gas are in Town – not too sure where that nickname came from but I need to get up to date eh! They have a raucous army of 2,300 fans with them – wouldn`t it be nice if we could take that many fans away from home? We are usually limited to 1,500 tops.
The game is absolutely crucial to Rovers and the side with the worst away record in England bely that fact and show great fight to come back twice from early Pompey strikes but are eventually worn down by the spirit (or should I say Sprite) that is Wes Fogden. The effect Foggy has on tiring defences when thrown on late in the game with his high tempo game is astonishing. Chasing every knock whether it is at his feet or in row Z North terrace!
He scores the winner and Pompey hang on – or the fans hang on would be a better analogy to three oh so valuable points. Those points move Pompey up to 14th position in the table with now ten clubs below them. The results on Good Friday had been favourable to Pompey with no side below them winning and Wycombe drawing with born again Northampton.
As I left the ground I said to those listening ‘Awfs will ring the changes on Monday!` “Keep the same team” is all I hear. But I argued that with a big squad and Pompey safe (well almost) and only forty eight hours rest he (Awfs) would make wholesale changes.
Of course the argument about two games in three days rubbish because in my day you would play Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Monday and usually the same club would be played twice in that run. However I still argued it was the right thing to do as we need to sort out the squad for next season and the best way to do that was to throw them in when the pressure is still on.
The attendance of 17,998 was amazing for two clubs in the bottom half dozen of the league when tickets sold out – clubs in the Championship would love those sorts of crowds. The atmosphere as well did not belong in the fourth division.
Just for the records the policy of the Football League of playing three games over Easter seems to have ended in 1974 when Pompey played Orient at home on Good Friday (0-0) Fulham at home on Saturday (3-0 Norman Piper 2 and Paul Went) and at Orient on Monday (1-2 Andy Stewart) – Went`s goal was his first for Pompey and against his old club too.
There have been some very famous encounters with Northampton Town in the midlands over the years the not the lease in 1965 when Jimmy Dickinson retired and Pompey got the point they needed to stay up; or again in 1980 when Pompey backed by 10,000 fans just won promotion from the fourth division – strangely both those games were the last match of the season and on Monday we were not too far from the end.
Awfs made eight changes, as I predicted and sent the side out to play in a formation that suited his troops 4-1-4-1 not as some managers do his own style – square pegs in square holes! Again Pompey scored early but this time they had to hang for the whole of the second half as Town threw the kitchen sink at them. Not too long ago any side throwing a teaspoon would have equalised or better. How good it was for Danny East who has recovered from a broken neck and other injuries to get the winner – as well as being lambasted by Toast readers earlier in the season (Ed).
When playing against sides with their backs to the wall you have to win dirty and it is not always possible to play fluently. You have to want it as much as the opposition. Getting out of this division requires all sorts of properties and that is one of them. Perhaps that is why with only two games left of the season not one side has been promoted or relegated – I believe that is because there are no outstanding sides or conversely appalling ones in the division.
Pompey have two games left and could finish as high as eighth with two more wins! More to the point though the relief is now enormous that the threat of the Conference has evaporated; a threat that the club has been fighting relegation since Guy was sacked back in November.
So the season is coming to an end but there is not one Pompey fan who wants it to end now. The club has at last started to gather momentum and players, staff and fans are together as one. The finances are healthy and the sun is shining but sadly there are just two games left.
The impetus though will have a great effect on season ticket sales and hopefully sponsorship deals too. I hope it will also show the players that playing in front of big gates can be used to their advantage and is not a millstone to be carried for ninety minutes while the opposition use it to their advantage. The club and the players have some big decisions to make in the very near future and we all hope that a big promotion push in 2014/15 will materialise.
Our club if far too big for League Two but we have to earn the right to play at a higher level not expect I as of right.
Bits and pieces
While talking to and congratulating a sore-headed Burnley fan this morning he passed on his thanks from his Accrington friends for our victories over Bristol Rovers and Northampton which have helped them enormously.
The only fit player not to feature over Easter was Ben Chorley and fans wondered where he was. The answer his wife was hatching an Easter chick and he had had very little sleep. Congratulations to all concerned.
Anyone got any money on who will go down with Torquay? That is of course unless the Gulls can pull off he impossible!
Most fans will probably be aware that the Supporters Trust has been awarded a Civic Award by Portsmouth City Council.
Speaking at the 1 year on event, Councillor Vernon Jackson said ‘The PST deserve this Civic Award as recognition of the achievement of the volunteers who have run the Trust and all the people that contributed to the survival of the club. The way the PST has worked to bring financial stability to the club is text book example of how to take ownership back for the fans whose passion is the lifeblood of the club”
PST Chairman, Ashley Brown added “This is recognition of the efforts of not just the PST board members past and present, but all shareholders both individual and syndicates, our members and of course our Presidents who continue to work so closely with us to ensure PFC is here for many years to come. It is a wonderful gesture for Gerald Vernon Jackson to have nominated the PST and for the City Council to honour us in this way. I hope this signals the strength of our ongoing partnership between the PST, PFC and the City Council”
Well that`s about it was the late edition of Toast and all being well will be back to the usual Sunday morning slot next week.
I see that Awfs is now asking the Board to make a decision over the next manager as soon as possible so that the work for next season can begin. Toast says ‘Andy it is only five games you have won, don`t get pushy!!`