Date: 3rd May 2014 at 8:26pm
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Another crowd of over 18,000 witnessed the curtain coming down on the 2013/14 season which now it has gone most will choose to forget.

The game was exciting throughout but Pompey played all the football and yet had to settle for a 3-3 draw. Danny Hollands also joins an exclusive club of Pompey players who have scored a hat-trick and yet failed to finish on the winning side – the last member to join was Robert Prosinecki! Danny got his in just sixteen minutes – not bad for a defensive midfield player.

In truth it was the same old problem for Pompey, poor defending. The home side dominated the possession played some nice neat football, took the lead three times but only got a point. Plymouth had minimal possession but were gifted three goals by the Pompey defence.

Not to criticise but Awfs has to work out his best combination at the back as he has some decent players there but you need to get a settled partnership in the middle. Yesterday he started with a mixture of youth and experience, combining Adam Webster and Jack Whatmough with Ben Chorley and Nicky Shorey and while they looked comfortable odd mistakes were punished. The rest of the side looked good.

Playing 4-2-3-1 leaves five players in midfield and that was where the football was played Danny East and Hollands were the sitters and with Wes Fogden, Sherlock Holmes and Jed Wallace creating. Up top Ryan Taylor was again an impressive target man and even has time to put a beautiful left footed cross onto Hollands` head for his second goal.

I think perhaps Pompey could have dispensed with one from midfield and thrown on a second striker to even more pressure on a poor Argyle defence, such was the control the home side had on the game for long periods. Player of the season Holmes had a storming game lighting up the crowd with sizzling run after run at the Plymouth back line and deserved a goal for his efforts too.

So Pompey are far from the finished article and there is now a summer of hard work ahead for Awfs and his staff to whittle the squad down to a reasonable number. Some difficult decisions need to be made – one is simple though – sign Danny Hollands!! A number are on two year contracts however and that will tie Andy`s hands if they do not want to leave. But it is a big squad and if there were room or I had time then we could go through them one at time.

Fans too will regularly make sure that the list of available players is kept to the fore especially where they are ex Pompey favourites – Jamie Ashdown, Hayden Mullins and Jamie O`Hara were three I heard yesterday. Let the club make their own decisions and wait to see how the new squad performs come August, I say.

Anyway the outcome of the results yesterday is that Pompey finish 13th and that is Pompey`s lowest ever league finish – it was 7th in Division Four in 1978/79 – no play offs in those days.

Andy`s Awesome feat

He took a club that was sliding inexorably out of league football after eighty four years and pulled it up by the bootstraps.

Not only has he won manager of the month for April after five wins and a draw and sped Pompey to Football League safety but remarkably but smiles back on the faces of the whole City.

All fans are now looking forward to next season rather than the dread of what life would be like in the Conference. That means that season ticket sales will again be healthy as an expected promotion push gets underway. Sponsorship deals will also be much easier for the club to negotiate.

Nine caps at England U21 level. Made his debut in a friendly in Spain which England won 1-0 – the goal scorer was a certain Darren Anderton.

Stiffs are back

Possibly as part of Awf`s deal with the club the news that the Reserve side will be back next term. It will play in a newly formed Under 21 league and will be a massive boost to those not in the first team and help keep players match fit.

No indication as to whether the reserve games will be played at Fratton Park, Havant or Gosport or maybe even Bognor; definitely though a change for the better.

Lottery for the Academy

In the week the club launched a new Pompey lottery with all the proceeds going to support the Academy. A wonderful idea and one that fully fits with the community club that we the fans are building – our money is used to educate and improve our prospects.

Local perspective

The Worcester News certainly was proud of the achievements of their local boy when they announced this week – Andy was born in Worcester –

‘Former Worcester City defender has been appointed as the new manager of Portsmouth on a full-time basis.

The 41-year-old, who still holds the record as the youngest player to play in an FA Cup tie – aged just 15 years 88 days when he came on as substitute in a City tie at Boreham Wood in 1987, had been in caretaker charge at Fratton Park since March.

He has agreed a one-year rolling contract with the League Two outfit, who have dramatically dropped down the divisions since being relegated from the Premier League in 2010.

Awford said: “It is with huge pride that I am delighted to accept the board`s offer to be the new manager of Portsmouth Football Club.’

Previous encounters

Pompey and Plymouth have often met early season in the League Cup and once before in the last game. In the league the only first game was back 1965 when Pompey won 4-1 and substitutes were allowed for the first time sadly due to a last minute injury Argyle could not name one. Brian Lewis missed his only Pompey penalty that day too.

The only previous last game was back in 1982/83 when Pompey won 1-0 as Alan Biley clinched the Third Division crown for the Blues at Home Park.

I was at both!!

Incidentally if you do not think the FA have a sense of humour then look at this from 2008 –
FA Cup 4th Round – Portsmouth v Plymouth Argyle Referee A. Marriner!

The Sunday Chimes

It was the day of the Plymouth FA Cup tie back in 2008 that I launched Sunday Toast with Pompey on their way to winning the famous trophy – the idea lasted for nearly six and a half years.

So by a strange coincidence it was this week with the Plymouth game looming that I decided it was time for something new – just as Pompey are finishing in their lowest ever league position. The name I have settled on is the Sunday Chimes and it seems to have been well received by those I have mentioned it to.

The new format is under wraps at the moment but it will include a leader column, features and a cartoon strip (probably a few funnies rather than me drawing stick figures). Nevertheless it is your site and YOUR column – you tell me what you would like to read about throughout the summer.

So Toast is no longer after nearly three hundred issues and close to half a million words! Thanks for the support over the years and I hope you will like the new column.

Incidentally what do you like with your Toast on a Sunday – coffee, full English or something else – tell us your stories as they will be useful when we put together flashback to your favourite Toast stories.

A long wait

Did you have the pleasure of sitting with two octogenarians yesterday? It could be the two women that I heard about on Friday night. Pete a shareholder from Basingstoke was off to Twickers yesterday for the Army v Navy rugby game and his mother insisted that she went to Fratton Park with her close friend.

I hope they enjoyed their day out, I know they were both very excited as it was their first visit in sixty eight years!!

Toast all burnt out now. See ya!

…and remember to keep and eye open for the next Mark Catlin blog that this month will be hosted here on Vital Pompey!