Awford On The Brink After Shrimpers Defeat

Last updated : 25 January 2015 By Jim Bonner

Iain McInnes stated in his matchday programme notes today that the match against Southend was a "must win" game but Pompey lost despite taking the lead and that surrender is likely to cost Andy Awford his job.

The manager picked the same side that drew with Burton and they started well with Daniel Bentley making a point blank save from Jed Wallace early on whilst Andy Barcham had been instrumental in creating a couple of other attacks.

Pompey then made the pressure count as Craig Westcarr whipped in an excellent free kick to the far post which was bundled in either by Adam Webster or one of Southend's own players depending on your viewpoint but it seems more likely to be the latter.

Unfortunately that lead didn't last long as Southend equalised with the simplest of goals. A long ball was floated into the Pompey box and headed back across goal by David Worrall for an unmarked Ryan Leonard to score. This has happened far too often to Portsmouth in the last couple of years and will make fans wonder how such a basic goal can be scored at a professional level.

Awford's men crumbled after that equaliser and the visitors almost took the lead with the same move but thankfully the ball was cleared off the line before it could be forced over by Worrall after it had been headed across the box once again.

Paul Jones also had to be alert to tip Joe Pigott's long range strike over the bar when it looked like it was going to sail in. Southend had finished the first half in a flourish and Pompey had to regroup at half-time.

The second half wasn't a great spectacle to begin with but Awford made his first huge mistake of the match by replacing the energetic Atangana and the impressive Westcarr with Danny Hollands and Paul McCallum and that move handed the initiative to Phil Brown's side.

Many people in Fratton Park could sense the goal coming and although there was a huge element of fortune in it as Pigott's strike took a deflection off Paul Robinson, he should never have been able to strike the ball in the first place as Nicky Shorey was caught out again by a long ball to Worrall.

Awford's response to falling behind drew the ire of many Pompey fans as Barcham was replaced by Ryan Taylor with loud boos ringing around the groundas the substitution was being made and chants of "you don't know what you're doing!" being aimed at the maligned Awford.

Pompey did rally for a period after that with Bentley making three great saves to deny Robinson, Wallace and Hollands and it seemed there might be some hope when Corr was sent off for a late lunge on Hollands having received an earlier booking for kicking the ball away.

However, the Shrimpers' defence dealt with the desperate long balls that followed and the game ended on a sour note as McCallum was shown a straight red card for violent conduct after reacting to a challenge as his frustration at the referee threatened to boil over.

The Pompey fans' frustration could clearly be heard at the final whistle with boos once again ringing around the old ground. A few fans were singing "There's only one Andy Awford" in defiance but the majority have had enough and this defeat surely marks the end of his managerial career at Portsmouth.

(Edit: It seems like those chants were actually for Andy Barcham rather than Awford, which would make more sense given how he has turned his Pompey career around. That's even less support for Awford than imagined with only a few advocating keeping him now.)

Awford's post-match interview was telling in different ways as he believed that his side were beaten by "fine margins" and although there was an element of luck to Southend's winner and their goalkeeper made a few excellent saves, Pompey were second best the moment they conceded as the confidence of the team was shot.

When asked if he expected to be in charge at Wycombe next week his reply was "I hope so" but said in such a tone that he must surely know his time is up as he has lost the confidence of the fans and his employers now.

It would be a sad ending to what seemed like such a promising career when he first took the job but he has signed his own death warrant by constantly tinkering with his team, being too tactically naive and not reactive enough with his substitutions as well as making some baffling loan signings and not getting the best out of players who should be producing better at League Two level.

As for the players there are some like Westcarr and Tubbs who must be wondering why they signed for Pompey when they aren't getting the service they desire. Why long balls were being pumped up to Tubbs who was never going to win the ball against the giant Southend centre halves is a question only Awford can answer.

Other players like Shorey and Webster at full back have to take a look at themselves and ask themselves if they are good enough for league football. The former has no pace or positional sense and seems to be going through the motions whilst the latter lacks any ability on the ball and infuriatingly has a habit of lumping the ball aimlessly down the right channel expecting something to happen. He did that countless times during the match and it doesn't take a football genius to predict what he was going to do and to see that it wasn't working.

However, it is Awford who takes responsibility for the team and the fact that his side haven't won in eight games and have surrendered too many points for far too many reasons is why he will sadly, but deservedly be shown the door in the very near future.

But who can be called upon to rescue Portsmouth from relegation this time?

Pompey Player Ratings

Paul Jones: 6 - Let down by his defence.

Adam Webster: 3 - Far too limited to succeed at league level.

Joe Devera: 4 - Struggled with Southend's direct approach.

Paul Robinson: 6 - Some good challenges and unlucky with the deflection.

Nicky Shorey: 3 - Needs to retire now.

Jed Wallace: 5 - Little influence in the match.

Nigel Atangana: 6 - Gave the midfield some energy.

James Dunne: 7 - Worked hard as always and tried to hold things together.

Andy Barcham: 7 - Pompey's biggest threat and yet was taken off by Awford.

Craig Westcarr: 6 - Involved in most of Pompey's attacks early on.

Matt Tubbs: 5 - Not getting any service.


Michael Poke

Ben Chorley

Dan Butler

Johnny Ertl

Danny Hollands (Atangana 61): 6 - Had a decent strike well saved.

Paul McCallum (Westcarr 61): 3 - Tweeted an apology for his idiotic red card but did nothing during the game anyway. Send him back?

Ryan Taylor (Barcham 71): N/A - A desperate late move which never paid off.