Little to cheer about over Pompey’s away-day woes

Jed Wallace, left, celebrates with Miles Storey after scoring against Shrewsbury last Saturday ' Pompey's first league goal away from home in 463 minutes of football Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace, left, celebrates with Miles Storey after scoring against Shrewsbury last Saturday ' Pompey's first league goal away from home in 463 minutes of football Picture: Joe Pepler

Mick Kennedy still gleefully recounts tales how Pompey players from his era negotiated those rambling journeys requiring infinite endurance.

The ever-popular midfielder recently relayed to me how Alan Ball would regularly embrace the suggestion of consuming alcohol to dull the boredom on the team coach’s return trip following a match.

Senior players would contribute £20 each to a kitty, before designated members hopped off the bus to descend upon the nearest off-license for a spot of bulk buying.

Inevitably, beer was the overriding choice of drink, although Ball would insist they returned with two bottles of red wine for his private pleasure.

The then Pompey boss had no issues with such requests on the basis, during that period, his team more often than not performed extremely well during fixtures away from Fratton Park.

It is backed up by finishes of fourth, fourth and then finally second over successive campaigns in the old division two on their way to returning to the top flight to start the 1987-88 season.

The approach was, of course, entirely of its time, highly inappropriate in today’s modern game, while improbable in accordance to current legislation on drinking in vehicles.

Certainly, Andy Awford’s current set-up would not be partaking in similar antics during the frequent 400-plus round trips which dominate their League Two fixture list.

Besides, their present dreadful away form does not even deserve such squad rewards to ease the travelling agony.

There can be no alcohol-induced escape, as the Fratton faithful have often discovered while traipsing around the country supporting their team in recent times.

Fratton Park has generally been a happy hunting ground for the Blues this season, as they prepare to entertain Carlisle this afternoon.

They have suffered just the one league defeat to date there, picking up four wins in seven home matches and conceding only the six times.

True, there was a loss to Northampton in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy last month.

But that can be countered by a triumph over League One promotion-chasers Peterborough in the Capital One Cup.

It represents a completely different page to their away results, which entered new realms of torment in last weekend’s loss at Shrewsbury.

A freak goal from Connor Goldson was the culprit, a decisive moment termed ‘gut-wrenching’ by Danny Hollands in the aftermath while picking over the bones of what would have been a deserved point.

At least Awford’s men netted through an early Jed Wallace penalty to bring a screeching halt to a goalless league run away from home stretching 463 minutes by the time the stopwatch was clicked.

The previous occasion Pompey had netted on their league travels was through Craig Westcarr’s late close-range effort at Oxford – 64 days earlier.

So five successive League Two matches away from Fratton Park during which Pompey had failed to find the back of the net, with largely insipid performances to boot.

At least there was Yeovil in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Let us not allow that to slip from our minds, nor with it the touch of class from Westcarr for his goal.

A 3-1 Huish Park victory over the League One outfit, instigated by two-goal Jed Wallace and a masterful central-defensive performance by Johnny Ertl, still represents one of the highlights of the season.

As many goals in one cup fixture as they have totalled during eight league encounters on their travels so far.

If that is not a statistic to alarm any football fan regardless of supporting persuasion, the fact four of the last five Saturdays before today have been away from Fratton Park is downright merciless.

During that dark period since September 27, Blues followers have visited Hartlepool, York, Bury and Shrewsbury – a round-trip total of 2,132 miles.

And for what?

A return of one goal, two points, a dreadful display at Gigg Lane and more complaints of heavy handedness by the West Mercia police.

Remarkably, during those four matches, Pompey have still averaged visiting attendances of 718, including 501 catching the 653-mile round trip to Victoria Park.

True support indeed, particularly as the seasonal Hartlepool journey has now yielded three successive goalless draws, with sparse entertainment in each of those sleep-inducing clashes.

Pompey’s failure to beat both Pools and York will dog every progressive footstep the club may take as the current campaign unfolds, a pungent smell which cannot be wafted away.

Awford’s men had enough goal-scoring opportunities to have won both, yet, instead, departed with hollow goalless draws and very little to be pleased with.

A week following the Pompey result, Hartlepool suffered a 3-0 defeat at home to Carlisle and hours later boss Colin Cooper tendered his resignation.

Similarly, nine days after playing out a goalless draw with Awford’s side, Nigel Worthington resigned from his position as York manager.

Today’s league table portrays Hartlepool at the foot of League Two and York third from bottom, while the only side in the league they have defeated (Oxford) are 19th.

The only other point was collected at 10th-place Exeter.

But for now let’s enjoy this afternoon’s clash with Carlisle – clearly an enhanced prospect of victory considering it is a Fratton Park.

Next up on their travels is Plymouth at midday on November 15.

May that trek produce a rare positive result – and how the fans would join Mick Kennedy and Co in a toast while returning home on the A35.