Solid base is start for Pompey’s caretaker boss

Dan Potts outjumps Jack Compton. Picture: Joe Pepler
Dan Potts outjumps Jack Compton. Picture: Joe Pepler

For a former Pompey centre-back who enjoyed a distinguished career in stopping the opposition from scoring goals, it was no surprise Andy Awford’s first priority was to address his team’s crippling defensive frailties.

The question some have asked is: Why wasn’t he asked to do that sooner?

Awford made no apologies for the way he set Pompey up to play. They were hard to beat, tough to break down, solid and resilent.

A 0-0 draw at Hartlepool was not a game to set the pulses racing and it wasn’t pretty at times.

But it was only a fourth clean sheet in 18 League Two games this season.

At last, it was the foundations being put down as Awford revealed he had not been asked to help out on the defensive side of Pompey’s play before he took caretaker charge.

But he does not believe that was a key mistake previous boss Guy Whittingham made.

Awford said: ‘I wasn’t asked to come in and help out on the defensive side and I don’t think that would have been the right thing to do, either.

‘I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing it from my position as Academy manager.

‘Now as caretaker manager, I’m happy to get on and do it.

‘Guy, Dave Connolly and Alan McLoughlin were the coaches of the first team – that is three voices.

‘If you get another voice telling people what to do, it’s too many and it becomes confusing.

‘Yes, I was a centre-back but it’s not just about teaching and coaching the back four to defend.

‘Guy, Dave and Macca were more than capable of addressing that.

‘But I haven’t just worked with the central defenders or the full-backs. It was the whole team.

‘Of course, I did work with the defenders and showed them some things I thought they could improve on.

‘But I’m never one to point out individuals. I thought it was a collective performance and there was a togetherness we needed.

‘It’s what I asked for and it’s what I got. It was great to see it.’

While Pompey did not attack with great numbers, Awford felt they still had chances to win the game.

He said: ‘Maybe the defensive play was at the expense of our attacking a little bit.

‘But we had chances in the first half and a couple in the second half.

‘We’ve got to remember we’d lost five on the spin, so they would be a bit nervous about conceding a goal.

‘I certainly don’t want us to become a boring 4-5-1 team where we just sit 10 men behind the ball.

‘But in our last game, we played 4-4-2 and we had all 11 men behind the ball at times.

‘There was no outlet and you need that to go and create chances.

‘I thought we created enough chances from a solid base. As long as I’m doing it, we will have a solid base and build from there.’

Awford added: ‘I probably would have taken a 0-0 before the game.

‘I would prefer a 0-0 draw to a 4-4 draw but that’s me.

‘My message to the team was that I wasn’t putting pressure on them to win the game but I was putting pressure on them not to lose the game.

‘We have to have that same mentality in every game.’