Pompey 1 Hartlepool 0

Josh Passley. Picture: Joe Pepler
Josh Passley. Picture: Joe Pepler

It was solid, worthy, workmanlike and entirely unspectacular – but Pompey had their victory.

The wait lasted two months and 17 days.

Five members of the Pompey squad who last secured a win are no longer even at Fratton Park.

In truth, there was no bolt of lightning crashing down from above to herald the change of fortune long craved.

For many the stomach was still rumbling following a performance which served more as a light snack rather than a hearty five-course meal.

Not vintage Pompey, although what does it matter.

It would be undoubtedly harsh to lay too much criticism on the Blues having beaten Hartlepool 1-0 on Saturday.

Manager Andy Awford has been dicing with dismissal, such has been the absence of victories and the ensuing plummet down the League Two table.

Olly Birch and other fans have been stirred into action to drive the return of the Wall of Noise in an attempt to provide match-winning inspiration.

Some Pompey players have even paid the price for the ongoing disappointment by being shown the Fratton exit.

So when that triumph did arrive, it would be churlish to denounce its manner.

Irrespective, the Blues had their first three points in 10 matches – and didn’t they deserve it.

It took an hour for the decisive moment, by which time the chants of ‘Blue Army’ had long since petered out and frustration had started to creep in.

Ryan Taylor’s cross from the left provided it, with Matt Tubbs getting ahead of Dan Jones to glance a header home for his maiden Pompey goal.

A clinical moment in a fixture of few goal-scoring opportunities for the hosts.

But overall the performance was one of bristling domination.

Awford’s men rarely appeared not in complete control over the rock-bottom Pools, who represented one of the poorest sides faced this season.

Once again employing the wing-back system, the Blues’ impressive central defensive threesome of Joe Devera, Paul Robinson and Jack Whatmough were highly dominant throughout.

Pools boss Ronnie Moore saw his side barely muster a meaningful attack over the 90 minutes and in striker Scott Fenwick the visitors had the least effective contributor on the pitch by some distance.

A side Pompey were buoyant about getting a goalless draw against at Victoria Park earlier in the season are surely destined to have their Football League departure confirmed long before May.

Those 14,397 fans present, consisting of 183 away supporters, witnessed a convincing, narrow win with precisely no indication the visitors were capable of fleeing with three points.

The result was justified and, at a time when Awford continues to battle to remain in his job, that was of overriding importance rather than the display’s entertainment value.

Not that the Blues played badly, they were just not particularly inspiring as the match wore on to its satisfactory conclusion.

Still, there was that sixth win in their last 29 fixtures in all competitions and suddenly Awford’s men have tapped into momentum.

Following on from a fine draw at then league leaders Wycombe last weekend, that’s now four points from the past two matches as they begin to climb the table.

In the process, the under-fire manager has rediscovered the 3-5-2 system, a crucial find underpinned by the arrival of a natural attacking right-back in Josh Passley.

Still early days, undoubtedly, yet the Blues appear a far more effective and organised outfit when utilising that formation.

Jed Wallace is thriving in a more central attacking role with a greater remit for exploring, while Danny Hollands and James Dunne are anchoring the midfield.

Dunne in particular was Saturday’s outstanding performer with his tackling ability, drive and aggressive energy hounding his often-fraught opponents.

It was the former Stevenage man at his waspish best, marauding the centre of the park and starting so many Pompey attacking moments by capturing the ball.

It is no coincidence that following his return from knee surgery as a substitute at Luton, performances have picked up considerably, even if, until yesterday, the points had not been mounting up.

Meanwhile in Tubbs – the culprit of two glorious missed chances against Wycombe the previous week – the Blues have a razor-sharp striker who continues to impress. In addition, his breakthrough goal against Hartlepool removes that particular weight from his shoulders as he seeks to make an impact in these new surroundings.

Another positive during a period when supporters have been desperate for them, perhaps that corner has been turned. We shall see.

With Ben Chorley out with the ankle injury which forced him off late on at Adams Park, Devera stepped up from the bench for the only change.

Awford also opted to retain his wing-backs, granting Passley his home bow after the loanee put in a good debut at the Chairboys.

Spurred on by a solid rendition of ‘Blue Army’ for the opening nine minutes, Pompey started encouragingly, with plenty of early pressure.

Devera may have crowned his return to the side with a goal following Wallace’s free-kick from the left in the opening minute.

The defender found himself six yards out when the ball fell his way, yet couldn’t react quick enough and the ball bounced off him for a goal kick.

On 14 minutes, Wallace drove in a 25-yard free-kick which keeper Scott Flinders punched away somewhat uncomfortably for one of only two Blues attempts on target that half.

The second was a thumping far post Robinson header from Butler’s free-kick which flew straight at the keeper.

Pompey were comfortable, yet struggling to find a way past inspired debutant David Mirfin in the heart of the Pools defence.

A deal of patience was desired and that was rewarded with Tubbs’ goal in front of the Fratton end.

Come the final whistle, the relief was noticeable.

Next up is Dagenham & Redbridge tomorrow night as Awford’s men seek to record back-to-back league wins for the first time since August.

It’s the next test for the Blues in this disappointing campaign.