Awford delight with more high fliers grounded

Andy Awford can breathe again, the tough batch of fixtures have thankfully been negotiated.

And with their passing comes the realisation of the Blues’ strengths and potential.

Josh Passley. Picture: Joe Pepler

Josh Passley. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey collected a goalless draw at League Two leaders Wycombe on Saturday through a highly-impressive performance.

Had it not been for the visitors’ profligacy in front of goal during the opening 45 minutes, they would have collected a victory.

Regardless, another encouraging showing having also encountered Luton, Newport County, Burton and Southend in recent weeks.

It’s a five-game spell which has seen Awford’s men facing five of the top six – avoiding defeat in two of them.

An admirable period and plenty to be positive about following the Adams Park final chapter.

Awford said: ‘We have played five out of the top six and although we have only taken three points, the people who have been at the games will have seen what we can do.

‘Obviously we have got to start turning the defeats into draws and draws into wins, but on Saturday it was probably as many chances as we have created this season away from home.

‘I was disappointed we didn’t go in at half-time one or two up, we should have done but fair play to the players they didn’t go under, they stood up to it.

‘The delivery from set-pieces were good, there were a couple of penalty shouts as well. On another day it goes for you but it didn’t Saturday, although I was really pleased.

‘I just picked the best XI I felt was right for the game and am disappointed we didn’t win.

‘We deserved to win overall, even if the second half was very even, they probably pushed us back and had a bit more possession.’

Of the recent testing run, the Blues have picked up points at Wycombe and fourth-placed Luton, while drawing at home to second-placed Burton.

The defeats came by one goal to sixth-placed Newport and fifth-placed Southend.

For Saturday’s trip to Adams Park, Awford opted to hand a debut to Josh Passley following his arrival from Fulham 48 hours earlier.

The 20-year-old lined up at right wing-back as Pompey’s manager reverted back to the 3-5-2 system employed earlier in the season.

Dan Butler slotted in on the opposite flank as Awford made six changes to the side which lost 2-1 to Southend the previous week.

And the Blues boss was pleased with how his latest recruit fared.

He added: ‘I thought Josh was very good in a good team performance.

‘He’s a good, athletic boy, you can see that, he’s got good legs and I was really pleased with him. It was a good debut.

‘He featured for Shrewsbury at right wing-back, that’s the system they play, and he can go and play at right-back as well, he’s also comfortable in there.’

Meanwhile, Paul McCallum will today learn his disciplinary fate with the Football Association.

The 21-year-old has pleaded guilty to a charge of improper conduct following his dismissal against Southend.

He faces at least one game added to his current three-match ban.