Awford’s biggest test tackled head on

Andy Awford. Picture: Joe Pepler
Andy Awford. Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford was already waiting in the press room at Fratton Park.

The local media were preparing to quiz the Pompey boss, as he faced up to his biggest challenge since coming into the manager’s role in April.

And he was tackling that challenge head on.

Dealing with some potentially difficult questions from us hacks isn’t always the most appetising of prospects for a manager.

But there the Blues boss was, with the vibrancy and enthusiasm needed to fight off the gloom, which could easily have begun to descend after three league losses on the bounce.

A couple of days earlier his demeanour was very different in the aftermath of defeat at Roots Hall.

Pompey weren’t great by any stretch, as they fell to a lacklustre loss to Southend – but neither were the victors.

The first goal was always going to be crucial between two sides with brittle confidence. It went the way of the Shrimpers.

It was what occurred after which contributed to Awford’s deflated air, as he faced post-match questions.

A lack of response to falling behind was what had disappointed the 42-year-old.

He noted that was the first time in 17 games since the Newport County win last season that had happened. That wasn’t a team in the Pompey boss’ image.

Awford later explained the margin was very fine between a despondent air – and downright fury.

So, emotions were running high as he had to endure that post-match ritual of a drink with a bronzed Phil Brown bathing in the afterglow of victory.

That, presumably, was like being at that social gathering you get dragged to by your partner, with a bunch of people who are nothing like you. Bite the bullet, smile sweetly and get the heck out.

Some weekend family duties didn’t allow Awford much time to stew on events from Saturday.

That’s just as well, because by the time Monday arrived he had to be ready to energise Pompey ahead of Dagenham.

Awfs delivered the message to his players over what was required in no uncertain terms.

He then followed that up with a similar performance to the few assembled media, to ensure the same message went out to the Fratton faithful.

Awford’s quotes read like a personal team-talk for the press.

‘Get after them: That’s the message,’ he said.

‘It’s an opportunity for us to go out and play with tempo.

‘I’ve told them don’t wait for someone else – you do it.

‘We need to get after them and go and get that victory.’

Both fans and players responded to that against the Daggers.

For all the improved tempo and noise, however, it didn’t quite click for Pompey for much of the first-half, as passes went astray.

Then James Dunne made the breakthrough with a goal that was pure will personified.

Dunne wasn’t waiting for someone else.

Suddenly the confidence which drained on Saturday flowed, with the added aid of a second-half Daggers red card.

That paved the way for a game which was much the same as three days earlier to end in a 3-0 success. Small margins.

Awford acknowledged that fact after the game. But all he, quite rightly, cared about was the points on this occasion.

So the blip, and biggest test of Awford’s 18 games as Pompey manager, has been negotiated.

The challenge is to make it at least that long before the next one arrives.

At least we know it will be met head on.