After a long wait, we finally returned to competitive football following the summer break. As August ticked over we saw a couple of new additions link up with the Pompey squad, as well as the curtain raiser of our second season in English Football’s 4th tier.
The first game of the month was actually the Blues final pre-season friendly, against Charlton Athletic. Although the Addicks won 2-1 at Fratton Park, the boys in blue were confident ahead of the opening match at St James’ Park. Andy Awford made his final addition to the squad before the game, acquiring Paul Robinson on loan from Millwall.
One of the many things contributing to the excitement of the new season was the new kit launch, due to the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, the blues unveiled the special commemorative shirt with the names of the Pompey pals watermarked onto it as well as the design being that of the 1914 kit.
The season began is superb fashion with Jed Wallace opening his account for the season, levelling the score after Tom Nichols put the home side in front. The following Tuesday Pompey took on League One side Peterborough United in the League Cup, a competition Pompey have exited in the first round of for the last two seasons. The Posh were outclassed by a new-look Blues squad who took the lead through on-loan striker Miles Storey, the one and only goal of the half meant Pompey cruised into the second round, where they drew Premier League opposition Stoke City.
Next up for Pompey was our first home league game of the season, against newly-promoted Cambridge United. The U’s endured a successful final season in non-league last term with some impressive performances and finally won in the play-off final against Gateshead at Wembley.But the new-boys were no match for Pompey, who through Ryan Taylor and a Chris Dunne own-goal took all three points. Previous to the win Pompey drew Yeovil Town in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, a competition Pompey have never won.
Following the two wins the Blues second choice ‘keeper Michael Poke suffered an injury, leaving just youth team goalkeeper Alex Bass to cover Paul Jones, Bass was on the bench for the match against Cambridge but days later former Brighton stopper Peter Brezovan made his way to Fratton Park, where he joined on non-contract terms.
Brezovan’s first involvement was on the bench against Northampton, a club who were in a lot of trouble last season, before turning their misfortune around late on. But the Cobblers were no match for Awford’s side, as Wallace bagged his second of the season, Craig Westcarr netted his first Pompey goal to double the lead and seal maximum points.
A Pompey XI was sent to Havant & Waterlooville where Brezovan got some game time, the 34 year old kept a clean sheet in a goalless draw at Westleigh Park. There were some other first teamers involved as Adam Webster, Ryan Bird, Andy Barcham, Johnny Ertl and Dan Butler got minutes under their belts.
Back to the first team, and it was a trip down the road to Oxford United next in store, a tasty fixture against an Oxford side who were yet to chalk any points on the board. An extra spice is added due to the Bulls manager, former Pompey boss Michael Appleton who took charge at Pompey from 2011 to 2012. Just one goal was scored at the Kassam, Westcarr’s later kneed-volley sending over 2,000 away fans wild!
The joy wouldn’t last too long, as days later we travelled to Stoke City for our second round match in the League Cup. The Premier League opponents were fielding such stars as Charlie Adam, Jack Butland and ex-Blues striker Peter Crouch. Victor Moses made his Potters début and ran the Blues defence ragged. The opening goal was scored by Jon Walters, an experienced striker nipping in ahead of Jones to net his first of the game. He doubled the lead just after the break before Peter Crouch headed Stoke’s third. Although he conceded three, Paul Jones earned the nickname Paul ‘the wall’ Jones after some unbelievable saves. One overshadowing downside to the game was Jack Whatmough picking up a knock, something the blue army will be disappointed to see, although Whatmough was given a tonic for missing some club action, as he was called up to play for the England U19 team to face Germany.
Ahead of Pompey’s next game, defender Paul Robinson extended his stay with the club until January 5th following his comments in the media about wanting to remain on the South Coast.
So, it took Premier League opposition to break Awford’s 12 game unbeaten run, but it was still in tact league wise as Newport were the visitors to Fratton Park. A game where Pompey were lucky to still be level going into the final ten minutes following County’s effort hitting the bar in the first half. Ryan Taylor and Craig Westcarr had chances but Andy Sandell, who had been on the pitch just four minutes scored the goal to leave Awford’s league record in ruin.
After a great start, Pompey will be delighted with a high ranking league position but disappointed with ending the month in 7th, the Newport game taking a lot out of the side. After 12 games unbeaten Pompey are now going into our JPT game with Yeovil on the back of back-to-back defeats. It will be interesting to see how the Blues bounce back in both the trophy in midweek, and in the league against Burton Albion in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Sunday.