Half-time speech which inspired Pompey win that never was

Andy Awford tries to rouse his troops from the touchline Picture: Joe Pepler
Andy Awford tries to rouse his troops from the touchline Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford delivered his dressing room rebuke – and came so agonisingly close to inspiring a tremendous Pompey victory.

Not that the caretaker boss can even begin to rationalise why the stuttering Blues required a rousing speech to motivate them for the second half.

A wretched, lacklustre opening 45 minutes attracted plenty of boos from the Fratton faithful as they headed in at the break 1-0 down to Wycombe on Tuesday night.

When they re-emerged there was a different look about them, not merely in the form of one substitute and a system change.

Through Andy Barcham and another substitute in Patrick Agyemang, the Blues turned the match on its head to lead 2-1, David Connolly even missing a penalty.

Then came Anthony Stewart’s goal four minutes into time added on to provide the heartbreak.

But Awford was at a loss to comprehend just why the side continue to perform so poorly during long periods of matches.

He said: ‘I wish I knew why they do that. I would be manager of Barcelona if I could answer that question!

‘In that first half they were lacklustre, there was no tempo, no confidence, they couldn’t play the crowd at home.

‘For 15 minutes we were okay but the final-third play wasn’t good enough, they didn’t deliver with enough quality and slowly Wycombe wore us down and were by far the better team in the first half.

‘In the second half we smashed it.

‘At half-time I think they knew they let themselves down. I needed a reaction and got it.

‘There are different ways of getting a reaction.

‘It’s no good screaming and bawling and throwing tea cups, you have to be constructive in your criticism – and I was.

‘I told them I still believed in them, because I did.

‘Mind you, at half-time, stupidly and funnily enough, I actually felt we would win the game. I believed.

‘We sorted a few things out, changed the shape – which was always the plan anyway – and should have won that game.’

Victory for Pompey would have been the perfect way for Awford to sign off his last match as caretaker boss.

Previously he endured a late home defeat to 10-man Southend, followed by a comfortable goalless draw at Hartlepool to end five losses in a row.

Finally, he picked up a point in this week’s 2-2 draw – which came within five seconds of being a first victory since November 2 against Exeter.

Now he will hand over the reins to the next manager of Pompey with the board still currently deliberating the preferred choice.

Yet Awford has proven himself unafraid to voice his opinion towards a group of players who have underachieved to reside in 17th spot at present.

He added: ‘That is the manager’s job. If it (criticism) is needed, it is needed.

‘You know me, I will tell them how it is and they did respond to what was said at half-time.

‘But that first half was not good enough – and the second half was fantastic.

‘The players have got to learn that is not right.’