Awfs fires first salvo at troops

Nicky Shorey helps the Blues shackle Bristol Rovers. Picture: Joe Pepler
Nicky Shorey helps the Blues shackle Bristol Rovers. Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford admitted he had to hand his players their first dressing down against Bristol Rovers.

Awford explained there was some straight talking handed out to his players at half-time on Saturday.

Pompey were twice pegged back by the strugglers in an end-to-end first half at Fratton Park.

Their defending lacked the organisation of recent weeks as Rovers carved out a string of openings.

Awford was unhappy with the space the visitors were finding in Pompey’s penalty area.

That was made clear as he tinkered with the way his team was set up.

He was pleased to see his players respond in the right way as they upped their display after the break.

Awford said: ‘I had a word at half-time because it was needed.

‘We were a bit loose and the difference was there for everyone to see in the second half.

‘The players responded to that instruction at half-time.

‘There was slight adjustments to be made at that stage.

‘Thankfully they paid off for us.

‘That was great to see.’

Despite being unhappy with elements of his team’s display in the first 45 minutes, Awford acknowledged Bristol Rovers deserved praise.

They forced Pompey on to the back foot, despite having the worst away record in all four top English divisions.

Awford said: ‘I asked them at half-time to stand up to what they were facing.

‘That’s the first serious test they’ve had.

‘Bristol Rovers deserved credit for the way they played.

‘We didn’t have that fluency that we’ve had.

‘But that was partly down to how Bristol Rovers went about things.

‘Ryan Taylor was a little isolated – but that was because they pegged us back.

‘Fair play to them for that.

‘I asked for some different qualities from the players and they responded to that.’

Awford was pleased to see the game played out in another high-intensity atmosphere at Fratton Park.

Rovers brought 2,300 fans for a huge match in their season.

Their followers made themselves heard, as did the Fratton faithful after a few lulls in the first half.

Awford said: ‘It was a huge day for them. You could see that.

‘They are a big club.

‘Their fans were good and contributed to things.

‘But I don’t think they stood much chance when our fans got going!

‘It was a great atmosphere and we were deserved winners in there.’