Bury 2 Pompey 0

Recalled Pompey keeper Mikkel Andersen is powerless to stop Zac Thompson's effort, which was touched home by team-mate Adam Lockwood, giving Bury the lead at Gigg Lane on Saturday
Recalled Pompey keeper Mikkel Andersen is powerless to stop Zac Thompson's effort, which was touched home by team-mate Adam Lockwood, giving Bury the lead at Gigg Lane on Saturday

As the Last Post sounded on Saturday, they stood on the sidelines, arms around each other.

Pompey’s backroom staff remain bound by solidarity and circumstance.

They are an ever-dwindling band these days.

The likelihood is their numbers will be shrunk even more after they were told by administrator Trevor Birch on Thursday to expect further redundancies at the club.

And, of course, there were the midweek departures of Michael Appleton and Ashley Westwood – the manager and the first-team coach who took up residence 46 miles away from Bury’s Gigg Lane.

It was Guy Whittingham who informed his colleagues late on Wednesday night of their exits for Blackpool.

He had found out himself at 5.30pm from Birch.

No prior warnings, no emotional goodbyes, no farewell speeches, no time for a collection.

Appleton and Westwood had gone. For good.

Now Pompey will be relying on those same staff left behind to successfully fight the gravitational pull towards League Two.

They remain the only hope at present to somehow arrest the plummet towards the relegation zone.

A run of four successive league defeats sees the Blues two points above the dotted line.

It means Whittingham and Andy Awford are leading the charge for an indefinite time period.

Their tenure is expected to be at the very least until the Pompey Supporters’ Trust take the keys to Fratton Park.

Considering there is a court case in the pipeline with Portpin over their charge, that may yet not be until next year.

With the club still in administration and the Trust eager for a say in the next managerial appointment, there will be no permanent successor to Appleton for a while.

So it is Whittingham and Awford for the time being – those former team-mates and inductees into the Hall of Fame who have answered the call.

A tremendously popular choice among the supporters, many of whom are still stinging in the manner Appleton handled his exit.

If ever there was a time to bring in people with Pompey blood coursing through their veins to take charge, then this is it.

Ultimately, there is no doubting where the loyalties of Whittingham and Awford lie, nor their motivations.

What’s more, they have been heavily involved in the backroom set-up for a number of years recently and are familiar with the players right the way through the ranks.

Now they will be challenged to eke out the results during this time of continued limbo.

For their first outing together, at Gigg Lane, the duo patrolled the touchline for the full 90 minutes, with Awford the more remonstrative unquestionably.

Little surprise he gave a few choice words to the linesman at the match’s end as he sportingly shook his hand.

It was the very same linesman who had given a debatable penalty against Carl Dickinson.

Yet Awford’s and Whittingham’s voices could be heard loudest of all in the announcement of the team for Saturday.

Academy manager Awford has long claimed Ashley Harris’ most effective position is as a striker – a theory backed up by Whittingham.

So it was no coincidence the Purbrook teenager lined up alongside Izale McLeod in attack.

There were also recalls for keeper Mikkel Andersen and fit-again Darel Russell, making it three changes to the team who lost to Brentford in mid-week.

Certainly an early stamp of authority delivered to the side by the caretaker duo.

Meanwhile, Scott Allan was suspended and Akos Buzsaky out with a hamstring problem.

In addition, the loan departures of Josh Thompson and Luke Rodgers at the tail-end of the week ensured just five substitutes could be named.

Now they will attempt to bring in a defender and striker to replace them as they seek to bolster the quality of the squad they have inherited.

As it was, the occasion would not prove to be a happy one for Blues followers, with no instant success.

Once more the side struggled to produce shots on target and yet again the opposition goal was not breached.

That’s now four matches without a goal, since Wes Thomas returned to Bournemouth.

It is also 399 minutes since they last netted – through Jon Harley at Stevenage.

The on-the-pitch problems, however, run much deeper than scoring goals.

Alarmingly, there is also the manner in which they are conceding them.

With some inevitability, Bury’s opener was another sloppy piece of defending, something which has become an increasing worry.

On 19 minutes, Andersen punched out a corner as far as Zac Thompson, who drove in a shot from the edge of the area.

Somehow, his effort found its way through a ruck of players and into the net at the far post, which had been left unguarded.

Adam Lockwood would claim the final touch for the goal, while afterwards Whittingham intimated Mustapha Dumbuya had left his post duties early. Regardless, the outcome was the same, blighting an otherwise-satisfactory opening 45 minutes.

At half-time, Gabor Gyepes, who had been taken ill, was replaced by Johnny Ertl in the centre of defence.

Then in the 56th minute the Shakers doubled their advantage in controversial circumstances.

The impressive Dominic Poleon burst down the right and entered the penalty area, where Dickinson appeared to stop the ball with a challenge.

Yet the linesman swiftly flagged for a foul and Steven Schumacher put away the resulting penalty.

Not even the home fans had appealed for that decision, and it certainly incensed the Pompey players, with Dickinson also booked.

Jack Compton and Liam Walker were both introduced.

It was early action on substitutions – something Appleton had not tended to do, prompting long-time criticism of the previous manager by some fans.

Still, there was no way back for the Blues, who were given generous support by the noisy 806 away fans.

At one point a conga took place late in the second half, much to the amusement of Whittingham, who afterwards made the admission.

Nonetheless, a fifth consecutive defeat deepens the woes at a club without an owner, without a 
manager and with just 18 first-team players.

Now it’s over to Whittingham and Awford to somehow change it.

Good luck, gentlemen.