Dagenham & Redbridge 1 Pompey 4

Michael Drennan scores. Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Drennan scores. Picture: Joe Pepler

Humiliated and demoralised on home turf, the Daggers players trudged back towards the sanctity of their dressing room.

With the tunnel located at the very heart of the away end, their agonising misery lingered beyond the final whistle.

Chants of ‘Can we play you every week?’ emanated from the gloating 1,374 away following, many draped over hoardings and around the pitch getaway exit.

Obviously an impossibility, but the Fratton faithful can take comfort they will be able to play Wayne Burnett’s side twice next season.

After all, the Blues are staying in League Two.

Not mathematically certain and still a mere five points above the relegation zone, of course. Admittedly the danger remains.

Yet such is the momentum, spirit and confidence Andy Awford has injected into this side survival is surely a comfortable formality.

Realistically it could be achieved even before Pompey venture to Northampton on Bank Holiday Monday, a fixture for so long depicted as potential Football League D-day for the loser.

Well not any more for either club considering the remarkable progress made in both camps in recent times with new men at the helm.

Bristol Rovers visit Fratton Park on Saturday and a fourth straight victory for Awford’s vibrant Blues will book their place in the Football League for another season.

When isolated it is the most depressing of statements, yet considering the precarious situation only three weeks ago it is worth a ripple of applause upon completion.

With many sides rallying of late in the clamour for safety, it is a depressing thought where Pompey would presently be had Richie Barker remained at the helm over the last three matches.

As it is, the Academy manager has stepped up and showed the newly-appointed MK Dons assistant how it is done.

Awford has transformed the players’ form, galvanised supporters, injected entertainment and, most crucial of all, generated victories.

On Saturday he even inspired Barker’s previously mediocre loan signings Michael Drennan and Rhys McCabe into star turns during rare first-team outings.

It seems the caretaker boss at present can truly do no wrong since replacing a manager who couldn’t put a foot right in many people’s eyes.

Although Barker was undoubtedly talented for putting his foot in his own mouth on a prolific basis, come on give him credit for something.

Still, this is Awford’s Pompey now, a land dramatically unrecognizable from the one overseen by the previous ruler – and aren’t supporters and players revelling in this new regime.

A 4-1 win at Dagenham was one of the Blues’ best performances of the season. Admittedly there has been an alarming absence of competition on that front yet the show they provided on Saturday was outstanding.

Newport County was good and ended a run of six matches without victory, while Hartlepool was one of the most comfortable 1-0 wins you will ever see.

Dagenham & Redbridge was 90 minutes of unbridled entertainment and the insatiable destruction of an opposition which before kick-off still possessed play-off aspirations.

In truth 4-1 flattered the Daggers, who could realistically have lost by plenty more – such was the extraordinary levels Awford’s side touched during the fixture.

After only 19 minutes Burnett’s side sacrificed striker Luke Norris in a bid to arrest the torrent of attacking football washing into their half.

It failed miserably as substitute Lawson D’Ath’s man-marking job on Jed Wallace led to him becoming the only player of the afternoon to be booked and the visitors netting three more times.

Inevitably among them was the man he was meant to be keeping a beady eye on.

Whether Awford is the long-term answer is another discussion for another day, yet at present his input has been priceless and his management faultless.

May the history books show that this Pompey Hall of Famer saved Pompey from relegation in 2013-14.

And not too managers can lay claim to that particular title in recent times.

Incidentally, the only other season in the last five not to end in demotion was under Steve Cotterill in the Championship, Awford now matching his run of three consecutive wins.

That was set on February 22, 2011, during a period of six successive victories, nonetheless reflects the caretaker boss’ current efforts in comparison to predecessors.

There is a delicious vibrancy about the club under Awford, epitomised by the band of brothers on the pitch and in the stands who line-up alongside him.

The 4-2-3-1 system is producing dominant football and goals, as well as defensive solidity initially introduced by Barker.

To think on Saturday among those absent from selection were Wes Fogden, Ben Chorley, Andy Barcham, Adam Webster and Romain Padovani, while Simon Ferry unfortunately appeared to aggravate his back problem during the first-half.

And still Awford picks up the victories, with McCabe, Drennan and Ertl emerging from cold storage to play crucial parts at the Daggers.

It was Danny Hollands who opened the scoring on four minutes when he lashed home his maiden Blues goal having moments earlier struck a posy with a header.

On 21 minutes, Jed Wallace took advantage of the hapless Luke Wilkinson to lob the ball over the advancing keeper and Drennan headed into an empty net.

Wallace then struck the post, while Drennan had one cleared off the line as the rampant Blues tore into their hosts.

Yet on 34 minutes, Abu Ogogo pulled one back when he headed home after Trevor Carson had initially brilliantly denied Medy Elito.

On the stroke of half-time Ogogo and Brian Saah hit the bar and post in the same move.

But following the interval, Drennan’s stunning strike from substitute McCabe’s pass increased Pompey’s lead, while Wallace wrapped it up three minutes from time following another McCabe assist.

So a 4-1 scoreline which lifts the Blues into 16th spot with four matches remaining.

A veritable rout – and how that away contingent gloated come the final whistle.

‘Can we play you every week?’