Below-Par City Get Exactly What They Deserve: Imps 0-2 Portsmouth

Courtesy Graham Burrell

No point in glossing it up or making excuses; last night was really poor.

Yes, we were playing Portsmouth and I’m not one to start calling doom and gloom after a couple of bad results. We’re at a level now where we’re often going to see defeats and we have to understand knee-jerk reactions are simply not going to do any good. Nobody was complaining when we played out from the back against Blackpool and won 1-0, or Bolton and won 5-1.

Two defeats, one bad performance and the experts are out in force once again, bringing their own unique brand of misery to social media and a pub bar stool somewhere near you. That said, after 100 minutes of football last night, I felt like screaming myself. It’s why I didn’t write when I got home, because I was mad and ready to lay into some of the players.

It’s hard to dissect a game in which very little happened. I felt the first half was a complete bore-fest, punctuated only by a couple of nasty fouls and the obvious goal. Pompey were incredibly well organised, always able to mop up anything we decided to throw at them. Not that we threw a lot, John-Jules showed the slightly more petulant side of his game with a few open-armed gestures when passes didn’t land exactly where he wanted. Tom Hopper ran around a lot but turned in the sort of first half performance those of a certain age might have compared to David Cameron (footballer before runny cheese-faced politician stole the name).

Courtesy Graham Burrell

We offered little going forward but were never troubled really at the other end of the field. One Marquis header went wide when he came from an offside position, but for all their neat passes Pompey never really penetrated. In the early exchanges at least we looked solid enough, Bolger I thought turned in a decent performance, as did Eardley on the right. I was surprised to see Eardley stay on the pitch on 25 minutes though, one really late tackle looked, from my vantage point, utterly horrendous. Clearly, it wasn’t as referee Ben Toner gave a yellow, not a red.

A word on him too; he didn’t make glaring errors again, he got the big decisions right, but much of his evening was very under-par again. The linesman on the Coop side missed some glaring throw-in decisions and at one point in the second half, Steve Seddon absolutely mullered Joe Morrell late and high, only for the lino to ignore it. When Morrell remonstrated with him, Seddon and the linesman huddled up like old mate and clearly chuckled at Morrell. Actually, I thought Morrell was a target all evening, some really snidey little digs and kicks that I didn’t expect from Pompey. That said, I thought Eardley was lucky so we gave as good as we got.

I did feel their somewhat robust approach, and the referee’s insistence that it was legal, made a few of our youngsters shrink away. Max Melbourne wasn’t on it at all, Conor Coventry was drowned out once again and Harry Anderson couldn’t get going either. It was just laboured all over the field, with so little to talk about I was often turned around chatting to the people behind me, rather than focusing on the action. I thought I’d found a cure for Conor Casement’s insomnia, even as the fourth official stuck up his board for additional time.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

The goal all started out wide on the right; Harry looked to get away and in scenes we’d witnessed incessantly for 45 minutes, lost possession easily. It wasn’t just Harry, the number of times we gave the ball away needlessly was unreal; time and again passes went astray, players overran the ball and sloppiness reigned supreme. The truth is this; we looked like we did against Bolton and I said back then if we did it against a decent team we’d get beaten. As it was, I was right.

Harry lost the ball, Pompey smelled blood and relentlessly hammered our back four until guess what: we give a silly free kick away. Set pieces are not our forte and a weak wall allowed a savable shot from Ronan Curtis to loop over and into the bottom corner. Tragic. That fuelled the noisy Pompey supporters (the best I’ve seen at Sincil Bank in a decade or two) and from that point on they never stopped singing. That bloody bell aside, they were excellent and the first away support to outsing us in many, many years. They even sang right through half time which is unreal, so fair play to them for that. Mind you, if they’d gone in 0-0 at half time I’m sure the mood would have been different.


  1. On reflection I wonder if we underestimated Portsmouth. They were obviously well organised as you mention, but their work-rate and commitment/robustness/energy were exceptional. With a big and athletic team, it resulted in them winning all the one to one (felt like 3 to 1 most of the time) battles, destroying our composure and stopping any flow in our game. I thought the referee had a good game to be honest and I would have been upset if he’d been harder on us if the boot was on the other foot. Only time will tell whether this is a winning formula in this league but I would bet Portsmouth will continue to thrive. I’m sure there will be a lot of reflection in the post-match analysis but let’s remember the big picture which I still feel positive about.

  2. Can’t understand why young Chappie is just a bench warmer these days. Could it be to put other clubs scouts off. If he is not playing scouts can’t make a report on him. Makes me wonder once the transfer window slams shut. Will he be getting time on the pitch again.

  3. From what I witnessed last night ee were put on our backsides by a much more experienced and more physical side. They outworked us and despite only getting a couple of chances it seemed they were men playing a boys side.
    I feel if there was Bostwick, O’Connor and Frecklington in the middle we could have at least mixed it with their midfield. As it was, we were completely brushed aside up front and in the middle so thankfully our defence and Portsmouth’s lack of invention kept the score to a minimum.
    It was a reality check of where we are but I still think what Appleton is building will be better football than the Cowley’s produced. He obviously needs time though I think we will still beat a lot of sides in this division this season.

  4. The thing that most amazed me last night was the complete apparent lack of guidance from the sidelines by Appleton. Players were often seen looking at each other, wondering what to do or what not to do, and our coach remained totally detached. I didn’t once spot him offering any input, choosing to remain largely motionless and with the sort of body language that Tilson displayed during his ill-fated reign. I remain unconvinced by his appointment.

  5. Waterleys Imp and Johnny I am with you…. Portsmouth were organised, strong and determined… the fact that they did not create much of note in open play was down to some decent resolute defending on our part. Sometimes you have to put your hand up and say that on the night they were the better team by some distance. You only have to look at their rise up the League in the last month or so to see this was no one off performance. A team very similar in stature to Rotherham, I think these two teams could be automatically promoted.

  6. Portsmouth certainly set a benchmark last night, and I think ever since Grant has lost his mid field slot we have been below par. If Tyler Walker goes back then I dont see where the goals are going to come from.full marks to Jackett for doing his homework on City.

  7. Thanks for not sugaring the pill, Gary, JUst one question: How many knee-jerk reactions does it take before a pattern emerges?

  8. I have to disagree slightly with your write up. Maybe because our expectations are different? Mine are to beat teams below or around us most of the time and hold our own/give teams a run for there money that are above or near the top of the league.

    As such I thought we did alright last night (watched on ifollow). Could have done better but not bad.

    Be careful what you wish for.


  9. Losing to promotion contender who is on the good run of form recently is not a worry. Our poor display only a bit as it happens, bad day at the office.
    What is worrying me is this transfer window / our squad. We were looking to January as we couldn’t wait to reinforce and bolster our team haven’t we ??
    What happened though is not exactly what we wanted I’m afraid. We have lost our best player in Toffolo instead we have got Melbourne who is nowhere near Toff’s level at the moment. We’ve lost our best winger in Bruno. We brought one as well – Zack. As it stands atm he is only warming the bench and even when we chasing result like last night not being put on. If Hesketh is in front of him in pecking order then he is not good enough. Well not yet… We’ve lost O’Connor, main component of our midfield so far. Instead we brought some maybe talented kids but with no experience in senior football like Coventry/Edun. Then we brought another kid in Tyreece and not very prolific Hopper instead of Akinde.
    To many changes in short space of time? Surely. We looked last night like our players just met for the first time. Not enough experience? Surely. It was like boys vs men as well.
    If we can keep Morrell and Tyler we’ll be fine. But if not I’m not looking forward to last months of this season….

  10. Pompey fan here, I was not at the game so no insight on that subject from me. I always like to read what opposing fans say about a match. There must be something about the northern eastern bit of the country that encourages sensible football commentary. Very good read about the match, insightful and reasonable, and completely sensible comments. Last time I saw something this good was from Sunderland fans. Hope you don’t object too much to the comparison.Thanks and good luck for the remainder of the season. I still have a soft spot for MA after the impossible position he was put in at our place.

  11. Was working last night so couldn’t even listen to the game, but from what I’ve seen on iFollow it was not as bad as the Gillingham game where we made a team not much better than ourselves look good!

    I think the main issue is the changes during the window. Losing Toffolo, O’Connor, Andrade & Akinde was never going to be easy and I think those first three were in the pipeline before the window opened, so MA had to get new players in and it was always going to be difficult to get players who could slot straight in. this is one of the reasons I hate this window as its too easy to lose good players and there aren’t the friendly games to help the new players gel.

    I’m not worried yet – and after 35 years of being an Imp I’ve seen plenty of things to worry about. I was always expecting this season to be a sharp learning curve and anything above 17th was, for me, the goal!

  12. The Imps’ “old boys” (as they say in Lincolnshire) have a lot of growing up to do! Disjointed, lacklustre performance, only one good chance (blown) up front, Shackell giving everyone the heebie-jeebies with his inability to short pass out from the back (please Shack,don’t pass across the face of the goal when there are nippy skilful opposition forwards ready to pounce). Didn’t realise Anderson was on the field till the second half. No wonder Morrell (we need you Joe!) lost his cool, maybe because he put in a full shift – unlike a few around him. Pompey better organised, better team in all departments. They could have won without the dirty stuff. Southend should be interesting if we give a repeat performance of Tuesday.

  13. Good article Gary. 11 games out of 29 without a goal is the worry. Need to be much more sharper in front of goal. And much more smarter in defence.

  14. Another Pompey fan here…. Well-written, honest summary of the game. Maybe we were more physical in the midfield battles, but that is something that we needed more of, to stop some woeful second-half performances away from home. Michael Appleton is a reasonable manager – he did well for us under very restricted, tough circumstances. You are still finding your feet in this League after quite a few seasons away. Don’t be so negative..:)

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