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).
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.
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.