FRUSTRATION at Fratton Park. Our fans’ panellists pick the bones out of Pompey’s last-gasp smash and grab raid.
A frustrating trip down to Portsmouth, with a very late goal meaning we came away with nothing. I would say that was undeserved, because, until then, we had run the game, and should have had it sewn up in the first half, with two glaring misses by Matt Phillips the main opportunities.
The referee didn’t help our cause either, with inconsistent decisions – six players being booked for us in what was never a dirty game, but the fact remains that we need to start taking our chances when we are on top.
That probably means some investment in a couple of loanees to bring that missing quality to the side. Get those in and we are not far away from being able to do very well in this division. Defensively, we were solid until the very last moments, when a mistimed header from Evatt fell straight to the one player on their side with the technique to be able to convert the chance. For me, we are missing a creative midfielder and a striker to play with Kevin Phillips.
I thought the introduction of Ince gave us a spark that has been lacking recently. His pace enabled us to fashion a number of opportunities and he deserves an extended run in the side.
A bad result, but a decent enough performance, and that will stand us in good stead.
Man of match: Tom Ince
Saturday’s game at Fratton Park was a harsh lesson in finishing.
Portsmouth spent the entire match practically begging us to run at them and split their defence. This we did with ease – with Tom Ince in particular impressing. However, we did not capitalise on any of these ample opportunities – and therein lay our downfall.
We were punished in storybook fashion, with a brilliant strike in the last minute of injury time. Just punishment, I think. And alas no happy ending.
I heard grumblings about refereeing decisions, but quite simply we only have ourselves to blame.
I am not concerned, because I know this situation is fixable and Ollie will resolve it. After all, we know he is an expert in attacking football, and we will never suffer anything like a long-term goal drought.
We are creating spaces and opportunities. And our players will learn from the mere presence of Super Kev, whose movement is quite superb.
We just have to be patient. Our team is being rebuilt. It might not be happening as fluidly as we would have liked, but when we get there it will prove worth the wait.
The good news from Saturday is that we looked far livelier than in the previous match.
Man of match: Kevin Phillips
An extremely frustrating afternoon on the South Coast, resulting in a gutting late winner. It wasn’t that we played badly, but the whole 90 minutes was a frustration. On Portsmouth’s part it was definitely a smash and grab.
The killer ball was missing all afternoon, but defensively Portsmouth got their tactics spot on. Every time we got anywhere in the final third we were crowded out by blue shirts. Kevin Phillips immediately had three on him every time he touched the ball. In that situation, we just couldn’t find a way through. We had our chances, but just couldn’t take them.
The game wasn’t helped by the referee. It couldn’t flow, and somehow the stats show that we ended up committing six fouls and getting six bookings.
There were encouraging signs though. Tom Ince was excellent and caused problems, the Southern/Ferguson partnership is really beginning to work well and defensively we looked comfortable enough. We are missing that third midfielder though. As well as he’s playing it doesn’t get the best out of Gary Taylor-Fletcherd.
We now have Coventry tonight and Bristol City on Saturday. And we could really do with a couple of wins to build some confidence up. I’m not worried about the home form, but I do think we need to get another away win.
Man of match: Tom Ince
Portsmouth is a long way to travel back from when you lose, but it’s like a trans-Atlantic flight when you’re beaten by the last kick of the game.
The Portsmouth fan I interviewed last week, Colin Farmery, told me to watch out for Kanu because he can change the game – and boy, was he right.
Before the Nigerian’s introduction in the second half, Pool were dominant, and could easily have been out of sight before the interval, with Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Matt Phillips both playing well.
Pompey, who had only won one of their 17 previous home games, started to get back into it and stole it at the end. To lose to a goal as good as Huseklepp’s doesn’t bother me, but to lose with the last kick of the match is sickening.
You might argue the ball should have been cleared from the throw-in that resulted in the goal, but we should have already been two or three goals up. And while Kevin Phillips and GTF have done an excellent job for us so far this season, I think we need another striker with the quality to finish off some of the fantastic moves we create.
Coventry away will be a chance to put this game behind us, with the Sky Blues currently lying in the relegation zone – and we need to do just that.
Man of match: Not supplied
If Evatt’s attempted headed clearance had dropped to anyone else but Erik Huseklepp, Blackpool would still have remained unbeaten on the road this season.
The Norwegian was the only player that carried a threat for Pompey, in another game that Pool were perhaps guilty of passing the opposition to death.
Matty Phillips struggled to make any impact and wasted two of our best early chances, but it was good to see Tom Ince given a start, and he showed glimpses of what he’s capable of if given a longer run in the team.
Holloway’s early change after the re-start, by replacing Matt Phillips with Ludo Silvestre, instantly added more fluidity in the middle, and along with Barry Ferguson and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, the trio carved up Pompey. However, the inability to make the most of Pool’s dominance meant the Seasiders were more and more likely to share the spoils.
Ref Darren Deadman appeared to miss all the major decisions, including the blatant handball by Jason Pearce as he attempted to block Ian Evatt’s shot on the goal line.
A fine Matt Gilks save in the final minutes started the Pompey chimes ringing, but unfortunately nobody in a Tangerine shirt was listening.
Man of match: Gary Taylor-Fletcher
That will go down in the records as a defeat, although it was unfortunate in a game I felt neither team really deserved to win or lose.
Personally, I am happy with where we are, and what we have done this season, but can sympathise with the views of some supporters over the way we are attacking up to now. We’ve seen little of the swashbuckling forward play we were treated to over the last two campaigns, but as far as I’m concerned, results should be the priority.
However, some of our play on Saturday merely served to highlight the fact that we are missing a creative spark in the final third of the pitch; despite us playing some very attractive passing around the penalty area we lack the incisiveness required to get that perfect ball into the box. A defeat in the last minute of injury time at Portsmouth should have nobody hitting the panic button though.
Darren Deadman is, quite simply, the worst referee in the Football League. Ask anybody you know who was there on Saturday for confirmation.
We now look forward to two crucial matches. We are capable of a full return from these games, and hopefully we can soon forget about last-minute heartbreak at Portsmouth.
Man of match: Tom Ince