Joey Barton says anyone who was at Highbury will know that Portsmouth’s 5-2 win over his Fleetwood Town side was not as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
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Town were 2-1 up when Dean Marney was sent off for a second bookable offence early in the second half.
And Barton believes the League One leaders were saved by the half-time whistle on Saturday.
The Town boss said: “I think every game is winnable and we have proven that this season. We had an opportunity to go eight unbeaten at home and prove that this is a difficult place for any side in our division to come to.
“Anyone who was not at the game will think, ‘Portsmouth are top of the table and have won that one relatively comfortably’. But anyone who was here.... (knows they didn’t).
“Kenny Jackett (Pompey boss) is a good coach, who knows this division and how to set a team up. But when we got the momentum swing of Paddy Madden’s goal, half-time helped them. We did not want half-time.
“We got the second goal and were disappointed that half-time came. It was like a boxer being saved by the bell.
“I felt we would go on and get the third goal but half-time interrupts that.
“Then we find ourselves down to 10. At that point we are up against it.”
Barton felt midfielder Marney’s second booking for a foul on Ben Thompson was “very soft” but he added: “It is very disappointing from our perspective because we probably looked the more likely to go on and win the game.
“We were 2-1 ahead, in the ascendancy and with the momentum, but you cannot go down to 10 men against this calibre of opposition.
“They are top of the table going into the New Year because they are the most consistent team and they have some good players.
“You cannot afford to give them that kind of advantage because, as they have shown, they are clinical.”
Town then compounded their problems when Ross Wallace conceded what his boss called “an absolutely needless penalty” from which the visitors equalised.
Barton added: “The ball was going away from goal and I can only think it is because he had been elbowed in the face a couple of minutes beforehand. Maybe a little bit of the red mist descended and he has decided he wants to make a physical challenge. That is very disappointing.
“They score again a minute after that. Then we get back into a kind of flow again at 3-2 and Paddy Madden’s fantastic header hits the post.
“James Wallace gets the rebound, hits the other side of the post and then they clear the danger. At that point you think maybe it is not going to be our day.
“I cannot fault the players. They give everything for each other. They do on most occasions.”
Portsmouth boss Jackett hailed his side’s character as they end the year three points clear of second-placed Luton.
He said: “There will always be ups and downs if you are going to be successful. You have to win many different games.
“There were a lot of tests for us, and I’m pleased for the players because they overcame them with good quality and good character.
“At 3-2 I felt we needed more goals. In Madden and (Ched) Evans they have a lot of experience and quality. They had one or two players behind them who can serve them.
“They were throwing everything at us and at 11 versus 10 we needed to make it pay.”