Portsmouth Season Review 2011/2012: March
Feature by Jim Bonner
Updated Tuesday, 12th June 2012
Where it all went horribly wrong...
The third month of 2012 would ultimately prove to be Pompey's downfall as players were loaned out to pay the bills and results on the pitch failed to improve.
Middlesbough were the first team to stick the knife in as they came to Fratton Park and won comfortably. Barry Robson converted a soft penalty and Matt Bates tapped in a second to give Boro the lead.
Greg Halford pulled one back with a spot kick of his own but Pompey were caught on the break as they pushed for an equaliser and Marvin Emnes sealed the win, with Tony Mowbray's men reduced to ten at the end of the game after Rhys Williams was dismissed.
The month's player departures began with Liam Lawrence joining Cardiff for the rest of the season and matters got worse on the pitch as Noel Hunt's first half goal saw Reading beat Portsmouth 1-0 in a truly dire game at the Madjeski Stadium.
That result saw Pompey fall to the very bottom of the Championship as relegation became more and more likely. Michael Appleton's response was to borrow Derby striker Chris Maguire who would make his debut in the next game.
Pompey fans' first trip to Brighton's new Amex Stadium would be a forgettable one. A turgid game of football was settled after Vicente won a cheap free kick for Albion and then drilled the ball past Jamie Ashdown.
The Spaniard then added a second goal in stoppage time to rub even more salt into the wounds.
The bad news wouldn't stop coming as Hayden Mullins and Stephen Henderson, absent in the 2-0 defeat to the Seagulls, were loaned to Reading and West Ham respectively.
Eight points adrift of safety, the home clash with fellow strugglers Bristol City was branded as a "must win" game but Pompey couldn't find a way past David James and the match ended goalless.
Having had such a miserable time in March, Pompey fans needed a lift and they got one in the most stunning fashion when promotion chasing Birmingham came to Fratton Park on a Tuesday night.
Nikola Zigic gave the Brummies an early lead with the home fans thinking "here we go again" but the second half saw four goals for Michael Appleton's men.
Maguire got the ball rolling with a deflected strike and was then barged over by David Murphy who received a second yellow card as the game turned.
David Norris struck in the second, Kelvin Etuhu lashed in a brilliant third and Marko Futacs poked home the fourth from close range in stoppage time to complete the rout and re-ignite the survival hopes.
To capitalise on that result, Appy took Manchester City duo Karim Rekik and Luca Scapuzzi on loan. However, two disastrous results were to come that would hammer home the probability of relegation to League One.
The first of those results came against relegation rivals Coventry City. After a dire first half at the Ricoh Arena, goals from Gary McSheffrey and Oliver Norwood saw Pompey slip to a hugely damaging defeat.
Hopes of Championship survival were hanging by a thread but were reignited after a comfortable 2-0 win over Hull City at Fratton Park.
Maguire lobbed the onrushing Vito Mannone to open the scoring and then Joel Ward tapped in George Thorne's cross for the second goal in a game that Pompey dominated from the start to give all Blues fans more false hope.
However, the worst result of the campaign would come when Burnley, without a win in seven matches, came to Fratton Park.
Keiran Trippier gave the Clarets the lead with a deflected strike but when Norris restored parity with a fierce strike of his own many fans believed that Pompey would go on to win the game.
That would not be the case as Danny Ings scored at the start of the second half and then Charlie Austin bagged a hat-trick as the Portsmouth defence capitulated.
That result brought an end to a torrid March filled with misery. Relegation to the third tier of English football was almost inevitable but the survival of Portsmouth Football Club was far from certain heading into the final month of the season.