Dire Pompey Humbled At The Hive
By Jim Bonner
Updated Wednesday, 24th February 2016
Barnet 1 Portsmouth 0
Pompey's promotion bid suffered a major setback following a woeful performance at The Hive last night which resulted in a 1-0 defeat courtesy of a John Akinde penalty.
Words cannot describe the abomination that was the first half showing in North London. Matters weren't helped when Gary Roberts injured his hamstring early on but the tactics to either play long balls to Marc McNulty or aimless balls down the channels bared no fruit.
The awful match saw its only goal come in the first half but the penalty decision from Phillip Gibbs was softer than a house made of Andrex built on foundations of marshmallows as Akinde went down extremely easily under the "challenge" of Adam Webster.
The fact that the incident came after Ben Davies' foul throw which led to a long throw into the box just made the decision harder to swallow as the former Pompey striker made no mistake from the spot despite the numerous distractions behind him.
Pompey could only improve after such a dreadful first half and they did as Barnet were happy to sit back and defend. Kal Naismith really should have equalised when McNulty's cut back found him inside the box but he could only blast the ball over the crossbar.
That was as good as it got despite a good penalty shout when one of the Bees defenders fell on the ball inside the box but nothing was given. Barnet saw out the game comfortably as a clueless Pompey side succumbed to a defeat that has seen them drop out of the play-off places.
The bottom line is that Paul Cook has been sussed and he doesn't seem to have a plan B, an old criticism of Harry Redknapp back in the halcyon days.
Without Roberts in the side there was little creativity to come from Pompey's players as Kyle Bennett was once again too lightweight whilst Adam McGurk and Kal Naismith just don't seem good enough for a League Two side challenging for promotion.
Michael Smith made a difference when he came on but Martin Allen had Pompey worked out from the start as his players were quick to close down the midfield and squeeze play knowing that the visitors' biggest threat came from the wings.
With Davies and Stevens virtually nullified the central players have to be up for the fight and have to come up with better answers than lumping the ball aimlessly to a single striker who was getting no change from Bondz N'Gala and co. in the Barnet defence.
It was simply not good enough and all of the players (Fulton, Webster and Clarke excepted in this case) have to take a long look at themselves and realise that if the slump continues then this season will end in failure. Cook also has to shoulder some of the blame as ultimately it is him who has to formulate a plan to beat the more stoic teams in the division.
The only positive to come from such a wretched evening is that the angry reaction from the travelling fans, a few who were stupidly fighting amongst themselves, should make the players realise just how bad the situation is in context of the season and they need to be much, much better than that against Cambridge on Saturday.
Pompey Player Ratings
Ryan Fulton: 6 - Not too much to do.
Ben Davies: 5 - Initial schoolboy error led to goal.
Adam Webster: 8 - Won everything and was harshly penalised for the penalty.
Matt Clarke: 7 - Worked well as a last form of defence.
Enda Stevens: 5 - Found the going tough.
Michael Doyle: 4 - Not good enough by his own admission.
Ben Close: 4 - Probably needs a break now Hollands is fit again.
Adam McGurk: 5 - Only had the one chance.
Gary Roberts: N/A - Suffered another injury.
Kyle Bennett: 4 - Made nothing happen.
Marc McNulty: 6 - Worked hard despite poor service,
Kal Naismith (Roberts 8): 4 - Wasteful.
Conor Chaplin (McNulty 78): N/A - Perhaps start him in the next match, Cook?
Michael Smith (Close 60): 6 - Kept the ball well.