Exiles Hand Drubbing To Dreadful Pompey
By Jim Bonner
Updated Sunday, 13th March 2016
Portsmouth 0 Newport County 3
Pompey's hopes of automatic promotion took yet another blow after they turned in their worst performance of the season as Newport came to Fratton Park and won 3-0 with ease.
The attitude of the players was completely unacceptable from the start as they seemed to believe they could simply turn up and win against a Newport side that turned out to be far better organised and hungrier than they were.
The subdued atmosphere inside Fratton Park was a reflection of Pompey's lethargic performance at the start of a game littered with fouls and subsequent bookings from card-happy referee Ben Toner.
There might have been a foul on Ryan Fulton for Newport's first goal as the goalkeeper thought he was impeded but in truth he should have been stronger and quicker to deal with Darren Jones's challenge. It was such a sloppy goal to give away and yet Paul Cook's men failed to heed the wake up call.
Marc McNulty blazed a loose ball over the bar late in the first half after Newport goalkeeper Joe Day spilled a shot but that was the best chance of a dire first half for the hosts, and the second half would only get worse.
Paul Cook brought on Michael Smith for the anonymous Gareth Evans and switched to a 4-4-2 but apart from a couple of tame shots at Day early on, nothing had really changed.
The atmosphere inside Fratton Park really turned sour on the hour as Gary Roberts, who had been booked for a petulant trip on Medy Elito minutes before, received a second yellow card for an apparent dive.
Fans are still split on whether Roberts deserved his dismissal. There seems to be minimal contact but the way he exaggerated his fall was only going to sway referee Toner's thinking that he was simulating. The bottom line is that had he not been so stupid to get the first yellow card, this incident wouldn't have mattered no matter how contentious it was.
Being reduced to ten men played straight into Newport's hands as they completed the job with a couple of counter-attacking moves.
When Scott Boden beat his two markers to head in Elito's cross some fans had seen enough and left and then with three minutes remaining Mark Byrne crossed for Dean Morgan who struck in a third to trigger a mass exodus from Fratton Park with only the hardy souls remaining to see out stoppage time.
It was an absolutely disastrous day for Pompey who can have absolutely no complaints about the result despite the referee's performance. Cook has to take more than his fair share of the blame for failing to motivate his players and once again not having a clue how to beat a stoic, physical and well organised side on home turf.
The players were all poor too with nobody coming out of that game with any credit. The ever-reliable Ben Davies's crossing was uncharacteristically poor, Adam Webster's passing was reminiscent of last season, the midfield wasn't tough enough defensively or creative enough going forward.
Are the players playing with too much fear in front of such a big crowd? Yesterday's result was the eighth time Pompey have failed to score at home this season and once again this team cannot string a run of three straight wins together. These facts hardly scream "automatic promotion contenders", do they?
What makes yesterday's shocking result even harder to take is that results went for Portsmouth with Oxford and Plymouth both losing. Had Pompey won yesterday they would be three points behind both with a trip to out-of-form Mansfield up next and the pressure would really be piled on.
Now, the Blues currently find themselves sixth in the table after wins for Accrington (who still have that annoying game in hand) and Bristol Rovers saw those clubs leap them in the table. So, rather than having to chase two teams for those coveted automatic promotion places, there are now four teams to overtake and that isn't even considering the chasing pack who aren't that far behind.
Still, this is typical Pompey, isn't it? Supporting this club has always been a rollercoaster and has never been straightforward. Even in our Championship winning season of 2002/2003 things never went completely went our way.
Opportunities to pull clear of the chasing pack that season were spurned by defeats to Norwich and Leicester in that farcical match on water. Even when a victory against bottom-of-the-table Sheffield Wednesday was required for promotion, Pompey thought it would be better to concede a 90th minute winner just to make the fans wait a little longer.
That's just one example. Remember the penultimate day of the 2000/2001 season when all Pompey had to do was beat Crystal Palace to ensure their own survival and send the Eagles down only to bottle it and lose 4-2 to set up a tense final day that eventually worked out thanks to a 3-0 win over Barnsley and other results going their way?
Those are just two examples of this club not following the script and this season still has ten games to go. There will still be twists to come but this defeat has to be forgotten about and hopefully a reaction will come at Field Mill next Saturday.
Pompey Player Ratings
Ryan Fulton: 5 - At fault for the first goal but could do nothing about the others.
Ben Davies: 4 - Delivery was awful and was caught out of position too often.
Adam Webster: 4 - Passing was poor and struggled with physical side of Newport's game.
Christian Burgess: 5 - Bullied.
Enda Stevens: 5 - Wasn't allowed to go forward and was given plenty to do at the back.
Michael Doyle: 4 - Not up for the fight.
Danny Hollands: 4 - Worst performance of the season for him.
Gareth Evans: 4 - Virtually anonymous.
Gary Roberts: 4 - At least one stupid booking.
Kyle Bennett: 5 - Never really got going.
Marc McNulty: 5 - Fed off scraps.
Kal Naismith (Bennett 61): 4 - No influence and wasted a couple of good opportunities to create something,
Conor Chapin (McNulty 70): N/A - Wasted the one good chance he had.
Michael Smith (Evans 46): 4 - Failed to make a difference.
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