Pompey followed up their best result of the season with arguably their worst as Stevenage deservedly won 2-1 at Fratton Park yesterday.
It was a very stale performance that was a far cry from the showing at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday. Paul Cook's men started brightly enough as Kyle Bennett struck the post from distance but Boro were organised and chances were few and far for both sides between before the break.
The second half saw Christian Burgess and Michael Doyle replaced with Jack Whatmough and Amine Linganzi before it began, a decision which raised eyebrows although it was revealed later on that there had been an "incident" which led to the two players being withdrawn.
That certainly had an impact as the home side's midfield play lacked the fluidity evident in the first half and the only meaningful chance created before the flurry of goals during a dismal second half was Conor Chaplin's effort that flew over the bar after he was teed up by Gary Roberts.
The opening goal of the game came courtesy of some calamitous defending. Enda Stevens made a mess of trying to shepherd the ball out which meant it was stolen - the Pompey players then missed another chance to win it back in the box and thus it was squared to an unmarked Steven Scumacher who fired the ball under David Forde.
The second goal four minutes later was just as dreadful from a Portsmouth perspective as a long ball found David Godden in the box and although his initial effort was blocked half-heartedly by Matt Clarke, his second all too easily beat Forde through his legs.
There was some hope late on when Michael Smith finished Gareth Evans' cross with ten minutes to go but Roberts' shot sailed narrowly wide whilst Whatmough's header from a free kick in the dying seconds of the game struck the woodwork as Pompey's fourth defeat in five home games was confirmed.
Obviously the huge talking point will be what seems to be an altercation between Burgess and Doyle at the break. An official investigation has been confirmed by Mark Catlin and whilst we will likely never know what happened, it would have had to have been something major to drop his captain and most reliable centre back.
The reports since suggest that Burgess required stitches and Doyle was banned from the dressing room. It seems like Cook had no choice but to replace both players for the second half.
That decision had massive reprecussions as Clarke looked totally lost without his regular centre back partner and has to shoulder some of the blame for both goals. Linganzi also looked immobile and that allowed Stevenage to take control of the midfield where Doyle had made an impact previously.
Sticking on the topic of blame, Forde has to accept responsibility for conceding both goals as neither goal should have been the result of a nutmeg. The Millwall loanee has made a fair few high profile errors this season and it's safe to say that he is no improvement on any of the goalkeepers that were brought into the club last season.
Even Stevens had a shocker by his own standards but the failure to win this game can't just be blamed on woeful defending as the chances created were at a premium.
Bennett was unlucky not to score and was the most threatening of Pompey's attacking midfielders as once again Roberts contributed little whilst Carl Baker was totally anonymous during the match and that's unusual for a player usually so instrumental in carving the opposition open.
In fact, only the much-maligned Smith can come out of the game with any real credit. His physical presence caused Stevenage some problems but it was only when Chaplin was introduced to play up front with him that he looked dangerous. At least his goal preserves Pompey's record of scoring in every home game this season.
The defeat is certainly a damaging one as although Pompey remain fourth in League Two due to Luton only picking up a draw at Exeter, they have lost three crucial points on Carlisle and Doncaster and could be further behind the latter if they pick up a result (incidentally at home to Stevenage) next Saturday. At least the gap to Plymouth didn't widen as they continued their bottle job by losing at Morecambe.
However, you wouldn't back this current crop of players to bridge that gap as they are just too inconsistent to mount a serious challenge for automatic promotion. Cook has to ask some serious questions of his men during the two weeks between now and the next match as they have let him down hugely and the pressure is seemingly taking its toll.
Portsmouth's next match isn't until December 10th and that could prove to be a pivotal weekend in the race for promotion. Pompey go to Grimsby, Luton host Carlisle whilst Plymouth are at home to Doncaster.
But what state will the squad be in when that date comes around? Will Doyle still be at the club and will he lose his captain's armband if he is? How will the players react to this dire defeat and can the manager solve the growing number of problems he faces as winter arrives?
Pompey Player Ratings
David Forde: 4 - A liability.
Gareth Evans: 5 - Should be pushed further forward.
Christian Burgess: 6 - Had no problems until half-time withdrawal.
Matt Clarke: 5 - Looked poor without Burgess beside him.
Enda Stevens: 5 - Not his usual self.
Michael Doyle: 6 - Solid first half.
Danny Rose: 6 - Energetic display faded in the second half.
Gary Roberts: 5 - No meaningful impact.
Carl Baker: 4 - Anonymous.
Kyle Bennett: 6 - Caused problems but also wasteful.
Michael Smith: 7 - Can't be faulted for his efforts.
Jack Whatmough (Burgess 46): 5 - Still looks rusty.
Amine Linganzi (Doyle 46): 5 - Sluggish.
Conor Chaplin (Bennett 68): 6 - Added a threat but missed his one big chance.