Pompey's promotion credentials will be severely scrutinised after they lost to in-form Exeter at Fratton Park following an abysmal performance which was arguably their worst of the season.
Matches against the Grecians are usually good to watch but the first half was awful on account of both teams. Conor Chaplin's near-post flick from Baker's cross and the latter's shot that Christie Pym palmed out for a corner when it was going off target anyway was the best the hosts could muster.
Ollie Watkins slammed a shot wide of David Forde's goal in front of the Fratton End in Exeter's best attack of a drab first forty-five minutes and the following forty-five weren't much better, especially for those supporting Portsmouth.
Whilst there was some misfortune about the way the visitors took the lead, why nobody was marking Exeter's most dangerous player as he surged into the box to lash the ball past the helpless Forde is anyone's guess. The fact the ball broke to him following some clumsy midfield play shouldn't be a factor.
The fact that it took 72 minutes for Pompey to register their first meaningful shot on target speaks volumes but Gareth Evans' shot never looked like troubling Pym.
The Exeter goalkeeper only had one more shot to save as he was equal to Kal Naismith's drive late in the match but in truth Paul Tisdale's men were able to see out the game fairly comfortably and when one final tame effort rolled to Pym in stoppage time, the final whistle blew and was greeted with boos.
Those boos were justified as neither team or manager emerged from that wretched performance with any credit and both are to blame.
Whilst the defence largely did its job, the full backs, Enda Stevens in particular, did not support the attack well enough due to sloppy play. The midfield was totally devoid of creativity and lacked cohesion with the rest of the team which meant all too often resorting to long balls for the forwards to chase, unsuccessfully.
Cook had the chance to change the game with his substitutions but whilst Michael Smith was unfairly ironically cheered off despite putting in a shift with little service, Chaplin was left up front on his own against four defenders with little support as Gary Roberts was, once again, anonymous.
His cause was't helped by Naismith getting his crossing all wrong and Baker continuing to flatter to deceive. In fact, the only highlight of the game was to see Jamal Lowe come on and inject some energy into the game. But it's not ideal to be in a situation where a team is relying on a non-league player to galvanise them. It simply wasn't good enough.
Cook's post-match interview was also a matter of concern. He is practically saying that he is doing what the fans dictate to him out of fear of getting the sack, hence the formation changes and his other tactical decisions. Whatever happened to "supporters support and managers manage" eh, Paul?
He also criticises the fans under a thin veil with the suggestion that the atmosphere is becoming toxic at Fratton Park. He's correct here, but it's up to him to silence the boo boys no matter how he does it. The fact that he has always had numerous critics for the way his team plays at home suggests he may well never find the winning formula to appease fans and, more importantly, break into the top three.
Yesterday's result was a bad one but hasn't done too much damage in isolation as Carlisle could only manage a draw at home with Barnet, meaning the gap is only four points with a game in hand still to play.
However, Luton are now above Pompey on goal difference and there are now a cluster of clubs behind them who will fancy their chances at overhauling them, including Exeter who seem to be in unstoppable form at present.
Therefore, it's imperative that Pompey have a decent February but there are some hugely pivotal away games with Wycombe, Barnet and Carlisle next month and defeats in any of them could prove fatal. It's also safe to say that only maximum points from the home games against Accrington, Blackpool and Morecambe would be acceptable but after witnessing yesterday's atrocity, those results are far from certain.
There are two days remaining in the transfer window so perhaps Cook can recruit one or two more players (and let some of the dead wood go) to give his squad that extra bit of quality. But he also needs to have a look at himself and motivate his current crop of players to get the job done.
Pompey Player Ratings
David Forde: 6 - Did nothing wrong.
Gareth Evans: 6 - Got forward when he could.
Christian Burgess: 6 - Solid throughout most of the match.
Matt Clarke: 6 - Steady job.
Enda Stevens: 5 - Unusually poor.
Carl Baker: 5 - Largely ineffective.
Michael Doyle: 5 - Outbattled.
Danny Rose: 5 - Lacked quality.
Kal Naismith: 5 - Deliveries were poor.
Michael Smith: 6 - Tried at least.
Conor Chaplin: 5 - Barely in the game.
Gary Roberts (Baker 59): 4 - Not the slightest bit influential.
Jamal Lowe (Smith 59): 6 - Looked bright.