Pompey Suffer Kassam Collapse

Portsmouth are on the verge of losing their place at the top of League One after producing another pathetic performance at Oxford yesterday.

Those who thought things couldn't get any worse than the Blackpool fiasco should have thought again as Kenny Jackett's altered team produced their worst half of football this season during a torrid first 45 minutes for the Blues.

Jamal Lowe was totally ineffective up front on his own and could have been sent off on another day for a nasty challenge on Jamie Hanson which resulted in a yellow card for the makeshift centre forward.

The attacking players behind him were virtually anonymous too, with David Wheeler unable to keep the ball and both Gareth Evans and Ronan Curtis performing well below what fans have come to expect from the duo this season.

If the forward men aren't in the game then the least that should be expected is the defensive players to remain solid and do their jobs but none of the back four can come out of yesterday's match with any credit.

Their meek showing was highlighted when Cameron Branagan was allowed to receive the ball up the pitch in acres of space and strike the ball into the bottom corner of the net without anyone nearby to challenge him.

The goalmouth scramble from a corner soon after simply underlined just how disorganised the defence was as the team occupying the relegation zone in League One took control of the match.

More atrocious defending in stoppage time gave the U's what seemed like an unassailable two goal lead as Jamie Mackie squared the ball for James Henry who struck the ball past the helpless Craig MacGillivray.

Boos greeted the half-time whistle as Pompey had failed to muster a single shot on target for consecutive first halves and there were no substitutes made for the second half with Wheeler playing up front and Lowe moved back to his preferred role.

That made no difference whatsoever and eventually Jackett brought on Brett Pitman and Louis Dennis in an attempt to get back into the gameand it worked as the latter crossed for the former to score an outstanding overhead kick. The goal was arguably the best one scored all season so it's a shame it turned out to be meaningless.

Because with half an hour still to play, Pompey couldn't create any more noteworthy chances. The closest a player in a blue shirt came to scoring was when Jack Whatmough headed the ball on his own goal's post, which summed up the afternoon not just for him but the entire team.

During the match I tweeted that Pompey's season was about to fall apart and although that seems melodramatic, that claim is not without foundation.

So many players were worse than abject yesterday. Anton Walkes couldn't pass, Whatmough was all over the place, Brown looked sluggish on his return whilst Cannon doesn't look comfortable playing in a defensive role.

Wheeler might as well be sent back to QPR based on his contribution yesterday but the other attacking players were almost as bad. The only players who can come out of that game with any credit are Dennis and Pitman who produced Pompey's only bright spot of the game.

Back-to-back abysmal performances have thrown a spanner into the promotion challenge and there is simply no chance of this current squad sans Ben Thompson and a target man of finishing in the automatic promotion places.

Gone is the pre-Christmas swagger of the front four and the solidity right throughout the team making goals for the opposition hard to come by. Pompey's last clean sheet in the league was against Southend on December 8th and they now look like a soft touch whenever any team presses them.

It's the manner of the last two defeats against poor opposition that really sets the alarm bells ringing. Oxford were 21st before yesterday's game and in a dismal run of form and yet still won the match comfortably. Blackpool obviously came to Fratton Park for a draw last weekend and yet still found a way to win that game.

Although Sunderland continue to stutter, the form of Luton, Barnsley and Charlton below means that Pompey simply cannot afford to drop points in matches like the previous two where they should have at least looked capable of winning. Now, if the Hatters avoid defeat at Southend this Saturday then Pompey's time at the top of the table will be over despite having held a comfortable advantage over them pre-Christmas.

Next Tuesday's match at Kenilworth Road promises to be season-defining, but before then there has to be a change within the Pompey team whether that is a significant signing up front to bolster the attack or changing the way they play to at least accomodate a player who banged in over 20 goals last season.

It'll be interesting to see what approach is taken to address the problems this Pompey side currently face. Failure to invest in the team will see the squad emerge from the January transfer window weaker than it was before the turn of the year. That would be a repeat of last season which played a huge part in failing to reach the play-offs.

The next eleven days both on and off the pitch will go a long way into deciding just how successful this season turns out to be. The last coupld of weeks have really left a sour taste in the mouth and any more repeats of the last two performances and a defeat in the play-off semi-final to Charlton awaits in May.

Pompey Player Ratings

Craig MacGillivray: 6 - Let down by those in front of him.

Anton Walkes: 5 - Awful second half. Nathan Thompson is almost as missed as much as Ben.

Jack Whatmough: 5 - Sluggish and gave the ball away too often.

Matt Clarke: 6 - Decent on the ball but actual defending was lacklustre.

Lee Brown: 5 - Looked rusty.

Tom Naylor: 6 - Tried hard but still left gaps in midfield.

Andy Cannon: 5 - Defensive role not suited to him.

David Wheeler: 3 - Anonymous.

Gareth Evans: 5 - One good effort in the first half but otherwise poor.

Ronan Curtis: 4 - Just not happening for him at the moment.

Jamal Lowe: 4 - Ineffective.

Substitutes

Alex Bass

Christian Burgess

Brandan Haunstrup

Dion Donohue (Cannon 76): N/A - Couldn't influence things.

Bryn Morris

Louis Dennis (Evans 59): 6 - Looked bright at times.

Brett Pitman (Wheeler 59): 7 - Scored an outstanding goal and tried to get involved when he could.