Portsmouth's poor start to 2018 continued as they were narrowly beaten by Shrewsbury at a dismal Fratton Park yesterday.
"Dismal" could be a word used to describe Pompey's performance against the Shrews at times but Kenny Jackett's men may have claimed a draw if it wasn't for a couple of excellent saves from stand-in Shrewsbury keeper Craig MacGillivray and a ridiculously woeful decision from referee David Coote.
However, Pompey shot themselves in the foot early on by conceding yet another goal from a set-piece as James Bolton converted a corner at the far post, although he probably wasn't sure just how well he had connected with the ball.
Ben Close then had to bail Luke McGee out after the Pompey keeper rushed off his line to claim a loose ball only to be beaten to it by Abu Ogogo, but Close was able to clear before more damage could be done.
MacGillivray was then called into action at the other end of the pitch as he kept out Oli Hawkins' header as Pompey finally began to put some pressure on their opponents.
It seemed like that pressure would pay off when Shaun Whalley clearly handled an incoming cross into the box but referee Coote waved away Pompey's appeals much to the fury of everyone in the ground. Gareth Evans received a booking for his protests as the atmosphere became hostile towards the inept Coote.
The second half saw Pompey have a sustained period of possession in Shrewsbury's half with a couple of good chances coming from it. MacGillivray saved a Pitman header before producing an even better stop to deny Kal Naismith who managed to conjure an effort from long range.
Chances would soon become barren as the opposition gained some ground and McGee did well to claw out Cameron Morris' header as Whalley also shot wide.
The Pompey fans knew it wasn't going to be their day when two late efforts from Pitman failed to hit the target with one being deflected onto the crossbar and the second flying narrowly past the post in stoppage time.
The misery was compounded just before that with Adam May receiving a second booking from Coote for a late challenge, meaning yet another centre midfielder will be unavailable for next week's game against Doncaster.
Coote blew the final whistle and departed the Fratton Park turf to boos and chants suggesting he is a serial masturbator as Pompey once again ended a match in January with nothing to show for it.
Obviously, the huge talking point will be the blatant handball missed by Coote and every replay shows just how awful a decision that was not to award a penalty. Booking Evans afterwards rubbed salt in the wounds but this was a referee who seemingly wanted to make a name for himself on a big stage.
After all, the handball non-decision wasn't his only bad call as he could have given a penalty earlier in the game when Christian Burgess was having his shirt tugged, yet he constantly let Shrewsbury get away with niggly fouls and time wasting tactics.
The above two paragraphs may suggest that the referee is solely to blame for Pompey's defeat yesterday but that isn't the case. Whilst some fans continue to highlight the real need for a replacement for Danny Rose and Stuart O'Keefe, the rest of the midfield hardly set the world alight, either.
Evans was guilty of some poor passing and delivery, Jamal Lowe barely threatened and Kal Naismith looks a shadow of the player who inspired Pompey to the League Two title last season. Either he hasn't fully recovered from his injury or League One is a step too high for him.
Hawkins deserves some sympathy for having to try and work with the hoof balls coming his way but even he missed a good chance in the first half. Pitman's introduction changed things in the second half but people will be asking why our top scorer didn't start despite his form.
The same could be asked about why the two Wolves loanees didn't start. Sylvain Deslandes looked solid at Rotherham last week and Connor Ronan looks to possess the ability to unlock what was an extremely stubborn Shrewsbury defence on the day. He should have been given more time to make an impact.
The defence doesn't get away without criticism, either, as yet another poor goal was conceded from a set-piece. Jackett mentioned it was Burgess who lost his man and he was right. As good as Burgess is, he has these lapses in concentration that prevent him from being a top class defender.
The result means Pompey remain in ninth place but are seriously off the play-off pace and are now just a couple of bad results away from mid-table mediocrity.
Thankfully, the fixtures in February look easier on paper with only Blackburn falling under the "difficult" category. Although the trip to Southend could be tricky as Chris Powell looks to rejuvenate the team he once played for and the away game at Fleetwood could be written off as it's on a Tuesday night and everyone knows how poor Pompey are away from home during midweek.
For now, Pompey fans will have to see what happens between now and Wednesday in terms of strenghtening (or perhaps weakening) the squad with a congested fixture list next month. The next few days are crucial in determining just how successful this season will be for Portsmouth FC.
Pompey Player Ratings
Luke McGee: 6 - Made a couple of errors in judgement but made up for them.
Nathan Thompson: 7 - Continues to be consistent.
Christian Burgess: 6 - Lost his man for the goal but generally good otherwise.
Matt Clarke: 7 - Solid as always.
Dion Donahue: 6 - A mixed afternoon.
Ben Close: 6 - Average.
Adam May: 5 - Not as bad as some suggest but clearly not good enough for League One yet.
Gareth Evans: 5 - Delivery was poor.
Kal Naismith: 5 - One effort aside, failed to threaten the Shrewsbury goal.
Jamal Lowe: 5 - Nullified.
Oli Hawkins: 6 - Did the best he could.
Connor Ronan (Naismith 70): N/A - Needed more time.
Brett Pitman (Lowe 55): 6 - Unlucky not to score.