The only way is up!

Last updated : 21 November 2004 By Keith Allman
After watching us crash at Villa Park I thought to myself, the opposition were good and we were knackered after beating United. Just a day to forget. Against Southampton I thought to myself, derby days have a habit of ripping up the form book and what with all the rubbish about Wigley and them not winning, and the fact it was away, we were always facing a tough task. Just a day to forget. Perhaps in my youthful naivety I was being generous - fact is, after today's defeat there are absolutely no excuses.

Yeah we've got injuries in key places; Yakubu, Stone, Kamara and the surprise omission of Shaka. But then, City had their entire backline injured or suspended and lost their top scorer after 25 minutes, and that hardly seemed to hinder their progress. Fuller looked slow and off the pace and some around me blamed it on the fact he played an international in midweek; so did Shaun Wright-Phillips, and he was probably man of the match tonight. Picking on Fuller might be a bit harsh - he won flick-ons all day, but had absolutely no support - but it's a vain attempt to prove the point that the talking has to stop, and the results have to start.

Obviously, expectations have changed these days. If you'd said to a Pompey fan five years ago that within half a decade they'd be mid-table in the Premiership, although on a three game losing run, they'd have died laughing and taken it all day long. Here we are, and there are long faces around the city. I don't think it's the losing that's the problem though; we're not Arsenal, no-one is expecting us to be pushing for honours and of course survival is a huge success for us this season. It's just the manner of the defeat which causes the problems. With fifteen minutes left to go today, and 2-1 down at home, the players just seemed to saunter about the pitch as if it didn't matter. No-one was crying out for the ball, no-one was trying to get anything going - there was no fluid movement, the defence was cumbersome, and the midfield didn't exist. We were playing like an away team, inviting pressure on to ourselves whilst trying to play on the counter. Missing the pace of Yak, Lua and Kamara, it was never going to happen.

A huge disappointment for me personally was the performance of the senior players. When there are injuries and youngsters like O'Neil and Ashdown are being pitched in - the latter who was absolutely fantastic, for what it's worth - you need the older lads to help them out. Berger was barely in the game, De Zeeuw shouted at anyone and anything whilst displaying no positional awareness, Stefanovic fell over a lot - I could go on, but I'd only depress myself and others. Berkovic really was the prime example. When Lua hobbled off midway through the first half and the talented Israeli was thrown on, the crowd were just praying today was one of his "on days" and he could unlock the (usually rickety) City defensive door. And yet, his contribution to the game consisted of a few long passes that sailed out into Row Z. Sigh.

We've been happily losing away games in the Premiership ever since we turned up, and come to expect it. It's annoying and it's a habit I'd love to see changed, but we've got used to it. But the bottom line is once you start losing at home, you're entering a whole world of troubles. Last season, we let teams like Charlton, Everton and Leicester - all disrespect intended - saunter into town and take three points out over Eastern Road. This season, we've managed to keep it at bay - and we CAN'T let that habit dissolve. I've already written off Bolton away next weekend, but in fourteen days time we've got West Brom at Fratton Park - if we can't win that, then we're in trouble. Big trouble. At the moment, we're treading water just above trouble. It's not time to push the panic button.... yet.

Three weeks is a long time in football.