Bristol Rovers 2 Pompey 0

Trevor Carson pulls off a brilliant stop from David Clarkson to keep the score down. Picture: Joe Pepler
Trevor Carson pulls off a brilliant stop from David Clarkson to keep the score down. Picture: Joe Pepler
17
Have your say

They trudged away from the Memorial Stadium to strains of Bing Crosby’s ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.’

Some chance.

There’s little to cheer about for Pompey fans at the moment, let alone the festive variant.

Wretched performances are no longer one-off occurrences or unfortunate blips for this current squad of players.

Instead it has become commonplace, an alarming default setting in a campaign which is continuing to unravel amid ever-increasing concern.

The squad cannot even muster a response to an abject showing these days, perhaps most shameless of all in this mess.

It seems the battery is dead and no amount of voltage will spark it into life once more.

So much for pride and the usual buzz words from the culprits about commitment, owing the fans a performance and having a long hard look at themselves.

Feel the pulse – nothing.

Confidence is shot, fitness is clearly a concern, form is wretched and Pompey are stumbling ever closer to the Football League trapdoor.

Just when the Fratton faithful believe they have hit the bottom, they discover it is nothing more than an unstable ledge crumbling beneath their feet.

And so the fall continues at pace with no inkling or hint it is coming to a welcome landing soon.

Even a change in boss has – on the surface of it – had no impact on the results during Richie Barker’s two games in charge.

If a squad of 26 players cannot react to a new man at the helm in a positive manner as they fight for their Blues future then something is very, very wrong.

Aidy Boothroyd was sacked by Northampton on Saturday with his side in the bottom two – unquestionably bad news for Pompey fans.

Yet there clearly is something wrong with this current crop of players, as a trip to Bristol Rovers on Saturday once again reminded everyone who was present with a painful nudge in the ribs.

Can’t blame Joe Devera for this one, as infuriatingly disappointing as he has been so far for Pompey.

The Brian Howard of 2013-14 wasn’t even participating in this latest debacle having been relegated to the bench and not being one of three men to climb off it.

Just as much as the other great scapegoat Johnny Ertl did not feature in the previous weekend’s 2-0 loss to Newport County – he was back in the team at Rovers, though.

As was Simon Ferry, as was Marcos Painter, as was Jed Wallace, as was Ryan Bird and as was Bondz N’Gala with Barker making six changes.

Not that it made a jot of difference, the team performance was still abysmal and after the break they limped along in the usual pathetically lacklustre manner we have become accustomed to this season.

While Pompey can barely call themselves a first-half team, they generally are shocking after every half-time.

Only too obvious is a worry over fitness as they noticeably tire as matches progress, allowing the opposition to increase in dominance and finish strongly.

Come the final whistle, Barker’s side were hanging on to deny a now rampant Rovers a third. A Rovers side who started the day one place above the relegation zone.

The vast, vast majority of Pompey players are decent guys without egos who have embraced the community club ethos by moving to the area and getting involved in off-field events.

On the pitch, however, they have shown themselves to be gutless and severely lacking fight and character to even justify their presence at this club.

There is ability there, we’ve seen it at times from almost every one of them earlier this season and, in other cases, at the end of the last campaign.

However, there is no self-belief and mentally they have crumbled time and time and time again proving emphatically why this summer they were free agents.

Even the most reliable of the lot, Sonny Bradley, has been infected, joining the bafflingly inconsistent ranks of his ever-retreating team-mates.

Forget proving people wrong, this confidence-shot lot cannot even step up their game in front of home fans, a new manager or on the back of wretched previous performances.

Barker has seen them at their worst so early in his regime and is only too aware of the massive task facing him in turning all this around just to stay in League Two.

His remarkable outburst in front of the press afterwards was withering, blunt and brimming with controlled anger.

An indication of his managerial make-up and what fans can expect from clearly a no-nonsense boss not prepared to allow the aimless drifting to continue.

His words, particularly in front of the radio media while the defeat was still at its most raw, were bold against a group whose majority he actually will be unable to remove from the premises next month.

Still, the intent is there with four contracts up in January and a number scheduled to expire at the season’s end that he may be eager to show the door.

His second match, though, staged at Rovers, had started positively enough and Patrick Agyemang and Jed Wallace were both superb in a well-matched first half.

With the scoreline level in the 26th minute, Bird should have even netted after receiving a square pass from Ferry.

Instead his shot from six-yards out was saved by the feet of Steve Mildenhall – it would prove to be the last on-target effort from the visitors of the game.

In the 40th minute, Ollie Clarke broke the deadlock with a rasping volley from outside the penalty area and Barker’s men never recovered.

Pompey were abysmal after the break and even those bright lights of Wallace and Agyemang dimmed as Rovers embarrassingly dictated proceedings.

David Clarkson sealed it with a controlled finish on 77 minutes but by then it was already about how many the hosts would win by.

Trevor Carson had to come to the rescue several times, in particular a stunning stop to deny Clarkson’s powerful free-kick.

At the final whistle the players went over to applaud those 1,355 visiting fans still present and received a blunt and angry reminder of their failings.

Perhaps that will now spark them into a playing reaction against Dagenham & Redbridge on Boxing Day.

Perhaps. Just don’t put all your Christmas presents on it.