Oldham 1 Pompey 0

Therry Racon. Picture: Joe Pepler
Therry Racon. Picture: Joe Pepler

It had been a week of grand statements.

The Football League, Keith Harris, PKF, Portpin, the Trust and even a local radio commentator had all delivered.

Fighting words, bold promises and sinister hints at legal action, the Pompey soap opera rumbles on from one episode to the next.

On Saturday it was time for the football team to make their own statement.

Oldham was the stage where they made the acknowledgement they will be playing League Two football next season.

Ever since the turn of the year relegation has been inevitable, even to the most optimistic of the beleaguered Blues following.

The Fratton faithful themselves had long sung about embarking on League Two tours, while a club record winless sequence does not bode well for survival.

That is even before the 10-point deduction should Pompey come out of administration this season.

Of course, publicly it is a fate those left to deal with the mess are not willing to accept.

As men entwined in the ways of Pompey, Guy Whittingham and Andy Awford know this is a club which never surrenders.

The game is up, though.

Another defeat, another failure against relegation rivals, another fixture in which there was no suggestion 22 matches without victory will end.

Pompey stand four points adrift at the bottom of the table and 12 points short of safety,

They have played a game more than their nearest relegation battlers and have the joint-worst goal difference.

During the wretched period since October 20, they have failed to beat every side right up to and including Preston at 18th in the table.

Incidentally, 17 of those 22 matches have yielded defeats and entries into the goals-for column continue to be a scarce commodity.

It was another weak performance at Boundary Park, punctuated by two disastrous errors.

A familiar tale for Pompey fans and the management duo giving every ounce of energy in attempting to turn it around.

What’s more, there is no suggestion title-winning form can be stumbled across and unleashed on a stunned League One.

Not with this squad anyhow, a collective cobbled together in the desperate hope of finding some winning spark.

For more than a generation of Blues fans, they represent the weakest group of Blues players they have ever witnessed.

And in the background the ants continue to fight over the discarded apple core which others have long since walked on by.

It would be harsh to heap blame on Whittingham and Awford, although more criticism is inevitably being aimed in their direction.

They inherited a ship that was not so much sinking but had already settled on the bottom of the Solent.

Results have been dreadful, although the scorelines not emphatic, while more points should have been picked up along the way.

However, with League Two football next season it remains crucial for those at the football club to concern themselves with that rather than the irrelevant present.

Oldham, though, represented the end of League One and the beginning of life in another lower division.

Granted, the effort, energy and perspiration were all present, certainly in recent months such traits cannot be questioned.

It’s just there remains an alarming absence of quality and on Saturday the visitors could barely raise an attack against the Latics.

Once Simon Eastwood’s mistake gifted the hosts an 11th-minute opener, there was no indication the Blues could find a way back.

For a team which doesn’t possess goals and fields a strikeforce who struggle to score, such hand-me-outs can prove decisive.

It was harsh on Eastwood who, but for that moment, produced several saves and his handling was absolutely faultless.

The second-half stop to deny Lee Barnard’s follow-up to Jordan Obita striking the post was magnificent.

On the other hand, when Jose Baxter drilled in a low shot from 25-yards he misjudged it and ended up diving over the ball.

Once again a costly defensive error, a common characteristic throughout the campaign – regardless of who is the manager.

Still, there were 79 minutes remaining to find an equaliser and potentially record a third successive draw.

Not that Whittingham’s men got anywhere close, regardless of the huffing and puffing.

John Akinde had two shots blocked, while Liam Walker fired a free-kick over the crossbar.

Also in the first half, Jed Wallace intelligently pulled a ball back from the right wing which was slashed wide by the left-foot of Walker.

And that was it, the sum of their attacking endeavours.

Of course, the other costly misjudgment involved Sam Sodje on 50 minutes, hammering the final nail in any chances of leaving Boundary Park with a point.

Yassin Moutaouakil had reacted angrily to Obita pushing him over a barrier off the pitch as both chased a ball.

In the ensuing chaos which involved a number of players, Sodje appeared to strike out at Lee Barnard, an action witnessed by the linesman.

The red card followed and it really was an impossible mission for the visitors to recover.

To their credit, they stood firm and didn’t ship in any more goals, Johnny Ertl dropping back into defence to keep it tight.

Although, Jonathan Grounds and Obita did manage to strike opposite posts as Eastwood’s goal came under pressure.

The Oldham fans may have groaned when an additional five minutes was indicated by the fourth official but they had little to fear.

Toothless Pompey were never going to trouble, particularly when reduced to 10 men following Sodje’s idiocy.

The defender apologised to his team-mates in the confines of the dressing room afterwards.

A noble gesture but one to be demanded.

Still, it is not down to Sam Sodje that Pompey will be playing in League Two next season.

Nor will it be the fault of Whittingham and Awford.

The real blame lies at the feet of some of those who last week continued to bleat in public statements.