Bournemouth 2 Pompey 0

Despite the attention of three Pompey defenders, Lewis Grabban is given time in the Blues' penalty area to fire Bournemouth in front in the second half
Despite the attention of three Pompey defenders, Lewis Grabban is given time in the Blues' penalty area to fire Bournemouth in front in the second half

Even for Pompey, it was a remarkable week full of twists and turns.

Sadly, the surprises didn’t extend to the weekend’s result that was a home-banker on most coupons.

After a week when news broke of a rival bid for the club – that was then just as quickly shot down by the Football League – the travelling Pompey fans made their way along the south coast full of optimism and eager to revel in the increasingly realistic prospect of an imminent takeover.

The Pompey Supporters’ Trust is in pole position to take control of their stricken club after League chiefs effectively dismissed the validity of the Keith Harris consortium.

This being Pompey, though, it is highly unlikely things will run smoothly.

But in a year of so much untold misery, the minor victories must be celebrated.

As they don’t tend to turn up on the pitch too often of late, the news that the Trust has taken another step towards ownership will do nicely.

One can only imagine the kind of noise the long-suffering supporters will make if the takeover actually happens.

And if Pompey ever win a game again, ear drums could be in serious danger.

If there was any justice to reflect the Football League’s brave stance, Pompey would have left Dean Court with a victory on the pitch.

Instead, it was a ninth straight defeat, which extends the run without a victory to 19 games.

And it means the miserable club record from the 1970s has now been equalled for the longest winless streak.

In the face of the ongoing pain on the pitch, caretaker boss Guy Whittingham swung the axe – both to his team and the set-up.

That meant six changes to the side that lost at Scunthorpe and a new mentality that was designed to frustrate a talented Bournemouth side who look the best that League One has to offer by some distance.

While Whittingham clearly feels he has little alternative but to turn Pompey into a side that is more Paul Hart than Pep Guardiola, it’s a sad reflection that two of the leading lights of recent games – Jed Wallace and Liam Walker – were among those to make way.

Wallace came on as a substitute for 20 minutes, Walker played less than 10 – yet still gave glimpses of his quality in that short time on the pitch.

He may not be the strongest, but Walker has vision and imagination.

Whittingham’s preferred central-midfield combination of Johnny Ertl and Shaun Cooper is high on work-rate but lacks any kind of creativity going forward.

Many Blues fans who have already accepted that relegation is now a certainty would rather two of the club’s younger talents were given a chance to shine.

They would argue there is nothing left to lose in a campaign that is destined to end with League Two football next season. But they are not the caretaker boss, who is searching for the first win of his current stint.

While Whittingham opted to go with a solid unit, his trio of new signings made a positive impression on their Blues debuts.

Midfielder Therry Racon is good on the ball, while the strike partnership of the bruising Patrick Agyemang and John Akinde caused some problems for the Cherries defence, with power and an aerial presence.

But those latest additions took Pompey’s tally of players used to an astonishing 51 for the season.

In a campaign of miserable statistics, none are more depressing than that one, which sums up the sorry state of this illustrious club.

In truth, for an hour, Pompey’s tactics and discipline worked a treat.

In a first half of very few opportunities, only Brett Pitman’s header in first-half stoppage time looked like breaking the deadlock, only for the underside of Simon Eastwood’s crossbar to bail him out of trouble.

Pompey were biting into tackles, filling space and allowing the home side to make pretty passing patterns across the pitch without ever really threatening to score.

Eddie Howe is clearly a footballing purist, although it’s considerably easier to be a man of footballing principles when you have one of the biggest budgets in League One.

But that should take nothing away from the fact he has moulded his side to play a pleasing style of football and is patient enough to stick with it when opponents try to stop them playing.

No doubt boosted by their efforts in the first half, Pompey were looking more of an attacking threat after the break.

And they were enjoying their best spell of the game early in the second half–- just around the time they fell behind.

First, Agyemang should have done better with a free header that crept wide from Yassin Moutaoukil’s cross.

And then Dan Butler nearly fired home a 30-yard piledriver, only for Shwan Jalal to tip over as the visitors’ belief began to grow.

But the Cherries, profiting from more space to work with, saw Josh McQuoid escape down the right flank and his low cross picked out the unmarked Lewis Grabban, who had time and space to bury a low shot.

While assistant boss Andy Awford raged at the referee’s assistant for what he felt was a clear handball by McQuoid in the build-up, the reality was Pompey’s good work was then totally undone as Grabban was afforded the freedom of the penalty area to pick his spot.

It had been a gutsy effort until then, but the game was up and Pompey looked like a team who knew it.

The impressive Marc Pugh – who will surely be stepping up a division next season, even if Bournemouth don’t – capped a fine display with a well-taken second 13 minutes from time as he latched on to Pitman’s hooked through ball to roll an easy finish into the far corner and seal the victory.

Yet while many away fans would have slunk away to the exits, the Pompey supporters stood proud and decided they’d make more noise.

Their patience continues to be tested to the point that some have even wondered if this great club has been cursed in recent times.

But the glimmer of good news last week was perhaps just enough to keep them going in the hope that there will be better days ahead.

Whittingham’s post-match talk was about Pompey remaining as competitive as possible for the rest of the season.

It doesn’t take a genius to crack that code and he knows the Blues are going down, even if he can’t bring himself to admit it publically.

They say the night is darkest just before the dawn. If anyone sees that missing sun, give it a nudge.