Dark moment will reveal much about Pompey

Michael Doyle faces the flak from Pompey fans at Barnet. Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Doyle faces the flak from Pompey fans at Barnet. Picture: Joe Pepler

Michael Doyle was honest enough to admit he’s been feeling the heat in the promotion battle.

After the events of recent days, he’s clearly not the only one.

The temperature gauge has been rising as Pompey’s bid for League Two success hits the buffers.

The angst it’s causing reared its head as fans turned on each other amid their frustration at Yeovil.

And then, on Tuesday night, it boiled over in the post-match scenes at Barnet.

This is a dark moment, make no mistake.

The bleakness of struggling form emerging at a time when the demand is consistency is, of course, the reason.

In the aftermath of a defeat where Pompey were, for long periods, outfought, the flashpoint surfaced which summed the heightened tensions.

Typically, it was Doyle who fronted up as the flak flew in his face at The Hive.

There were plenty of fans who appreciated his apologetic gesture after the final whistle.

But, with emotions running high, the Pompey skipper also had to run a gauntlet of anger from other elements as the atmosphere became poisonous.

The images from Pompey and News photographer Joe Pepler save the need for further description.

After that, the last thing the Irishman wanted to do was then talk to the press. Again, he was the man to front up.

‘It’s easy to walk away but listen, I’ve been around long enough,’ said a clearly emotional Doyle, moments after the final whistle.

‘It’s frustrating. We’re all hurting.’

That hurt, according to reports, has also reared its head in a number of fractious moments among Pompey fans in the past two games.

A number of incidents surfaced at Huish Park on Saturday as the travelling fans endured what was, for the most part, another bleak afternoon.

Ostensibly, the consternation in many of the incidents seems to be differences of opinion over firstly, the manner in which support is shown and, secondly, the backing or otherwise of Paul Cook.

Take the prospect of continuing disappointment, add a healthy amount of pre-match booze and mix it with a poor result and you have a cocktail for things to get ugly.

Cook, of course, knows the rules of the game.

He has been backed healthily and promotion is where the bar has been set.

In the new era of community ownership, the board and three managers have felt the burden of that expectation.

Now, more than at any point in his stewardship, so does Cook.

Even after fighting previous promotion battles, the intensity of being in the eye of that storm at Pompey may well have surprised him.

Yet, instead of dodging the talking points on Tuesday night, Cook cut to the heart of the issue with his conviction still strong.

‘There’s frustration because it looks like we aren’t going to get out of the league,’ said Cook succinctly.

‘I understand that. But we need them. We need each other so bad it’s untrue.’

And in those words, the Pompey boss perfectly paints the picture.

Privately, there may be some disappointment at how quickly sentiments are changing.

That was seen when cheers against Bournemouth turned to boos against Leyton Orient earlier this month, across the space of seven days.

With the finishing line moving closer, however, the Blues find themselves in their lowest league position of the season.

In the wake of events, it would be no surprise to see the squad close ranks in the coming days.

Pressure affects people in different ways – whether that’s on the pitch, in the dugout, boardroom or stands.

The coming weeks will tell us much about Pompey’s character in all of these areas.