Pompey 1 Gillingham 3
Pompey`s brittle confidence levels were there for all to see yesterday as they fell apart after such a promising first half.
Kenny Jackett shuffled the pack and made four changes bringing in Connor Roan, Sylvan Deslandes, Kal Naismith and fit again Jack Whatmough. Oli Hawkins it was revealed was added to the injury list with a hamstring problem picked up in training.
Quite what formation they were playing certainly confused the pundits and at times the players. The official site called it a 3-5-2 but it looked more like a 4-4-2 with Jamal Lowe and Naismith up top.
The first forty-five minutes showed Pompey almost back to their best as they created chances and took the lead when Lowe lashed home after being set up by Naismith. By the break he could have had a hat-trick heading a cross just over and delaying when put clean through again by Naismith. The Gills were also lucky not to concede a penalty when Ehmer handled in the box.
At the interval the visitors when Conor Wilkinson replaced Eaves and he had an immediate impact with an outstanding goal turning outside of Matt Clarke and inside Christian Burgess and planting a firm shot beyond Luke McGee. That was more the skill of the former loan striker than poor defending but it was the beginning of the end for Pompey. Heads dropped and the Gills poured forward looking to kill off the blues.
This was when the experienced players in the side needed to stand up and be counted but sadly that did not happen. Naismith seemed to be more interested in arguing with officials and Burgess is having a very poor run of form. Dion Donohue tried his best to anchor the midfield but there was no protection for the back three (or four or was it five?)
After Ronan hit the post from a free kick Lee Martin scored twice from long range the first from a wide free kick which everyone missed and a second which rifled in off the cross bar. That proved the sign for the crowd to head for the exits.
The only happy Pompey fan yesterday was Matt Ritchie – how he enjoyed his Newcastle goal yesterday!
Pompey (3-5-2): McGee; Whatmough (Chaplin 76), Burgess, Clarke (c); Walkes, Ronan, Close, Donohue, Deslandes (Haunstrup 65); Lowe, Naismith
Goals: Lowe 19
Subs not used: Bass, Widdrington, May, Smith, Kennedy
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Attendance: 18,247 (1,551 away fans)
Jackett told the official site afterwards “Gillingham started the second half very well and I understand the strikes they had were particularly impressive. But we need to cope with periods of pressure without conceding. It`s something we`re not doing and it`s costing us.
“We can talk about the quality of their strikes, but it`s just too many goals that we`re conceding of late. They were avoidable and it gave us a mountain to climb at the end. In too many games of late we`re looking brittle in defensive situations and there are moments when a lack of talking and experience is costing us.
“We just have to keep working with this group because there`s potential there. We`ll work on what we can do better and focus on trying to have a strong end to the season.”
The Pompey fans Facebook group have been discussing great comebacks this week but to date have missed the greatest of them all!
It came back on 26 October 1963 in East London. Pompey were fresh off a 5-2 thrashing of Newcastle at Fratton Park the previous week and travelled to Leyton Orient in good heart especially with centre forward Ron Saunders in great goal scoring form – he already had netted eleven times including a hat-trick against the Geordies.
However, things would not go the way planned as after just half an hour Pompey found themselves 3-0 down. Then something happened and either side of the half time break Pompey scored five goals in eleven minutes, including three for Saunders, which at that time was a record, and a late sixth meant the score ended Leyton Orient 3 Pompey 6!
Now that was a comeback! The Pompey side that day included a few famous names Hall of Fames Alex Wilson, Jimmy Dickinson, Johnny Gordon and Albert McCann plus Bobby Campbell, and still a regular visitor to Fratton Park, John McClelland. For the record Mickey Lill (2) and McCann score the other goals.
1963/64 is a season I have written little about in the past but it had some highs other than this remarkable result – Pompey did the double over the lot down the road – the home game being my first derby – and scored in all but one of their home games (a 0-0 draw with Swansea Town). They were to finish ninth scoring 79 goals – eight more that Leeds who went up as Champions!
Orient were to be sick of Saunders as in the reverse fixture later in the season Ron would again score a hat-trick in a 4-3 Pompey win! Ron would end the season with thirty-three goals. Ron moved to Watford at the start of the new season but would score five hat-tricks in his 259 games over six years and in total net 162 goals.
Next Saturday sees Pompey climbing to Boundary Park, Oldham – the highest ground in the Football League.
It is a visit Pompey make with trepidation as they have only won two of sixteen league games and one of those was back in 1925! The more recent win was back in 1984 when second half goals from Neil Webb and Nicky Morgan earned a 2-0 win in front of less that 4,000 the smallest crowd to watch Pompey in that second-tier season.
The last Pompey player to score in the fixture was Fitzroy Simpson back in 1995.
In a week when we have all remembered the recovery of Sylvian Distin to stop Michael Carrick scoring at Old Trafford ten years ago then it is perhaps apt that we look at an even better recovery.
This is some recovery from Argentinian goalkeeper Agustín Marchesín in the CONCACAF Champions League this week. Lobbed from distance, being caught off his line, but he doesn’t give up.