Mokoena: We don’t blame Liam

David Norris consoles Liam Lawrence after the penalty miss. Picture: Steve Reid
David Norris consoles Liam Lawrence after the penalty miss. Picture: Steve Reid
Matt Clarke battles to win the ball. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Aaron Mokoena refused to point the finger of blame in Liam Lawrence’s direction after Pompey suffered their first Championship defeat of the season.

Lawrence struck a post from the penalty spot with the last kick of Saturday’s game, gifting Brighton a 1-0 victory.

The Blues skipper was distraught at the final whistle, collapsing on the pitch beside the goal.

Clearly emotional over his mistake, he was eventually helped to his feet by several of his team-mates.

The undisputed penalty taker, it was the first time Pompey’s Republic of Ireland international has missed in six attempts since arriving at the club in August last year.

Saturday capped a miserable four days for Steve Cotterill’s side, who also lost to Barnet in the week.

But Mokoena, who impressed back in the centre of defence, was in no mood to criticise his colleague.

He said: ‘Liam is a big boy. He knows it happens. It happens to big players.

‘We are a team and things like that do happen. Mistakes happen in football.

‘We know what kind of character Liam is and he will come back from this. Definitely.

‘We all wanted to see him score but unfortunately it didn’t go our way.

‘We’ve now got to throw it out of the window and play a massive game tomorrow.

‘You can’t really point the fingers at each other at the moment.

‘The gaffer is trying to put his squad together and to do what he thinks works for the club.

‘I am sure we will bounce back and I am sure Liam will bounce back.

‘We have just got to believe in ourselves.’

Regardless of the Fratton Park defeat, the performance was a vast improvement on the Barnet debacle.

After that shock loss, the players held a dressing room inquest for an hour.

The result was a more energetic, committed and aggressive display against Brighton in the first south-coast derby of the season.

Pompey were still left empty-handed, though.

They have now not won a match since March 19 at Leicester City.

But Mokoena was delighted with the way the Blues responded.

He added: ‘We made Barnet look good the other day.

‘It’s unacceptable to play like that, especially at home.

‘We played awful and can’t really hide behind the bushes about it.

‘That performance is unlike us and on Saturday we were a different team altogether.

‘It was about forgetting about that and making sure we showed up against Brighton.

‘Unfortunately it was a scrappy goal. And unfortunately we missed chances.

‘But we pressed well and managed to keep the ball.

‘Of course there are a few elements to improve on but there were a lot of positives.’