Pompey 0-2 Newport

Michael Flynn fires Newport into the lead at Fratton Park despite the close attention of Pompey central defenders Joe Devera and Sonny Bradley    Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Flynn fires Newport into the lead at Fratton Park despite the close attention of Pompey central defenders Joe Devera and Sonny Bradley Picture: Joe Pepler
Former Pompey player Eoin Hand, right

Pompey favourite at Fratton Park to sign autobiography

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Pompey have become so accustomed to fresh starts in recent times, you’d think they would be better at them by now.

The trouble is every time that change happens, you hope the misery has finally ended to make way for happier times.

The reality is, we’re all still waiting.

New owners, new managers, new players and sometimes even a whole new team have been thrown together.

Many have come and many have gone.

It’s become a sea of constant change at Fratton Park, and the while many dream of the consistency, stability and just an ounce of good, old-fashioned normality to see a club start to climb back to where it belongs in football, those first few steps seem to be the hardest.

Most fair-minded folk realised this was never going to be an overnight fix at a club where so much damage has been inflicted over such a long period of time.

We should not forget the club was on the brink of extinction and we can be eternally thankful those in charge understand what Pompey means to so many people.

A lot of those people worked exceptionally hard to ensure this club dodged the Grim Reaper.

But having got a pulse back, trying to haul the patient off the sick bed is proving to be a bigger challenge than many predicted.

Recovery can be a slow and tortuous process. Don’t we just know it.

For the new man in the Fratton Park hot seat, Richie Barker, it’s unfair to heap too much blame on him for Saturday’s defeat, considering he only arrived a week ago.

But just as much of the credit would have gone his way if Pompey had claimed a win over Newport in his first game in charge.

He will also know himself the desired impact of a new manager at the helm did not yield the kind of instant reaction it so often does elsewhere.

It’s not his team, he didn’t sign these players and it’s fair to suggest he might not have gone near some of them if the choice had been his.

Then again, most believe these players are good enough to at least punch their weight in League Two and mid-table stability should be the very least of their objectives this season.

But if there is any punching to be done, it is Pompey who are being hit by the telling blows at the moment.

Hard as it may be to accept for those who like to shift the blame elsewhere, the fact is that this group of players are under-achieving.

They will have their reasons and some may even call them excuses.

No doubt, many of those explanations will not be for public consumption.

But now Barker needs time to implement a few of his ideas and address some of the areas in his team – because it needs fixing.

He needs to do it pretty quickly as well, with Pompey looking increasingly like a side who could get dragged into a relegation battle to stay in the Football League.

Eradicating the defensive errors will surely be the priority for Barker, just as it was for caretaker boss Andy Awford during his short stint in charge following Guy Whittingham’s sacking.

But an underlying problem to look at is the woeful home form at a venue where Pompey used to thrive.

For teams going to Fratton Park, it used to be the equivalent of a raucous, snarling, boozy party where you hadn’t been invited and knew you shouldn’t have turned up the moment you walked through the door.

Outsiders were distinctly unwelcome and some erstwhile visitors were made to feel a little bit awkward before they were sent on their way.

These days it’s like a pleasant Christmas gathering, with the neighbours full of cheery smiles and where you can help yourself to a mince pie and a glass of wine before you tuck into the three points and wander off home again.

The club’s biggest asset – that siege mentality and the bond between players and supporters – is being tested to its very limits.

It used to be a horrible place to come for other teams.

Not at the moment, it isn’t.

This was a sixth defeat on home turf in 11 League Two outings this season.

It doesn’t take Einstein to tell you that it’s far too many.

This latest loss was horribly familiar as well. Pompey actually looked solid at the back until they gave away the opening goal.

It was a well-worked move but should have been avoided long before Ryan Jackson teed up the onrushing Michael Flynn to find the roof of the net.

The fact Flynn was then allowed to double his own tally as well as his team’s within the space of a few minutes was the biggest sin.

Instead of regrouping and steadying themselves to get back into the game, Pompey effectively gave it up as they failed to deal with a long throw-in, which presented Flynn with the chance to fire home at the far post again.

An unsteady opening quarter of the game for Barker’s side saw Newport on top in the early stages.

But the Blues had a good spell themselves as they appeared to find some of their missing rhythm.

They might have gone ahead as David Connolly went close with a curling effort, while Shaun Cooper’s volley whistled over the crossbar.

But the real chance fell to Patrick Agyemang after a clever interchange on the edge of the box released Connolly, only for the giant striker’s shot to be blocked heroically by Andy Sandell on the line.

Agyemang was denied again after the break, this time by a combination of Lenny Pidgeley and David Pipe.

But once Newport had blasted their quick-fire double, Pompey showed very little in the way of a response. The one chink of light was the introduction of Jed Wallace, who twice hit the woodwork during his 23 minutes on the pitch.

The first was decidedly unlucky as Connolly squared from the right and the youngster’s sliding effort rattled back off the foot of the post.

The second was more of a fluke, with a cross that worried the keeper as it grazed the crossbar.

But Wallace showed plenty of attacking intent that will surely be enough to earn him a recall to the starting line-up next weekend. Perhaps the real worry, though, was the lack of pressure on the visiting keeper after Pompey went behind.

Frankly, they never looked like getting themselves back into the game against a Newport side who were no world beaters but were effective at what they did and clinical in front of goal when it mattered.

The boos that greeted the final whistle were more frustration than anything else.

But if Barker didn’t know the size of his task beforehand, he does now.