Pompey 0 - Cardiff City 2

Plymouth Argyle's Remi Matthews. Picture: PA Images

Plymouth’s goalkeeping crisis ahead of Pompey clash

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As if Steve Cotterill hadn’t endured enough pain, now his own allies are plunging in the knife.

Another week, another Championship defeat as the Blues remain rooted to the foot of the table.

Except this time it had been instigated by his players.

A Hayden Mullins own goal and Ibrahima Sonko’s ricket sent Cardiff down the M4 with a 2-0 victory.

Yet their inglorious contributions towards Pompey’s downfall were nothing more than the tip of the volcano.

Beneath them, fires of discontent continue to rumble away.

Too many players don’t want to be at Fratton Park. Sadly, Saturday demonstrated it all too obviously.

What’s more, Blues fans should now brace themselves for an explosion of exits with tomorrow’s transfer deadline looming.

Cotterill had already intimated his dressing room was split down the middle, with those wanting to flee congregating on one side.

The truth is, they may well have waved the white flag and jumped on the next train out of Fratton once that second Cardiff goal went in.

We already know Marc Wilson has packed his bags and expect several others to follow in what should be a frantic finale to the transfer window.

Tommy Smith is being courted by Rangers and QPR, while John Utaka is apparently interesting two Premier League clubs.

Aaron Mokoena, a player whose demeanour oozes unhappiness, is also attracting envious glances from other clubs.

No coincidence then that all failed their current employers in what most likely would have been their Pompey farewell.

Distracted, their minds elsewhere, anywhere just as long as it is no longer on the south coast.

That is the real insult to those fans present who, after 49 minutes, had to suffer a half-hearted display from people who cannot wait to gallop away.

Yet, up until that fateful Ibrahima Sonko moment, the hosts had impressed, which made the final result that much more galling.

Cotterill’s men went toe-to-toe with promotion-hunting Cardiff in the first half and only a calamitous Mullins own goal could separate them.

Had David Nugent managed to crash his close-range effort anywhere else but straight at David Marshall, they would have even entered the break on level terms.

That would prove to be Pompey’s best goal-scoring opportunity of the game. Well, in front of the opposition goal anyway.

Still, as far as swansongs go, Wilson must have endured one of the most abject ever seen in Pompey history.

So much for going out with a bang, the 22-year-old who knows he is off to pastures new turned in a dreadful display.

Understandable considering the distractions of his impending Stoke switch, coupled with his general inexperience.

Afterwards, Cotterill admitted Wilson would not have played had he possessed a squad big enough to cope without him.

Nonetheless, there can be no excuses over his role in the 37th minute opener.

Trying to be too clever in possession in the middle of the park by attempting an unadvisable piece of skill, he was set about by Jay Bothroyd and Danny Drinkwater.

The former came away with the ball to launch a counter attack and when Drinkwater supplied the pass, the unfortunate Mullins could only divert it past Jamie Ashdown.

The scoresheet shows Mullins’ name, yet he was helpless to avoid contact as the ball struck him while he was on the run.

For Pompey, the real culprit was Wilson and it was a mistake which proved so costly.

Indeed, the Irishman was unrecognisable from the player whose development over the past year has proven astonishing.

Understandably, he is now being pursued by Stoke, West Brom, West Ham and reportedly also Fulham, ensuring a return to the Premier League beckons.

On Saturday, though, he was clearly an unwilling passenger.

It was to be Sonko’s error, however, which secured Cardiff’s victory and another outrageous mistake.

The on-loan defender failed to seize control of the situation when the ball bounced his way in the penalty area, expecting Ashdown to come out and gather.

In the end, he panicked and diverted the ball to Bothroyd, who slotted into an empty net with the Blues’ keeper stranded.

Sadly, it summed up Sonko’s display and once more reinforced the doubts many of the home faithful have over his talents.

He looked ill at ease with Mokoena and between the pair of them they struggled to enforce an already creaking defence.

Mokoena himself looks a completely different player to the one which functioned next to Ricardo Rocha last season – and not in a good way either.

Yet still he was marginally better on Saturday than Sonko, whose distribution weaknesses refuse to go away.

Not that Cotterill could have brought him off against Cardiff, with only other contender Joel Ward sidelined through illness.

Elsewhere, Smith ran hard but once again was found wanting in the quality stakes as Rangers and QPR continue to pursue.

The former Watford man’s Championship pedigree is unquestionable, but Pompey fans have been waiting a year for him to shine through his goals and excellent wing play.

Sadly, they continue to wait.

As for Utaka, granted he put plenty of effort in during his return to the side following yet another hamstring injury.

However, there consistently remains no end product and both player and club are now desperate to clinch a parting of the ways before the end of play tomorrow. Not that Pompey should be mourning the anticipated exodus, after all, these same players represented the club when it spent almost the entirety of last season at the foot of the Premier League.

The real key is going to be bringing in players of quality to replace them in Cotterill’s threadbare squad.

Regardless, the parting of waves cannot come soon enough if Saturday’s overall performance is to go by.

Pompey fans have had enough of half-hearted attempts at dictating the destiny of their football club.

Let’s just hope the likes of Dave Kitson and Liam Lawrence will be in the starting line-up at Fratton Park next time around.