Pompey 0 Coventry City 3

Marlon King send Jamie Ashdown the wrong way from the spot for Coventry's opener
Marlon King send Jamie Ashdown the wrong way from the spot for Coventry's opener
Dion Donohue has signed a two-year deal at Pompey Picture: Colin Farmery

Pompey new boy’s out to continue rise

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So many unanswered questions but at least one issue was settled at Fratton Park last night.

Pompey will be once again playing Championship football next season.

A harsh 3-0 defeat at the hands of Coventry City saw to that.

Question marks still hang over the club, though.

Just when will these Russians actually take over?

First it was a few days and now – according to Roman Dubov on Facebook – it won’t be settled this time next week.

Next, what is happening with Tal Ben Haim – the club’s biggest earner who still doesn’t play?

And will credit cards finally get the green light in the purchase of ‘early bird’ season tickets.

Perhaps Dean Whitestone would like to solve one other little mystery – why was Hayden Mullins sent off last night?

Giving a penalty for handball when the ball is blasted at him from close range is one thing.

Subsequently sending the player off for the alleged offence is something entirely different and far more puzzling.

Still, Pompey’s play-off fate was finally settled in the form of a disappointing home defeat to the Sky Blues.

Hopes of winning all six remaining games were always faint – improbable rather than unlikely.

Nonetheless, they had to get past first base at Fratton Park last night against a steadily-improving Coventry outfit.

And ultimately they failed, as the visitors pulled off a victory which was certainly generously assisted by the refereeing of Mr Whitestone.

No complaints about the first penalty Marlon King dispatched on 19 minutes following Ricardo Rocha’s foul.

Plenty can be said about the second, though.

Conjured up in the 69th minute, it saw Mullins given his marching orders.

The sight of Sky Blues midfielder Aron Gunnarsson putting his arm around the veteran’s shoulders and shaking his hand said it all.

Converted by King once again, the spot-kick sealed a 3-0 victory for the visitors which preserves their Championship future.

It also ensured they will meet Pompey once again next season.

In between the penalties, Gary McSheffrey netted with a free header from Richard Keogh’s right-wing cross.

Not that the final scoreline mattered.

Defeat alone was enough to bury those faint, faint promotion dreams.

Yet it was the performance of Whitestone which had the majority of fans talking as they left Fratton Park.

An erratic display – especially in the second half – which saw the home contingent’s curses later give way to laughter.

It had got that ludicrous.

Even David Nugent was booked after sarcastically celebrating winning one second-half free-kick.

Still, at least the Blues won’t be in League One next season, which looked on the cards for long periods of this current campaign.

For what would prove to be the decisive fixture in the play-off bid, Cotterill sprang a surprise by giving Danny Webber his first start since March 9, 2010.

Just weeks after that game he sustained the anterior cruciate ligament injury which would keep him sidelined for more than a year.

Yet, after fleeting appearances as a substitute, he was chosen to start against Coventry.

The 29-year-old replaced out-of-sorts David Cotterill, whose recent inconsistency saw him dropped by the Blues for the first time.

Webber partnered Nugent up front in a new-look diamond formation.

That meant Dave Kitson dropping back to form the top of the diamond, just behind the main striking duo.

Elsewhere, the only other change to the side who drew at home to Preston at the weekend was more obvious.

Ricardo Rocha returned from suspension to partner Greg Halford in the centre of defence, with Aaron Mokoena joining Cotterill on the bench.

Meanwhile, Liam Lawrence returned following a hamstring niggle, although he wasn’t risked in the starting line-up.

When the game kicked off, Webber had a glorious chance to make it a fairytale return on 10 minutes following an excellent Kitson through ball.

Beating the offside trap, he had just Keiren Westwood to beat when he blazed the ball over from just inside the penalty area.

It was the visitors who took the lead on 19 minutes with their first foray into Pompey’s penalty area.

McSheffrey wriggled into the box and Rocha brought him down for one of the more clear-cut spot-kicks you will see.

King stepped up to calmly to send Jamie Ashdown the wrong way and give the Sky Blues the lead.

Kitson was revelling in his deeper-lying role and another wonderful pass found Webber on 31 minutes but Westwood brilliantly pushed around his shot for a corner.

The former Stoke man then whipped in a ball from the left which saw Nugent take it off the toe of Webber and finish on 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, a flag for offside cut short the celebrations when, perhaps, Nugent would have been better off leaving it for his strike partner.

As the first half drew to a close, Ritchie de Laet’s energy and enthusiasm saw him get free down the right but Kitson couldn’t connect with his fierce cross.

Six minutes after the interval, Lukas Jutkiewicz skipped down the left and fired a shot which was pushed over by Ashdown.

From the resulting corner, Gunnarsson powered a header against the crossbar and the home fans breathed a sigh of relief. Coventry did, though, grab a second on 58 minutes when Keogh swung an excellent cross in from the right and McSheffrey was unmarked to head home.

Moments later, Nugent saw his ball into the area smashed against the crossbar by Martin Cranie as the former Pompey defender attempted to clear his lines.

Then came the controversy on 69 minutes when referee Whitestone adjudged Mullins had handled a shot inside the area.

The anger deepened when the midfielder was shown a straight red card for the offence, with King netting the penalty.

Pompey still had chances despite their numerical advantage, Kitson seeing his header blocked accidentally by Halford on the line.

The skipper also drew a save from Westwood with a flying header from substitute Lawrence’s cross.

But that was it as the final whistle indicated a defeat and another season in the Championship.