Pompey 0 Oldham 1

Johnny Ertl looks on as Mikkel Andersen is beaten by his deflection. Picture: Barry Zee
Johnny Ertl looks on as Mikkel Andersen is beaten by his deflection. Picture: Barry Zee
Sonny Bradley, right, will face his old side this weekend. Picture: Joe Pepler

Bradley: Pompey clash is the one I look forward to

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As if Michael Appleton didn’t have enough to contend with during an often torturous managerial spell.

Now errant match officials are heaping agony on those broad shoulders already burdened with the weight of the world.

Not that Carl Berry’s abject showing should be wheeled out to mask a desperately disappointing result.

Pompey were poor against Oldham, let that be made abundantly clear.

They were ragged at times, physically overrun on occasions and too often poor in the final third.

And the fact Johnny Ertl nudged a cross past his own keeper for the match decider had nothing to do with Berry’s inadequacy.

Likewise, the failure to capitalise on several early goal-scoring opportunities was not his doing.

Nonetheless, the Surrey official was the catalyst for a game which rapidly descended into unbridled chaos.

Appalling for both sides, it was no victimisation of poor, hard done-by Pompey.

Berry somehow managed to send off Oldham’s Cliff Byrne in an embarrassing case of mistaken identity.

The validity of Jordan Obita’s red card in the same incident is also a matter of some debate.

Michael Appleton was going to spend the remainder of the weekend carefully studying video footage.

For those relying on the BBC’s Football League Show, the tangle with Connor Brown was inconclusive at best.

What is clear, however, is the match official’s handling of Saturday’s game was shocking.

It also hindered the effectiveness of a Blues side which bore the brunt of most of his head-scratching decisions.

Berry failed to maintain control of an encounter made all too physical by Oldham.

Equally, many of his mistakes were embarrassing, as was his frequent refusal to allow the game to flow.

Pompey players and fans will have to get used to the manner in which the Latics approached the match – particularly at Fratton Park.

This is League One now, an entirely different environment to that which many are used to.

Perhaps the standard of refereeing also reflects a change of division, yet in football terms it continues to be an education.

Certainly Obita has some maturing to do after being on the receiving end of at times brutal marking by Jean-Yves Mvoto.

The on-loan Reading youngster was becoming increasingly frustrated during the first half, confronting the towering defender on several occasions.

With a degree of inevitability that manifested itself ultimately into Obita’s part in his sending off – a pointless clash with Brown.

A young footballer finally snapping after much provocation, his manager afterwards pinpointed a lack of protection being a crucial factor.

It was hard to argue – he had a point.

Still, to their credit, Oldham were a constant attacking threat, irrespective of their no frills, no-nonsense approach.

Largely channelled through Cristian Montano, they often exposed a Blues defence which continues to creak.

The central area remains a source of some concern, not that Appleton needs it pointing out.

Pompey’s manager was uncharacteristically biting his tongue over the failure of Josh Thompson to be registered in time to feature.

He put it down to ‘paperwork’, yet the process has obviously angered Appleton who, in the interests of discretion, declined to comment any further.

With Kevin Long suspended, it meant Ertl was pressed into action alongside Paul Connolly.

Connolly himself had sat out training this week – until Friday – with a hamstring concern.

Throw in the fact Ertl had only been on the south coast a couple of days and it was hardly the ideal foundation for such a crucial partnership.

As it was, Ertl visibly struggled in what is a secondary role to his preferred central midfield status.

Several times the Austrian international gave the ball away in dangerous areas to leave the Fratton faithful groaning.

His role in the deciding goal was certainly unfortunate, although Appleton did pinpoint Ertl’s lack of match sharpness being a contributing factor.

With 59 minutes on the clock, Jonathan Grounds delivered a low cross into the box and the former Sheffield United man slid in to cut the ball out.

Unfortunately he only succeeded in diverting it past his helpless keeper – and that was that.

Another reason for Appleton to afterwards fume over the fact Thompson was not out there playing instead, especially having agreed a one-month deal before Friday’s noon deadline.

Still, Ertl has plenty of time to bounce back from such first day teething troubles and prove his Blues worth.

In defence of Connolly, however, he did produce his most effective performance to date.

Although let’s not forget, such is the lack of depth in the Pompey squad, he remains a right-back serving in a central defender’s world.

The match had started promisingly for Pompey too. With Obita given his first start and Darel Russell joining Ertl as debutants in the team, Appleton’s men produced their best moments of the match in those opening 15 minutes at Fratton Park.

Firstly Obita crossed from the left and Izale McLeod got ahead of his marker to steer in a shot which Alex Cisak gathered low down.

On five minutes, Liam Walker picked out Obita’s run down the middle to put the youngster clean through, only for him to shoot straight at the keeper.

Walker was the next to threaten, firing in a left-foot effort which was comfortably wide.

It was Oldham, though, who came closest to scoring before the half was out.

Mikkel Anderssen led a trio of saves and blocks from a corner which resulted in Mustapha Dumbuya being clattered on the line. Then, in the second half, Montano struck the inside of the far post on 53 minutes following a break.

Just six minutes later came Ertl’s intervention and the visitors had their noses in front.

Substitutes Ashley Harris and Luke Rodgers both had decent late shots saved as Pompey strived for the equaliser.

But the scoreline stood for a forgettable match only made memorable by a certain Carl Berry from Surrey.