Paul Cook declined the opportunity to berate his players in the aftermath of last night’s dismal 3-1 loss to York.
His refusal to let any of them speak to the media told it’s own story, though.
That’s happened once previously this campaign – a month to the day before in a lacklustre 1-1 draw at Mansfield.
That performance left the Blues boss seething as his side’s automatic promotion aspirations were dented at a crucial stage in the season.
Today, they are in tatters.
With four matches to play and an eight-point gap to third place, albeit with a game in hand, Cook knows only a minor miracle will avoid them the nerve-shredding lottery of the play-offs.
That’s if they get there.
From a position of optimism two games ago when a 4-1 humbling of Dagenham had Pompey’s promotion destiny back in their own hands, two losses now means a cursory glance over their shoulders is in order.
With Wycombe and Wimbledon – the two teams directly below them – up next and the sixth-placed Blues engulfed in a mini blip of back-to-back defeats for the first time all season, there is now a real cause for concern that a top-seven spot is not secure.
Character, more than ever, is required to match the undoubted talent this group of players possess.
Play like they did last night, though, and dreams of trophy celebrations in the Wembley sunshine will remain just that.
How one reacts to adversity is usually a good test of character.
But with the agonising last-gasp loss to Plymouth still in their minds from the weekend, Pompey’s players fluffed their chance to make amends at Bootham Crescent.
It was a performance that ranks alongside Newport at home as the worst they have served up all term.
And at such a crucial stage in the season and with so much at stake, it is hard to comprehend why.
Non-league bound York, on a winless run stretching 12 games and on the back of a 6-0 Fratton Park thumping in November completely outplayed Cook’s men.
He said as much.
‘It could have been more’.
Exactly why were the Blues so poor last night, though?
That’s the question fans wanted answering – 841 of whom made the 10-hour 550-mile round trip in optimism and expectation only to see their side fail to show up.
But Cook neglected to reflect on the ins and outs of why his side were convincingly beaten by the second worst side in the Football League – the defeat too raw to contemplate.
His players were handed a public reprieve.
Behind closed doors they will have received both barrels.
Come Saturday, though, there will be no hiding place as a vocal Fratton Park demands answers.