Guy Whittingham leapt to the defence of red-card captain Johnny Ertl but felt the sending off changed the game.
Ertl’s second-half dismissal was the decisive moment in the disappointing 4-1 opening day defeat to Oxford.
The midfielder was sent off after catching U’s midfielder Danny Rose with his elbow as they contested a high ball.
Referee Gavin Ward issued the red card following a melee between the players and with Rose lying prostrate on the Fratton Park turf.
Whittingham felt the decision was ‘debatable’ and was adamant there was no intent on his captain’s part.
He said: ‘Like all players do, when you jump and come down from high you have your arm up.
‘There’s no way he swung an elbow but his arm is up there.
‘If that’s a red card then it’s a red card.
‘It’s changed the game because we felt we had a chance to get back in it.
‘He didn’t swing it, so I think it’s debatable whether it was a sending off.
‘But the ref gave a red and there it is.
‘It didn’t help what happened after, of course it didn’t.
‘We know Johnny would not go out to harm a player.
‘But the referee doesn’t know Johnny – he sees what he sees.
‘It’s a sending off because the ref sent him off.
‘The next goal was big and there was no reason to think we wouldn’t score up until that point.’
Ertl will now miss Pompey’s next three games.
Whittingham did say Pompey would consider their options but an appeal looks unlikely.
‘The ref gave the decision and that’s it,’ he added.
‘We’ll have a look and if we think there is a real case we might appeal.
‘But the ref is adamant his elbow was up, and, from one angle on the replay, his elbow is up.’
– JORDAN CROSS