DCSIMG

Pompey 0 Brentford 1

Lubomir Michalik heads clear during Pompey's abject 1-0 defeat to Brentford      Picture: Steve Reid

Lubomir Michalik heads clear during Pompey's abject 1-0 defeat to Brentford Picture: Steve Reid


 

If this was the swansong then it was thoroughly underwhelming.

There were doubts Michael Appleton would even be on the touchline against Brentford last night, such were the vociferous rumours linking him to Blackpool.

As it was, the 36-year-old was present and had the prime position of observing a fourth successive defeat for his Pompey side.

It represented game number 51 in charge of Portsmouth Football Club, three days before his year’s anniversary at Fratton Park.

The indications, of course, were it would also be his last.

Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston, who has provided a running commentary throughout, was adamant his winning candidate would be unveiled this morning.

After last night’s 1-0 defeat to Brentford, unsurprisingly, Appleton was coy on the link which refused to go away.

The fear remained, however, that after being eyed by Bolton, Burnley and Crystal Palace in recent weeks, the Tangerines would be the ones to firm up their interest.

If that does indeed prove to be the case it was a sour note for the ever-popular Appleton to depart on, not merely in result but performance.

Once again it was an abject, below-par showing from the Blues, lacklustre at best, disinterested at worst.

They could barely muster an attempt on goal throughout the occasion.

Worryingly, the passing was just as inaccurate and reckless in its execution.

The Fratton end spent the first eight minutes singing relentlessly about their manager, going through their whole repertoire.

Then, Clayton Donaldson produced a back header to glance the Bees into a ninth-minute lead.

From that moment, Uwe Rosler’s men never looked in any danger of surrendering their advantage, while those Appleton songs swiftly subsided.

Not even the early introduction of crowd favourite and boyhood Blue Ashley Harris after 35 minutes could affect matters.

The loud boos which rang out at the final whistle reflected the anger at another toothless and embarrassing home display – and they had a point.

What’s more, potentially it could be a truly sad end to the Pompey career of a manager who has galvanised the supporters amid bleak times and been a beacon of respect and dignity.

Appleton made three changes to the side which performed so disappointingly against Notts County in the FA Cup at the weekend.

Carl Dickinson was back, having been made unavailable by his parent club Watford on Saturday, while Lee Williamson returned from a groin problem.

In addition, Jon Harley claimed his usual first-team spot, having been a substitute in the 2-0 first-round loss to the Magpies.

That meant Luke Rodgers and Johnny Ertl dropping to the bench, with Scott Allan serving the first of his three-match ban following his dismissal at the weekend.

Interestingly, there was no instant return for keeper Mikkel Andersen, having not been given permission from Reading to play against Notts County.

Instead, Simon Eastwood kept his place for his fourth appearance of the campaign – all coming in different competitions.

Meanwhile, Harris was back among the subs having recovered from an ankle injury, with Josh Thompson failing to make the 18-man squad.

When the game got under way it took just nine minutes for Brentford to break down Pompey’s ever-creaking defence.

Adam Forshaw clipped in a free-kick from the left and Donaldson produced a flicked back header which wrong-footed Eastwood and found the net.

It was another poor goal for Appleton’s men to give away, yet inevitably sent the large Brentford away following wild.

In the 16th minute, Eastwood had to react smartly to keep out a low cross following a stunning run from Tom Adeyemi, the keeper then collecting the ball in the air.

It took until 30 minutes before Pompey mustered their first attempt on goal.

In fitting with their play to that point, however, it was poor, Harley’s attempt from long distance soaring comfortably over the bar.

Appleton had seen enough and, with just 35 minutes on the clock, he brought off Adam Webster in place of Harris in a bid to pep his side up.

Moments later, Harry Forrester surged through the heart of the Pompey defence, flying past several players, before driving a shot narrowly past the left-hand post.

The hosts served up their best move of the match so far in the 37th minute when McLeod galloped down the left and pulled the ball back to Akos Buzsaky, who could only side-foot a shot wide.

With half-time approaching, a Lubomir Michalik ball down the middle bounced into the path of McLeod, who swivelled and sent a half-volley agonisingly wide.

Pompey continued to struggle to impose themselves after the break, although Buzsaky did let fly with a 25-yard effort which curled just past the post.

The hosts had a real let-off in the 62nd minute when Forrester fizzed in a dangerous low cross from the right and substitute Scott Barron somehow failed to convert at the far post, with Eastwood gathering the ball instead.

Unfortunately for the Fratton faithful, their side were just as ineffective in the second half as they were for a dour first period, with Brentford in complete control.

No equaliser came, nor was one ever truly threatened as the match petered out.

When the players had left the field at the final whistle, Appleton turned to applaud those fans who still remained.

Not much of a farewell, from not much of a football match.

 

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