DCSIMG

Pompey 0 Doncaster 1

 

More new Fratton Park faces and another shuffle of the pack by a different person at the helm.

Worryingly, the outcome remains precisely the same.

Pompey are embroiled in a League One relegation battle – that is abundantly clear.

Before a ball had been kicked this season, it was always going to be a big ask to avoid successive relegations.

Now it is a reality, as those fans present during the current demoralising run of Pompey defeats will staunchly testify.

On Saturday, Paul Benson and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing represented players number 37 and 38 who have turned out for the Blues this term.

A truly-staggering statistic from 22 fixtures fulfilled so far.

Indicative of the instability on and off the field which has existed for far, far too long.

The continued papering over the cracks on the squad front is a necessity, yet the plasters are peeling off.

And the procession of new recruits shows no sign of letting up as Guy Whittingham attempts to find the short-term solution.

Against Doncaster Rovers there was conclusive proof this team will not be transformed from a pumpkin into a carriage at the wave of a wand.

For as well as Mendez-Laing and Benson played, the former in particular, Pompey continue to swim against the tide.

The result is six successive defeats and a gradual slide towards the relegation zone.

And all set against a backdrop of those players not on loan penning month-to-month deals.

Only when the club moves out of administration will they finally be able to conjure up a stable first-team environment.

In the meantime, it continues to be all change ahead of the closing of the emergency loan window on Thursday.

Carl Dickinson was the latest to bid goodbye – on Saturday saying his farewells on the touchline post-match.

A fifth booking of the season – and fourth for Pompey – ensured he couldn’t play against Leyton Orient tomorrow anyway.

So that’s the end of the latest loan spell for a player who didn’t fail to disappoint.

Let’s face it, not too much was expected of Dickinson in the first place – and in that respect he lived up to his billing.

In addition, Mikkel Andersen departs after tomorrow night’s visit of Leyton Orient.

Although a regular, he is another who has been far from convincing.

He appeared ponderous when he should have dealt with Iain Hume’s match-winner during a mix-up with Brian Howard.

In truth, there have not been too many highlights from the Reading keeper, who has been nothing more than average during his stay.

Perhaps Pompey fans have been spoilt in recent times with David James, Asmir Begovic, Stephen Henderson and – to an extent – Jamie Ashdown.

Now they must decide whether to replace Andersen with another loan keeper or stick with just Simon Eastwood in their squad.

Regardless, Dickinson and Andersen will free up two spaces, which Whittingham and Andy Awford will be striving to fill.

Throw in Scott Allan, whose eventful loan period is also running out and will not be extended, and the chopping and changing will continue.

What’s more, expect the squad to receive major surgery in January as the existing players exercise the chance to move elsewhere.

In the here and now, though, the battle to remain in League One is beginning to become more and more serious.

A massive task for Whittingham as he steers Pompey through the interim period towards coming out of administration.

Forget rumours of the likes of Paul Ince coming in – there will be no permanent appointment until the culmination of the court case with Portpin at the very least.

And the Pompey Supporters’ Trust will have a massive say in his identity as the potential new owners.

So Whittingham it is then left with a thankless task of evolving the side and somehow moulding it into a winning one. Certainly, confidence is low – both among the players and the fans – yet he is a good man with Pompey in his heart.

Saturday did yield an improvement on recent displays, particularly in the second half.

Granted, the performance once again lacked goals, stretching the drought to an unpalatable 489 minutes.

The overall display was largely unsatisfactory, the only goal of the game was defensively embarrassing and too many players continue to struggle finding their form.

Nonetheless, chances were created and after the break there was an urgency about the Blues’ play which has been glaringly absent from pedestrian displays of late.

It was Mendez-Laing who was the star – the 20-year-old’s directness wreaking havoc and earning him the immediate respect of the Fratton faithful.

There will be days, of course, when he will go missing, but on Saturday he was sensational whenever the ball was delivered to his feet.

Yet it was a defensive error which gave Doncaster the decisive goal on 24 minutes.

Mustapha Dumbuya firstly failed to deal with a bouncing ball and, when Martin Woods crossed from the right, Hume took advantage, with Andersen and Howard dithering.

Pompey did have opportunities of their own, though, only to spurn them.

Lubomir Michalik did hit the crossbar in the 75th minute from substitute Ashley Harris’ corner.

Yet it was Izale McLeod who would prove to be the biggest culprit with a dreadful miss late on.

Howard’s sublime pass put the leading scorer clean through, only for McLeod to lob the ball over the bar.

To not even get his attempt on target was criminal and a crucial moment to curse.

Whittingham thought Pompey deserved a win. They certainly warranted a point from the occasion.

Now it’s onto Leyton Orient tomorrow night – minus Dickinson, of course.

The likelihood is there will be more temporary recruits before the week is out as the Blues squad keeps on evolving.

Yet that winning formula continues to elude, irrespective of who is in the charge.

And that tumble down the league is gathering momentum.

Strap yourselves in, this is going to be a bumpy relegation ride.

 

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