DCSIMG

Pompey 1 Yeovil 2

29/12/12_SPORT
Action from Pompey vs Yeovil Town at Fratton Park.
Paul Benson celebrates pulling one back for Pompey.

Picture: Steve Reid (124184-063)

29/12/12_SPORT Action from Pompey vs Yeovil Town at Fratton Park. Paul Benson celebrates pulling one back for Pompey. Picture: Steve Reid (124184-063)

 

Goodbye 2012. And good riddance.

It was certainly a year to remember in sporting terms with the London Olympics at the very pinnacle of it all.

Yet for anyone with Pompey in their veins, it was about as painful as they come.

Another bout of administration, the ongoing threat of liquidation, relegation from the Championship and another impending points deduction and probable relegation to League Two.

The hits just kept on coming.

So perhaps it was appropriate that an old favourite song was dusted off with six minutes to go until half-time in one of the poorest Pompey displays of recent times – and frankly, we’ve had a few to choose from.

‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt,’ bellowed the masses in the Fratton end at their under-performing team. Plenty of others around the ground joined in.

Not since the days of Carl Tiler and that infamous miserable, gutless loss to Crystal Palace way back in the dark days under Graham Rix, had we heard that old chestnut.

It’s perhaps the ultimate weapon for Blues fans. And it tends to come out when boos just won’t quite cut it.

But if any of the Pompey players had a problem with it – tough.

A poor first-half display left them trailing 2-0 to Yeovil Town at the break and was totally unacceptable.

A lack of ability can be forgiven – after all, these are players who were largely unwanted by other clubs and joined Pompey for a monthly contract and no security.

The stark reality is that if they were better, they wouldn’t be at Fratton Park.

Yet, what cannot be excused is a lack of effort, commitment or the willingness to give 100 per cent to the cause.

This club and the city has a proud history and they have come through difficult times together.

The club may well be at a low ebb in its current predicament but it has a rich tradition.

Some wearing the famous star and crescent on their chest would do well to remember that.

Perhaps outsiders will misunderstand that chant or the fact the team was loudly booed off at half-time. They may consider it disloyal or a lack of support.

But it wasn’t about the scoreline and it wasn’t about the fact the team had played so poorly.

It was the lack of pride.

Perhaps epitomising that was Izale McLeod. He looked totally disinterested for 45 minutes and then got himself a fifth booking of the season for dissent following an innocuous decision that had no need to be questioned.

The striker – who has been strongly linked with a move to MK Dons in January – is now suspended for the trip to Swindon on New Year’s Day.

How very convenient.

If it was McLeod’s last appearance in a Pompey shirt, few tears will be shed.

If he returns, he’ll have some making up to do and some bridges to build.

Another man who is now plumbing the depths of the fans’ disapproval is Brian Howard.

He looked certain to be dropped ahead of this game, yet got a late stay of execution.

But his performance did little to justify his inclusion.

It was fitting that when both men were hauled off by Guy Whittingham at the interval, the team was visibly lifted.

More importantly, it gave the supporters the encouragement they needed to crank up the noise again.

Pompey had actually made a bright start to the game but that soon fizzled out.

Again, it was the vulnerability from set-pieces that was their undoing as they conceded two awful goals.

First Dominic Blizzard capitalised on a loose ball in the box after Jamie McAllister’s free-kick had caused chaos.

A low bobbling shot trundled into the corner, almost in slow motion, as a ruck of Pompey players failed to deal with it.

Yeovil then extended their lead, seven minutes before the break, from another horribly scruffy goal.

Pompey failed to clear their lines and allowed Byron Webster’s overhead hooked effort to deflect off Paul Benson and beyond a wrongfooted Simon Eastwood.

It was no surprise that heads were bowed as the players trudged off.

But what then transpired was the kind of 45 minutes that suggested there was life left in old Pompey after all.

On came Scott Allan and Ashley Harris.

The Blues suddenly had some tempo, some zip and a bit of fight.

Harris summed it up in one brief moment on the left flank. He chased a ball that was going out of play as if his life depended on it and slid in to keep it in play.

If they were going to lose, they were at least going to put up a serious fight.

They were prepared to get stuck in, they were ready to run and face up for the battle.

That’s all the fans have ever asked of them.

Liam Walker, who improved considerably after the break, added some creativity to the side and he was the architect as Benson pulled a goal back, nine minutes after the restart.

Adam Webster, whose defensive headers were poor in the run-up to both Yeovil goals, responded as he stretched to knock Walker’s deep cross back across goal and Benson had the simplest of jobs to tap home from a yard out.

While the onslaught never quite materialised, Pompey were suddenly a different animal, even if clear-cut chances were hard to come by.

But Benson, who enjoyed his best game in a Pompey shirt, won a succession of headers and put himself around well.

He so nearly snatched an equaliser as his powerful header was kept out by a combination of Yeovil keeper Marek Stech and the post.

Lubomir Michalik then struck the same upright with a towering header in the dying seconds. It summed up the kind of luck Pompey are currently experiencing.

The final whistle signalled a 12th game without a win for the Blues, however, at least there were a few shreds of optimism about the second-half display, even if it ultimately ended in another defeat – an eighth loss on home territory this season.

Perhaps this game was a microcosm of the imminent departure of 2012 and the arrival of 2013: abject misery and despair followed by reasons to be a bit more cheerful about what’s to come.

There will be precious few looking back at 2012 with any fondness.

But when the clock strikes midnight tonight, it may just be the start of better things to come.

We all live in hope.

 

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