Derby despair for struggling Portsmouth City
Portsmouth City suffered another morale-sapping defeat to rivals Team Southampton in National League division two south.
City, who have struggled without a number of key players all season, turned in a lame performance to lose a relegation six-pointer 3-1 at the Mountbatten Centre.
The result left both teams languishing at the wrong end of the table – with only one win apiece.
Portsmouth are second from bottom with 12 points in 11 matches.
That’s four more than Southampton, who have four matches in hand.
It was a nervous start for the two sides as they attacked and defended with caution on Saturday.
But the visitors soon threw caution to the wind, sprinting away to win the opening set 25-21 – thanks to a mixture of powerful attacks and solid blocks.
Portsmouth then put up a spirited fight in a pulsating second set.
The home side took the game right to the wire before eventually succumbing 31-19.
However, City refused to give up on the clash.
They carried their momentum into the third set with player-coach Nasser Ssemuwemba and outside attacker Vladislav Hristo Grozev enjoying success at the net.
Their efforts later paid off with a 25-23 set triumph.
The joy was short-lived, though, as a catalogue of individual errors and poor back-court defence allowed Southampton to regain their flow and take charge of proceedings in the fourth set.
Although the home team tried to re-organise their orientation on court, it was too late to deny their rivals a 25-18 victory and overall match success.
At the end of the contest, Portsmouth’s stand-in setter Alex Menya who was named man of the match, insisted his side were unfortunate to lose.
He said: ‘We actually did all right, considering the team we put out.
‘They had their best team, while we missed a big chunk of our key players.
‘Its unfortunate because they were there for the taking.
‘I’m still optimistic we can survive relegation to division three.’
Ssemuwemba paid tribute to his Ugandan counterpart Menya, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.
The recognition came for services to the community through various charity work but specifically for services to the military in respect of support for the wounded and injured service men and women.
Ssemuwemba said: ‘We are very proud of Menya’s achievement.
‘He is a very humble person. For our home matches, he travels from his army base, Swanton Morley barracks in Norfork, averaging a 400-mile return trip, which is testament to his commitment and the kind of person he is. His MBE is well derserved.’
Portsmouth’s next match is against New Forest on Saturday at Noadswood School (3pm).