Comment: Pompey must find consistency - and fast
The FA Cup can often provide the comfort of a '˜no-lose situation' for promotion-chasing sides.
A win brings prize money to boost the bank balance, and whets the appetite for a potential tie with a Premier League big gun.
Lose, and for most fans it’s a care-free case of: Let’s get back to the real business of the league.
For Pompey, though, Saturday’s first-round exit at home to Wycombe offers no such solace.
A third-straight defeat at Fratton Park, outplayed for large parts by a side sitting 16 places below them in League Two, combined with an alarming lack of fight, has simply fanned the flames over whether this Blues squad can find the consistency needed to finally achieve an automatic promotion slot this season.
A deflated Paul Cook was clear in his post-match press conference that Pompey cannot keep up their yo-yo run of results: looking a class above one week, before stumbling to defeat the next.
There can be little doubt that when this Blues side get it right, they can be head and shoulders above most teams in League Two. You can look to league victories over Crawley, Wycombe and Barnet for proof of that.
When Pompey are good, they are really good – producing a free-flowing game in a division more renowned for blood-and-thunder football.
The concern, however, is how often that Pompey team are able to show up.
The form book over the past 11 matches now reads: LWLDWDLLWLW – a feat of consistent inconsistency, perhaps, but a trend which will not bring a top-three spot come May.
Saturday’s statistics also make for grim reading. Just two shots on target the entire match.
You could cut the Blues some slack by questioning just how hungry they were to win on Saturday. After all, promotion is the be-all and end-all for this campaign.
But that won’t be enough to console the vast majority of the 8,130 fans inside Fratton Park who had to witness a mundane display, especially in a wretched first half.
To their credit, Pompey have already shown numerous times this season they have the ability to pick themselves up and respond to defeat.
That has to happen at home to Mansfield on Saturday.
But the crucial challenge beyond that is to build from there if this undoubtedly talented Pompey side are going to fulfil the talent we see in glimpses – but nowhere near enough.