Appleton rues Pompey’s lack of ‘spark’

Michael Appleton. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121031-013)
Michael Appleton. Picture: Allan Hutchings (121031-013)
Former Pompey defender Jason Pearce

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Frustrated Michael Appleton reflected on Pompey’s wasted opportunity and admitted: The spark was missing.

The brakes were applied to Great Escape hopes as the Blues went down to a 2-0 loss at fellow strugglers Coventry.

And Appleton was left seething by the performance of his men at the Ricoh Arena.

The 36-year-old tried his best to disguise his anger in the wake of a loss which saw the euphoria of the 4-1 win over Birmingham last week take a hit.

But he couldn’t hide his frustration as two second-half goals left his men six points from safety.

There were chances for Pompey to grab a return from the game.

Joel Ward went close in the first-half, while Luke Varney was clipped in the box by keeper Joe Murphy.

Chris Maguire then cracked the post with a free-kick before Varney headed wide when well placed.

Appleton was more annoyed by the manner in which his team took the wrong options to put the kibosh on a number of promising attacks, though.

A win would have left Pompey just three points from safety going into tomorrow’s Fratton Park meeting with Hull City.

That fact is something which hurts the Blues boss.

He said: ‘I think the most frustrating thing is you look at the results and the way it’s gone.

‘There was an opportunity for us to stamp our authority on a tough end of season.

‘I don’t know if it was a game too much for some players.

‘Too often we picked the wrong pass or made the wrong choice.

‘We never threatened in behind them enough.

‘The times when we did we were too flat.

‘We were trying to get in behind them but there was always a flat four or five players.

‘No one was coming towards the ball.

‘We need to mix it up and be different. We didn’t do that enough.

‘There was just a spark missing.’

Pompey were undone by two second-half goals from Gary McSheffrey and Oliver Norwood.

Chris Hussey had time to deliver for McSheffrey’s effort before a flowing move saw Norwood fire home.

Appleton felt there was room for improvement from Pompey on both.

He said: ‘We got hit by a poor goal.

‘The full-backs were their outlet because the midfield was very narrow.

‘If you can’t stop the cross then try to defend your box.

‘As soon as the ball goes into the box there’s always a danger, no matter if it’s a good or a bad delivery.’

Pompey have a quick chance to get the Coventry loss out of their system as Hull make the long trip to the south coast tomorrow.

The match is the game in hand Appleton’s side have on relegation rivals Coventry and Bristol City.

Appleton knows the task of staying in the Championship is a tough one.

However, he feels the belief is still there it can be done – and his men are still confident.

Appleton said: ‘At this time it’s still achievable, if very difficult.

‘You get chances to get the games out of your system quickly.

‘We had a bit of euphoria on Tuesday.

‘Everyone was talking about the Great Escape and what have you.

‘Nothing changed in terms of where we were in the league, though.

‘What it did do was give us a bit of belief that we can win and get goals.

‘That will continue over the next couple of games at home.’