Barnsley 2 Pompey 0

Michael Appleton could only name three substitutes
Michael Appleton could only name three substitutes
Pompey striker Conor Chaplin struggles to hide his disappointment

Southend 3-1 Pompey: They said what?

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Surely nobody believed administration was instantly going to cure Pompey of all its ills?

Pop in a pill, washed down by tap water and the patient is back on his feet again ready to take on the world.

Granted, the non-appointment of Andrew Andronikou has provided precious hope to Blues fans.

The vicious circle has been cut. The fresh pair of eyes, new approach and clean slate Trevor Birch and PFK bring to the table can only be applauded.

But in terms of football, matters continue to pain Michael Appleton.

The subsequent 10-point deduction applied by the Football League has left Pompey embroiled in a relegation scrap.

After a 2-0 defeat at Barnsley on Saturday, the Blues find themselves in the drop zone for the very first time this season.

Not since September 2010 have the club occupied such a precarious position in the Championship.

What’s more, victory for Steve Cotterill’s Nottingham Forest has resulted in Appleton’s men being three points adrift of safety with 15 matches to go.

After a string of tough away fixtures against credible promotion contenders, Oakwell represented a timely opportunity to climb the table again.

Instead, it ruthlessly exposed the shortcomings of Pompey’s squad as well as serving to hammer home a blunt relegation reminder.

Fans publicly acknowledge the club will never die and the appointment of administrators to nullify the winding-up hearing has certainly provided a stay of execution.

However, it is the players’ turn to fight for their lives as they seek to keep the club in the Championship.

The only problem is, while their desire to put their bodies on the line despite having not been paid since Christmas cannot be questioned, their numbers are shrinking.

And unless the Football League permit several more loan recruits than just George Thorne at present, worryingly the returns will continue to diminish,

Even before the fixture at Barnsley kicked off, a substitutes’ bench comprising of just three players delivered a stunning message.

The remainder of Appleton’s troops were either injured or – in Sam Magri’s case – bound for a trial with Premier League Liverpool.

The Blues boss had already warned of the perils of blooding promising 17-year-old’s from the club’s academy who are not yet ready for the first-team environment.

Sure enough, his substitutes were two bodies short.

In the wake of the Oakwell clash, he now has Dave Kitson unavailable for Leeds through suspension.

Meanwhile, Joel Ward played on after sustaining a gash to his knee which required stitches.

To think Ward was an injury doubt in the first place. Now he has another battle wound to contend with as the playing resources continue to be stretched.

As for Kitson, his first-half dismissal for two yellow cards effectively cost Pompey the minimum of a point.

Appleton thought his sending off by referee Eddie Ilderton was ‘harsh’.

Few Blues fans have such sympathies for the experienced striker.

The 10 men held out until the 76th minute, comfortably too, before Jim O’Brien struck to plunge the visitors into the relegation mire.

Pompey themselves struggled to threaten the Tykes’ goal, mustering just the one shot on target all game.

That came courtesy of Ward’s 68th-minute volley from the angle which had keeper Luke Steele pushing the ball around his near post.

Not that the 10-men were expected to put the hosts to the sword considering the circumstances, the game plan was inevitably shredded following the dismissal of Kitson.

But, credit to the Blues’ players, they adjusted well in the second half, contained Barnsley and also enjoyed plenty of possession as they shrugged off that set back.

We will never know what could have been achieved with a full quota on the pitch at Oakwell.

As it is, Pompey have now lost their past two matches and next up is the visit of a Leeds side now sporting Neil Warnock as its manager.

Appleton is pinning his hopes on Birch providing the green light for reinforcements, as the administrator today seeks talks with the Football League.

Those football chiefs have long been a source of irritation for the Blues boss, who believes not enough is being done by them to solve the problem of playing numbers.

Still, all eyes will now be on Birch in the hope he will succeed where others have failed and persuade them to sanction the arrivals of more loans.

What’s more, it will be argued all wages will be covered by the parent clubs, ensuring Pompey do not continue to keep accruing debt.

As a former chief executive of Chelsea and Leeds, Birch unquestionably represents an impressive force to apply in such situations.

He was, of course, present at Oakwell following Friday’s appointment, sitting alongside directors David Lampitt and John Redgate in the directors’ box.

On a cold south Yorkshire day, he couldn’t have been impressed by the match, a generally drab affair with little to excite throughout.

The 618 visiting supporters did their best to generate an atmosphere, yet the home fans decided not to get involved.

Nor did they particularly provide backing for their own players.

It was the Tykes, though, who looked the most likely to score throughout, even before Kitson’s sending off.

Craig Davies lofted a shot from the edge of the area on six minutes which crashed against the crossbar, much to the striker’s agony.

At the other end, Erik Huseklepp should have done better when Ward pulled the ball back on the right and his placed shot was narrowly wide of the far post.

Barnsley, though, struggled to get the better of a rearguard marshalled by captain Jason Pearce.

That was until the impressive O’Brien intervened on 76 minutes, collecting a pass and curling an effort home from the edge of the area.

Substitute Matt Done sealed matters in stoppage-time on the counter-attack from a Pompey corner, getting the better of Hayden Mullins before a neat finish.

Still, today is another day. And how Appleton will be hoping Birch’s first act will be the arrival of reinforcements to bolster his wilting squad.