Blackburn 3 Pompey 0: Jordan Cross’ match report

Bradley Dack put Rovers in front on 38 minutes Picture: Joe Pepler
Bradley Dack put Rovers in front on 38 minutes Picture: Joe Pepler
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One encouraging Fratton step forward - and two sizeable stumbles on the road back.

That has to be the assessment at the end of an eight-day period which promised so much for Pompey, but has ultimately delivered a whole lot less than anticipated.

The cohesive manner of victory against MK Dons on home soil last week had given the first real impression this was a Blues side showing signs of synergy as a team.

The evidence witnessed in the two ensuing away trips, however, has ensured any grand ambitions for Kenny Jackett’s men this term are firmly back on the shelf.

Defeat at Doncaster could be traced to two goals in six dozy opening minutes, which effectively decided Pompey’s fate. What we witnessed at a weather-beaten and sodden Ewood Park was clear testament to the distance this side have to travel to be seen a credible force at this level.

In a philosophical moment last week, Jackett noted it’s the hope that kills you. It was a sentiment set against the backdrop of failing to deliver a return at the Keepmoat Stadium; a clash the Pompey boss quietly fancied his team in.

That reflective demeanour was nowhere to be seen at Blackburn’s plush press auditorium at 5.30pm on Saturday.

Jackett had given himself the time to change out of his drenched tracksuit, and wait politely but impatiently for Tony Mowbray to address the press before speaking after the game.

Yet, that period was only long enough for his temperature to drop to simmering just below furious.

‘We’re not kidding ourselves that we’re a top side,’ asserted the Pompey boss as he quietly fumed.

For a guarded man who chooses to give very little away, it was a revealing moment.

The mask had slipped; Jackett’s well-worn poker face couldn’t hide his consternation at his team’s defensive naivety.

Plenty of the Pompey boss’ contemporaries would have looked to the conditions, which began as testing and ended as a watery farce, for their get-out clause. That would’ve been no more then an attempt to cover up the deficiencies of his players though, a futile effort to throw a protective cloak around his men.

The man at the helm was in no mood for niceties, in a straight-talking assessment.

‘You can talk about experience, but being a good player means making less mistakes than we currently do,’ he said. ‘For us there was too many times we gifted them chances.’

Exhibit number one on a damning rap sheet came in the shape of costly 38th-minute mistake from Dion Donohue, which saw Pompey’s resistance broken.

The Welshman’s error was seized on by the lively Harry Chapman, which paved the way for the predatory Bradley Dack to find a space between Luke McGee and his near post with an unerring finish.

Danny Graham’s was then given the chance to make his assured intervention 13 minutes after the restart, and put his team in a position of strength they never looked like relinquishing.

And, with the waterlogged surface contributing significantly, came the last evidence of a crumbling back line’s inability to deny a team who’ve struggled to score more than one goal a game this term.

Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke skated and slid around like Bambi on ice as Craig Conway aquaplaned through the Blues back line and finished with aplomb.

The goals didn’t offer the only evidence on an afternoon which underlined there’s a lengthy amount of work which lies ahead for Jackett and his team.

Moments of sloppiness from Kyle Bennett and Jamal Lowe were symptomatic of Pompey’s naivety, and the ‘brittle’ nature of his side their manager spoke of afterwards.

The home team, in contrast, repelled the Blues’ incursions into Blackburn territory with all the stoic resolve of Southsea’s sea defences in the face of Storm Brian.

Aside from Kyle Bennett’s 31st-minute first-time volley, Tony Mowbray’s contenders rarely looked troubled by what the visitors had to offer on the front foot.

Blackburn may have been pre-season favourites for the title, but they have fallen a long way short of their billing to date. In fact, four wins on their own patch had been matched by as many losses ahead of Pompey’s visit.

A mid-week draw against struggling Plymouth had seen Rovers find the back of the net just once from 25 attempts on goal.

But Jackett’s side failed to ask the necessary questions and expose any of the home team’s self-doubt.

And out of an inconsequential opening, Blackburn slowly assumed control as the Blues allowed their confidence to grow.

Dack’s reputation is growing all the time, and it’s easy to see what all the noise is about when it comes to the 23-year-old Londoner.

The former League One player of the year served notice of his intentions, as he fired narrowly wide from 12 yards after 21 minutes.

Then came the second of a couple of McGee saves six minutes later, with Graham firing the follow-up over an unguarded net. There was to be no third reprieve.

Jackett could barely conceal his anger afterwards at the manner in which Donohue was caught on the ball, to allow the 23-year-old to break the deadlock.

It was the sort of lapse the Rovers back four didn’t look like replicating for a second. That ensured Pompey were reduced to scraps and long-range sighters, before Graham effectively settled the contest.

From there, it was the conditions which took centre stage as Ewood Park became a theatre of the absurd.

Blackburn were the side who’d adapted to the elements better all afternoon, as they dealt with the battering winds and driving rain in a manner which was a lesson to their visitors.

The fundamentals were sound. The approach prudent and rational in the circumstances. It wasn’t matched.

It was no surprise to see sub Dominic Samuel’s dismissal for a tussle with Burgess rendered inconsequential, as Conway gambled in the deluge and earned his late reward.

So, thank the leaden heavens the chance to use Storm Brian’s intervention to cover Pompey’s shortcomings was eschewed by their manager.

Jackett’s smouldering demeanour suggested his players are facing more inclement conditions if they don’t quickly wise up to the League One climate.