Brighton 2 Pompey 0

Jamie Ashdown is beaten by Vicente. Picture: Steve Reid (120852-0111)
Jamie Ashdown is beaten by Vicente. Picture: Steve Reid (120852-0111)
Derry City winger Ronan Curtis. Picture: Lorcan Doherty/

The Insider: Pompey target has potential to play in Championship

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In a week of memorable anniversaries, sadly last weekend was not one destined to be celebrated in the future.

It was Thursday which marked four years since Sulley Muntari’s penalty clinched a famous FA Cup quarter-final triumph at Old Trafford.

Victory at the home of the team who would later that season be crowned champions of Europe.

The Blues, of course, would go on to lift the FA Cup.

Meanwhile, the corresponding weekend six years ago a certain Pedro Mendes struck twice against Manchester City.

An occasion, surely, which needs no explanation.

Amid such bleak times, Pompey fans can be forgiven for clinging on to such omens.

Happier times and iconic modern-day moments guaranteed to bring a smile to the face.

Certainly defining events in the managerial history of Harry Redknapp, who appears fated to become the next England boss.

Sadly for Blues followers, a trip to the impressive Amex Stadium on Saturday would actually yield nothing more than another hammer blow.

On the pitch another defeat made it eight games without a win as Michael Appleton’s men slide closer towards League One.

Off it, the absence of Stephen Henderson and Hayden Mullins from the teamsheet threw over a blanket of despair before a ball had been even kicked.

In truth, few anticipated Pompey to return from the trip along the south coast with anything in excess of a point.

Yet it was more than just defeat which occurred on Saturday.

It was also the stark realisation survival must be achieved amid a backdrop of player sales with a side packed full of young loanees.

This is no longer about a Great Escape. It is a Mission Impossible.

Granted, the final 11 fixtures form an appealing run in.

Starting with Bristol City’s trip Fratton Park next weekend, they include matches against all five of their relegation rivals.

Millwall are also scheduled to visit while there are journeys to Nottingham Forest, Coventry and Doncaster.

That alone should ensure relegation will not be settled until the last kick of the season.

Certainly there remains hope safety can be assured, irrespective of the current wretched run.

However, scoring goals remains a massive concern for Appleton.

Likewise, the strength of his side in the run-up to the March 22 closure of the emergency loan window.

Henderson is off to West Ham and Mullins is poised to sign for Reading – the duo following Erik Huseklepp and Liam Lawrence away from Fratton for the remainder of the campaign.

In addition, Luke Varney is wanted by Leeds, Joel Ward has been linked with Watford, while Jason Pearce continues to interest other clubs.

Although, by his own frank admission, Greg Halford isn’t attracting a ‘sniff’.

At least that is one of Appleton’s more talented players remaining, along with, of course, top wage earner Tal Ben Haim.

Saturday’s 2-0 Brighton defeat saw the Blues manager’s set-up bolstered by three loan players.

With a maximum of five allowed to be named in a match-day squad, space is running out to accommodate many more.

Meanwhile, aged duo Benjani and Kanu remained crocked and susceptible to injury.

Also unpalatable is the fact their wages far outstrip the likes of Ward, Pearce and Henderson.

Benjani was a member of the last Great Escape side back in 2006.

Yet this is not the same striker who turned out all those years ago. There will be no starring role for him this time around.

Against Brighton, Appleton’s patched-up side was overrun for the opening 25 minutes.

But it was testament to their guts and fighting spirit that it wasn’t until late in the game when they were broken.

Even then that was instigated by a substitute and more controversial refereeing.

While the squad continues to be diluted through the necessity of reducing the wage bill and bringing in loan fees, its commitment cannot be questioned.

That is down to Appleton himself, defiant and proud as ever as he attempts to negotiate the wreckage caused by someone else’s car crash.

Epitomised by their skipper Jason Pearce, Pompey bravely scrapped away against the Seagulls.

The match may have begun with an onslaught but steadily they established a foothold to threaten the opposition goal far more than in the week against Reading.

Once again, though, their efforts were restricted to long-range shots.

Appleton will be hoping the arrival of Chris Maguire will help solve the long-term headache.

As it was, the Scottish striker was given just 11 minutes on the pitch after entering as a second-half substitute.

With Luke Varney still feeling his way back following a lengthy lay-off and Hungarian hitman Marko Futacs enduring a loss of form, Maguire is certainly required.

Pompey fans will be praying he is as affective as fellow loan signings George Thorne and Scott Allan.

Thorne enjoyed his best match yet during his second loan spell, while Allan again was the chief goal threat.

It was his drive from distance on 20 minutes which was pushed around the post by Peter Brezovan.

Then, on 40 minutes, Gonzalo Jara’s loose clearance fell to Allan outside the box but his lob cleared the crossbar as well as the keeper.

Before then Jamie Ashdown pulled off a superb save at the near post after Ashley Barnes had rounded him.

It set the tone for the goalkeeper recalled in the absence of Henderson who would emerge as the Blues’ man of the match.

His 56th-minute point-blank block on Joe Mattock’s shot in particular prevented a certain goal.

But his all-round play provided a reminder there is life after Henderson – after all he is a man who last year scooped several player of the season awards.

It was to be Joel Ward who, ultimately, would have the visitors’ best chance.

His long-range drive not held by Brezovan with Adam El-Abd outmuscling Futacs in the follow up.

Then on 75 minutes a harsh free-kick was awarded against David Norris and substitute Vicente stepped up to score.

The Spaniard grabbed a second deep into stoppage-time to seal the 2-0 result.

It all added up to a weekend to forget, not be toasted years later.