Brighton 3 - Pompey 1

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It was a weekend oozing with FA Cup shocks. Not that Pompey fans should be too surprised at their team's elimination.

Deep down, the nagging doubts were always there for the trip to Brighton. And with every justification.

The real upset would surely have been if Steve Cotterill's men had beaten the League One pacesetters.

Clearly all is not well under the new regime, with the cracks growing more visible by the day.

The past fortnight has seen the Michael Brown and Richard Hughes contract furore come to light and the threadbare squad shrink further as a consequence.

It has also seen the manager presented with a 'little' transfer kitty designed to tread water rather than progress.

Now players are even delivering impassioned speeches calling for the club to back the manager and their team-mates.

Not quite the united front.

Amid it all, the owners remain quiet, disinterested as ever in communicating with the supporters.

Instead David Lampitt is the fall guy, which explains the grilling he received from concerned listeners when he appeared on local radio on Friday night.

As the public face of the owners, his remains a thankless task. Nonetheless, he serves as their shield as the brickbats start to be hurled in their direction.

As for the fans, the resurrection of SOS Pompey and its accompanying Facebook campaign reveals they are beginning to rise to their feet.

Over the past few months, the shining light has been what has been achieved on the pitch.

Football is what we are all here for, it's what we want to talk about, it's what we want this club to be recognised for.

Yet on Saturday at the Withdean Stadium, for the first time this season, the club's current predicament impacted on the pitch.

And it cost Pompey their FA Cup place.

The unrest and frustration among Cotterill's troops was glaringly obvious as they spectacularly imploded during a wretched first half.

From the moment Dave Kitson showed petulance and tangled with Adam El-Abd, they crumbled in embarrassing fashion.

As emotions boiled over, the players relinquished their discipline and cut an unruly rabble, in that opening half especially.

A staggering five players were booked in that first 45 minutes, the majority for words said to easily-offended referee Graham Scott.

At one point, Liam Lawrence, Hayden Mullins and Aaron Mokoena were cautioned within 60 seconds of each other.

Come the end of the match, seven Blues players had been presented yellow cards in addition to Kitson's red.

There is a fine line between passion and unprofessionalism. Sadly, on this occasion, Pompey were erring on the side of the latter.

They lost their heads and, for those 1,400 away supporters, it was painful stuff.

Even when hopes of an unlikely draw were raised when substitute Tom Kilbey netted two minutes from time, that was dashed two minutes later.

Fran Sandaza ensured that, with a 90th-minute strike to restore the two-goal Brighton advantage and seal a 3-1 success.

Little surprise then that, as Cotterill's men left the pitch, they looked dispirited and destroyed.

And at the back of them was Liam Lawrence, seen as the chief rabble rouser following his impassioned comments in The News last week.

Some fans are of the opinion he should have maintained a dignified silence rather than breaking ranks.

Yet don't mistake passion and caring for what has happened to his club for the act of preserving his own skin.

Lawrence, unquestionably, spoke from the heart on that occasion and should not be pilloried.

When he limped out of the action in the 79th minute with a thigh injury which could yet keep him out of next weekend's trip to Nottingham Forest, he made a point of applauding the visiting faithful.

Let's just hope it was not a farewell gesture from a player who may not be sold this transfer window yet could be loaned out.

Not that Gus Poyet's side didn't deserve victory. Far from it.

Brimming with confidence after their magnificent league form in which they have yet to lose at the Withdean, they were comfortably the better team.

Certainly the sending off of Kitson after just 15 minutes helped their mission to topple their Championship opposition.

But even before that they were beginning to dominate as they put on a pure footballing display which had the home fans shouting 'ole' at times.

Their outstanding three-pronged attack of Ashley Barnes, Glenn Murray and Chris Wood simply wreaked havoc.

Poyet could even afford the luxury of making five changes to his line-up as he shuffled his pack to keep matters fresh.

And they still managed to perform like that.

In contrast, for the second time in three matches this year, Cotterill possessed just four players on his bench.

His two changes involved replacing the suspended Greg Halford with Joel Ward, while Ibrahima Sonko came in for the injured Ricardo Rocha.

Unlike the majority of teams in the top two divisions, no chance of squad rotation on this third-round occasion.

Matters started brightly enough, though, with Kanu cleverly creating room for himself down the left on 45 seconds and firing in a shot the keeper did well to hold.

But Brighton slowly began to seize control and when Barnes had a goal ruled out for offside the alarm bells were ringing.

It would prove to be Kitson's sending off, though, that was the turning point in the encounter.

With El-Abd rolling around the penalty area clutching his face, referee Scott adjudged Kitson had made contact and a red card followed.

Within 10 minutes, Woods had rifled home the opener and there was to be no coming back.

Brighton increased their lead on the stroke of half-time when Sonko punched the ball in the area. Barnes finished off from the spot.

The second half featured more of the same, although Pompey did at least regain some composure.

Kilbey then popped up to net his first professional goal to spark hopes of a comeback but Sandaza wrapped up matters in stoppage-time.

A dreadful, dreadful day. Let's hope the mood in January doesn't darken further.