Boos, inconsistencies and a red card. Jordan Cross looks at what we learnt from defeat to Newport County.
Trip sees Pompey fall
There was a nagging feeling Ben Toner was going to take centre stage on Saturday.
From the moment Enda Stevens had a card waved in his face for a first foul of the game on Alex Rodman, the precedent was set by the ref.
Then Danny Hollands followed him into the book – again for a first foul on John-Christophe Ayina.
So, Gary Roberts was aware of what the players were dealing with in the official from Darwen.
Toner took his total to 87 yellows and four reds for the season with the seven cards he issued at Fratton Park.
The one no-one could have any complaint about was Roberts’ petulant swipe at Medy Elito seven minutes after the restart.
It was a totally unnecessary foul on the touchline near halfway, with little looming in the way of danger.
But it created the scenario which saw the game drift away from Pompey seven minutes later.
Whether there was contact from Andrew Hughes as he left a leg dangling on the edge of the box remains a debate. Roberts went over.
Replays remain inconclusive, as seen by the weekend toing and froing on social media over whether it was, indeed, a foul or not.
Toner was well-placed, however, and issued the yellow for diving in front of an incredulous home crowd.
Even as Pompey stuttered their way through the first 45 minutes against Warren Feeney’s side, there remained a belief there was a route back into the game for them.
And it felt like momentum was building as Paul Cook’s side attacked the Fratton End.
That path to a return from the game was closed as the impetus ebbed away from the Blues with Roberts’ dismissal.
And it was the costly first yellow which set the stage for Toner to change the face of the game with the second.
To boo or not to boo
To boo or not to boo is the question.
And it’s causing a lot of debate out there on Planet Pompey.
Creating an environment without tension at Fratton Park has been one of the season’s big talking points.
Michael Doyle recently spoke of it being hostile for home players, which must be a first.
When fans vent their frustration the pressure is likely to be felt more keenly by players. That’s a reality.
That happened at half-time and full-time on Saturday.
A sprinkling of boos could be heard as Paul Cook’s side left the field a goal down at the break.
Cook admitted he understood the ire of fans, but it was not something he believed was right.
‘I’ve got no issues with the supporters,’ said Cook.
‘I must admit I don’t agree with booing at half-time, though.’
With Pompey fans having a standing for being among the most partisan in the game, it’s a scenario which doesn’t sit well with many.
After all, such scenes are not in keeping with that reputation, even if angst is entirely understandable.
What certainly was appreciated was those who stuck about after the third goal singing Cook’s name. A classy touch.
There are a couple of conclusions to be drawn on the subject.
One is everyone has the right to express themselves in such a manner, and, the other, is it’s never helped a situation.
Inconsistent hosts are crowded out by Exiles
The sun was shining and Pompey had just delivered their best display of the season.
Saturday was the day to cash in on the quality of the win at Accrington and really get automatic promotion hopes firing.
Instead, Paul Cook’s side served up further evidence of their infuriating inconsistencies.
It’s hard to fathom how a team can go from the one who took apart a major rival on Tuesday to failing so desperately four days later.
But that’s what happened at an eerily flat Fratton Park.
The zip and vim to Pompey’s passing so apparent at the Crown Ground was nowhere to be seen.
Cook’s side looked ponderous in their play, with passes going sideways and backwards and, with the crowd patient for the majority of the first half, it wasn’t out of fear.
The scenario of Newport creating that frustration with a defensive approach didn’t materialise either.
Warren Feeney’s side went with two strikers in front of a diamond midfield to negate Cook’s 4-2-3-1 approach.
And the energy on offer from the trio in front of anchor Mark Byrne troubled Pompey.
Too often the ball was moved through the congested central areas and Cook’s men were crowded out.
The fact Pompey couldn’t fathom that and continued to do so was, no doubt, a cause of frustration for their manager.
That played perfectly into Newport’s hands, allowing them to threaten on the counter.