Derby 3 Pompey 1

Pompey celebrate their second goal at Fleetwood. Picture: Mark Robinson

Fleetwood 1 Pompey 2

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The Blues’ caretaker duo have placed a steadying hand on the tiller of the good ship Pompey over the past fortnight.

The route to calmer waters veered horribly off course at Pride Park on Saturday, however.

A rudderless first-half performance saw the Blues sink without trace amid a Derby sea storm.

This ain’t the Love Boat anymore and the honeymoon period is most certainly over for Guy Whittingham and Stuart Gray.

Fratton legend Whittingham earned himself the moniker Corporal Punishment for the damage he did to defences in his playing days.

This was general misery, however, for him and those hoping an upwardly-mobile air could continue to harvest points in the midlands.

It took three minutes for Pompey’s tame resistance to be punctured by a side who had not won in five games going into the clash.

Thirty minutes later the contest was over as mercurial little wide man Jamie Ward gleefully waltzed into the visiting penalty area and smashed a third past Stephen Henderson.

In between, the Blues had offered a couple of flashes of attacking menace amid a torrent of Derby forward-thinking intent.

But when two quick-fire chances were passed up and Nigel Clough’s men replied with Chris Maguire’s second, the game was up.

First Jason Pearce couldn’t direct Liam Lawrence’s cross past Frankie Fielding when well placed.

Then Greg Halford made his one key contribution before being withdrawn with a shoulder injury, as he headed Lawrence’s corner against the bar from a good position.

Sixty seconds later Ward again teased and taunted the Pompey defence, Henderson denied Robinson and Maguire was quickest to react.

That followed on from Craig Bryson’s opener as he took the opportunity to dance around Tal Ben Haim’s over-commitment and stick the ball past Henderson in the sloppiest of starts.

Derby may be a side looking towards a top-six finish this season but the hope was Pompey could expose any brittle confidence after some indifferent form.

Instead, it was a defence which had been showing increasing signs of resilience of late, who did a Kelly Rowland and went AWOL like the X-Factor judge.

It’s a shame Sir Jimmy Savile isn’t around anymore because there was a heck of lot which needed fixing about Pompey’s performance at the interval.

The stats told of an even half in terms of opportunities but that didn’t factor in the sloppiness in the Blues’ play which led to their downfall.

Whittingham and Gray do not come across as being being the kind of men to hand out the hairdryer treatment.

The air has been a relaxed one around the training ground throughout their brief stewardship of the Blues team.

It’s fair to assume their laid-back demeanours went out the window within the confines of the away dressing room at the break on Saturday, though.

The result was an improved second half which gave the 1,000 travelling fans the consolation their team hadn’t throw in in the towel.

Pearce had hoped for a better occasion to mark his first senior goal for Pompey.

It was a moment that’s been years in the making for the 23-year-old former trainee, as he bundled home Lawrence’s cross with 11 minutes remaining.

There were brief hopes of an impossible comeback as Ben Haim then worked Frankie Fielding at full stretch.

The goal, however, proved to be an irrelevance to the result as Derby coasted home with the game descending into an inevitable drift over much of the second 45 minutes.

The same kind of malaise is now threatening to infect Pompey’s season.

The team now sit three points above the bottom three ahead of the trip to Crystal Palace tomorrow.

No one is reaching for the panic button just yet but that fact speaks volumes for where the campaign is heading when the stated aim from players and staff alike was a top-six finish.

Urgency to find the man to bring the direction the club needs is now required.

David Lampitt tells us that search is closer to its conclusion than its genesis.

The list of people out of contention continues to grow, though, with Eddie Howe the latest to say the role is not for him.

Sean O’Driscoll remains the bookies’ favourite, although there are now one or two indications there could be a name between his less than enthralling profile and the box office Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who could still emerge in the coming days.

Lampitt, unsurprisingly, is keeping his cards slapped tight to his chest.

A lot can be garnered about the road ahead from the criteria Lampitt has spelled out – including knowledge of the Championship, Pompey fans, being able to work on tight budgets, utilise the loan market and operate at the apex of the existing coaching set-up.

Getting the right man for the terrain is, of course, paramount.

But so is the sense of purpose which is in real danger of completely draining from Pompey’s season.

They have not won on the road since March, a run now stretching 11 games, and have lost their past five on the bounce on their travels.

The stat doing the rounds at Derby was the men from PO4 have not picked up an away success in British Summer Time.

With the clocks going back yesterday, the team’s new leader is quickly needed in place to stop them heading into a Championship winter of discontent.