Fleetwood 3 Pompey 1

Jed Wallace celebrates netting for Pompey, with Daniel Alfei, centre, and Jack Whatmough, right. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace celebrates netting for Pompey, with Daniel Alfei, centre, and Jack Whatmough, right. Picture: Joe Pepler
Lee Bowyer.

Charlton's injury concerns ahead of Pompey trip

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It started with a lone voice emanating from the corporate box high in the corner of the main stand.

Then he was joined by a handful of others, decked in suits but Pompey allegiances only too obvious.

They had targeted Richie Barker as he emerged from the players’ tunnel to conduct his post-match interviews with the waiting press.

The message was certainly loud and unmistakably clear – these supporters were furious with the latest twist in Pompey’s corkscrew of a season.

The cries of discontent had been even more audible from a pocket of the travelling fans during Saturday’s match against Fleetwood.

At one point ‘We want Barker out’ could be heard, a chant given several renditions with the Blues trailing 3-0 at the Highbury Stadium.

To think only the previous match, at one stage ‘Richie Barker’s Blue and White Army’ drifted out from the Fratton end during the eventual goalless draw with Burton.

Yet something snapped at Fleetwood to prompt those supporters present to produce such a blunt reaction towards their manager.

As it was, Jed Wallace’s stunning 64th minute strike dispersed the vocal sentiment for the remainder of the game as Pompey subsequently stepped up their performance.

Perfectly timed from the substitute who had entered the pitch six minutes earlier, no doubt with a point to prove following his recent omission from the side.

Sadly, his inspirational cameo wasn’t enough to prevent defeat at the home of a side riding high in the League Two play-off positions.

Certainly no shame in the loss both in terms of the visitors’ performance and the standard of opposition in windy and chilly Fleetwood.

In addition, it was a fourth defeat in the last 16 matches, hardly a catastrophic run of results which should warrant a managerial axing.

History shows the Blues suffered losses in five successive matches in November before Barker had even arrived in the hot seat, amid them abject displays at Newport County and AFC Wimbledon.

Then again, on the flip side, the past 16 games have also reaped only four wins and 11 goals, applying the handbrake to any aspirations of driving well clear of the relegation battle.

Throw in some painfully uninspiring performances even when defeat has not been the outcome and the unrest is clearly growing by the match.

For Barker, on Saturday the dissatisfaction among the crowd escalated to new heights during a mere 18-match reign since his December appointment.

And elsewhere, a draw for second-from-bottom Northampton has seen them edge a point closer to Pompey – with a game in hand.

An immensely superior defensive record and unquestionably greater calibre in some of the players recruited is cutting little credit with some who survey Barker’s contribution.

With the result of his on-field input often being dour and unimaginative football, coupled with a lack of wins, the criticism has started to fly.

Against Fleetwood, for the very first time, the feeling tellingly progressed from boos and social media chatter to actual terrace songs.

Suddenly Barker has another pressure to deal with as he attempts to steer his team to League Two safety with nine fixtures remaining.

Not that the Blues played particularly poorly at the home of the Cod Army, nor can the effort of the players be particularly brought into question.

His surprise decision to field Jack Whatmough in a central defensive role would yield a man-of-the-match performance from the 17-year-old who exuded composure.

The Gosport youngster would later slot into a back three, taking it confidently into his stride and providing a tantalising glimpse of what the future holds for him.

That was one of four changes to the team which drew against Burton, with the absences of Romain Padovani and Ben Chorley enforced and down to injury.

As the match unfolded, there was a sustained flurry in the final 30 minutes inspired by Wallace but, in truth, it was too late and the Blues didn’t deserve any point overall.

Considering this is a side woefully short of goals and lacking a creative spark, even falling 2-0 behind was going to be unassailable, a scoreline reached at half-time.

Fleetwood were the better side during the match, their league position reflects that, and with home advantage the subsequent loss could hardly have been unexpected.

It’s just that dropped points at home against Cheltenham and Burton in recent weeks have made the current league placing even more uncomfortable to view.

Following three successive goalless draws, the net did bulge on this occasion, only more in the opposition’s favour as the Cod Army’s goal music of ‘Captain Pugwash’ received three airings.

It was Jon Parkin who would break the deadlock on 16 minutes, bringing an end to 411 minutes without Pompey conceding.

A throw-in down the hosts’ right was appallingly defended, allowing Jamille Matt the opportunity to lash in a shot from close range.

Trevor Carson produced a brilliant close-range block, but Parkin was there with the simple task of following up to give his side the lead.

Then on 25 minutes there was controversy when referee Iain Williamson awarded Graham Alexander’s side a penalty.

There appeared to be little danger when a deep cross was delivered from the right by Steven Schumacher, yet as it soared over everyone’s head Josh Morris tumbled.

The match official ruled he had been pushed by Daniel Alfei and Antoni Sarcevic did the rest from the spot.

On 56 minutes Matt netted from close range following a Morris corner and for the visitors it was suddenly about keeping the scoreline down.

Yet two minutes later the introduction of Wallace kick-started Barker’s men into life.

The teenager was just inside the opposition half when fed by Nicky Shorey and embarked on a run and stunning finish which halted a 376- minute wait for a Blues goal.

The visitors then switched to three at the back as they applied more pressure and Chris Maxwell conjured up a magnificent stop to deny Joe Devera’s far-post header.

Chances also fell to Michael Drennan and twice to Jake Jervis, but there were no more goals despite dominating.

Yet not even that positive end could defuse the growing anger in some towards the manager.