Pompey 0 Blackpool 2 - Neil Allen’s match report

Clark Robertson scores Blackpool's second goal in their 2-0 win against Pompey Picture: Joe Pepler
Clark Robertson scores Blackpool's second goal in their 2-0 win against Pompey Picture: Joe Pepler
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The swarm of departees heaved towards the Fratton Park exits at 4.18pm.

Such was the strength of stampede, scurrying stewards were forced to prise open the Frogmore Road gate considerably earlier than usual to cope with the impromptu demand.

An ungodly hour in footballing terms, yet those fans had been subjected to a hell of an afternoon.

‘Is there a fire drill?’ chimed the Fratton end, more in grim humour rather than mocking those souls opting to surrender their seats.

The escalating surge to escape the painful spectacle was entirely understandable, the fleeing to shield the eyes perfectly reasonable.

Saturday’s encounter with Blackpool was as appetising as visiting KFC for a chickenless burger. Finger lickin’ good it definitely wasn’t.

Besides, many of those forcing remaining to the bitter end amid toe-gnawingly cold February conditions did so on the promise of registering their disgust at the final whistle.

The explosion of boos which subsequently showered Kenny Jackett and his troops represented an unarguable opinion. The fact around half of the 17,895 crowd were no longer present screamed just as loudly.

Condemned to 2-0 down after 63 minutes, for many there seemed little point in lingering. There are accounts of some quitting at half-time.

Victory for Blackpool then, a worthy outcome purely on the basis they were not as abject as the Blues in a dreadful footballing exhibition.

It was comfortably the worst performance of the Kenny Jackett regime – his ‘Crewe’, if you prefer.

Incidentally, Paul Cook’s sediment-scraping low arrived a year ago next weekend. What followed was a phenomenal run to the League Two title.

The Blackpool loss at least mustered an attempt on goal, albeit three minutes into time added on from left-back Dion Donohue with his right foot, prompting sarcastic cheers.

Considering Pompey were full strength in their 1-0 Railwaymen defeat in March 2017, as opposed to the fresh-faced starting XI they presently rely on, there really is no comparison.

Besides, Jackett’s side are simply not equipped to subsequently embark on a glorious run of 10 triumphs and one draw over the final 12 fixtures.

His first-team set-up remains in its infancy, literally, and a Fratton Park defeat served up another brutal reminder that this work in progress is nowhere near completion.

Patience, of course, is required, a characteristic which appears ingrained within the owners’ mindset during implementation of ‘the process’.

Nonetheless, in the finger-drumming wait for the summer transfer window to finally rectify that central-midfield shortfall, there could be more occasions like Saturday.

Not that the Fratton faithful will be prepared to stomach too many similarly deplorable displays during the remaining 11 matches of the League One campaign.

Blackpool can be discarded as a wretched one-off in a season always paraded as a mid-table outlook until a brush with the play-offs tantalisingly elevated expectations.

Even now, Pompey are a mere four points behind sixth-placed Plymouth who sit in the final play-off position. Enough to tempt fantastic talk.

Yet, in truth, Jackett doesn’t possess the appropriate players or sparse injury list to fulfil such ambition.

The average age remains 22.5, the skipper still celebrated his 21st birthday in September, and the centre of midfield continues to be short changed.

Irrespective of homegrown duo’s Ben Close and Adam May’s potential and promise, on Saturday they were smothered by Jimmy Ryan and Jay Spearing. Experience and bite can often be decisive.

Such a shame considering the encouraging 2-1 win at Fleetwood earlier in the week, a scoreline which should have been more emphatic.

As it was, those same 11 players, with possibly two exceptions, provided alarmingly contrasting performances against Gary Bowyer’s men.

Not that the Seasiders should escape criticism for their contribution in a monstrosity of a match on a worryingly deteriorating playing surface.

They barely raised an accurate shot themselves and were similarly devoid of creativity and the ability to retain possession through passing the ball with precision.

Their opener was gifted when Christian Burgess was caught in possession by the troublesome Kyle Vassell, although the defender had a valid argument over the interpretation of the offside laws.

Clark Robertson’s headed second also took advantage of lapse defending on 63 minutes and there was never any suggestion of a fightback from Pompey.

Blackpool deserved their win, but through default rather than overpowering their opponents in swashbuckling fashion.

The better of two dreadful sides on the day took the points. Not much of a compliment, granted, nonetheless the visitors should be appreciative of a positive result.

As for Pompey, a bad day worsened with the sight of Oli Hawkins receiving numerous bouts of on-field treatment before his inevitable withdrawal on 61 minutes.

The striker collected a knee problem after colliding with Joe Lumley when the keeper had already cleanly taken the ball.

Another potential absentee to join Brett Pitman, Gareth Evans, Nathan Thompson, Danny Rose, Stuart O’Keefe, Stephen Henderson and Tareiq Holmes-Dennis on the sidelines.

At least Kal Naismith returned from a groin injury to feature in Saturday’s squad, put on the bench before replacing Hawkins.

Jackett had retained the youthful starting XI which excelled at Highbury Stadium – only for them to shrink against Blackpool.

Admittedly, the Blues had early opportunities, chiefly through Hawkins, who put three opportunities wide, the most glaring a first-time right-foot shot after Matt Clarke had headed Donohue’s free-kick into his vicinity.

Then on 42 minutes, Vassell pounced on Burgess before slotting a right-footed shot past Luke McGee to break the deadlock.

That was increased in the second half when substitute Connor Ronan failed to apply much distance on his clearance following a corner, the ball falling to Spearing, whose cross was headed home by Robertson.

Cue the exodus – and entering unexplored territory in the Jackett era.