Pompey 0 York 1

Trevor Carson is powerless to stop Michael Coulson opening the scoring for York and scoring what proved to be the winner for York at Fratton Park on Saturday Picture: Joe Pepler
Trevor Carson is powerless to stop Michael Coulson opening the scoring for York and scoring what proved to be the winner for York at Fratton Park on Saturday Picture: Joe Pepler
Lee Bowyer.

Charlton's injury concerns ahead of Pompey trip

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So there it is then, Pompey’s future is considerably clearer. Well for this season anyway.

Time to focus and dump any lingering flights of fancy which continue to provide unrealistic distractions.

This is going to be a fight until the last spluttering breath, with plenty more agony for the Fratton faithful to come.

For the vast, vast majority, it is presently the lowest point in their existence as Pompey supporters.

Unfortunately, over the next eight games, even greater depths will be scraped on the way towards the Blues’ League Two fate being decreed.

Saturday’s result against York opened the door for the true severity of the current situation to come barging in bearing its teeth.

Forget fantasy talk of a tight table ensuring the club is still in touch with the top-10 – or staging a marvellous late play-off push.

While you’re at it, time to stop gazing longingly at Oxford and wishing David Connolly was still at Pompey’s disposal.

It’s not going to happen, he’s gone for the remainder of the campaign, face up to it, there’s no recall clause.

The combustible veteran who alienated some at Fratton Park on and off the training pitch is not booked to arrive back until the summer.

Then there’s Thery Racon – a player crafted by some into a scapegoat figure epitomising the dastardly injustice of the Barker era.

The fact remains the Blues boss simply doesn’t fancy a ball-playing midfielder who, in 32 matches, has never contributed an assist or goal.

Simon Ferry is restricted to a minor role if he actually plays at all for the remainder of the campaign, while loaned-out Ashley Harris is in-and-out of the team at Ryman League Bognor.

This is where Pompey are, in the cold, cold present and staring at all the cards laid out face up on the table.

Not a time for sickly-sweet spin, no patronising reasons to be chirpy, no dazzling torch to shine in the gloomy room.

Pompey can smell the foul stench of Football League relegation breathing on the face, while its claws are slowly tightening around the neck.

The form side among League Two’s relegation strugglers are now just three points behind, with Barker’s men still to visit the Sixfields Stadium.

Not that a 1-0 defeat to York, that included a red card for Ben Chorley five minutes into the second half, was a particularly wretched performance – in truth it was a marked improvement on much of the staple fare of late.

Statistics confirm the hosts had more possession and produced more shots, despite spending the final 40 minutes admirably battling away with 10 men.

In addition, Jed Wallace saw his mojo return, rolling back the year to conjure up the level of performances conjured up when he burst on to the scene.

The end result was depressingly familiar, however.

No goals, no win, no points – and in the aftermath there are Pompey fans out there possessing no hope.

Barker has often voiced how he has discovered the task of transforming the club was more difficult than he imagined.

Well, the onerous task has multiplied ten-fold – and accompanying it is the added burden of having lost the faith of increasing numbers of Blues followers.

Nothing consecutive wins or successive goal-scoring performances could gloriously rectify, of course.

Yet the relegation fear is deepening by the match – and the next fixture is at league leaders Rochdale tomorrow night.

Incidentally, Northampton are at home to AFC Wimbledon on the same evening.

From now until May 3, the Cobblers’ progress is firmly established as a regular source of interest.

It is, after all, entwined with the Football League fate of the Blues.

Not without irony then that they are now led by a manager Barker beat to the Fratton Park hot seat back in December, in a move designed to banish relegation concerns.

Still, nobody can accuse Pompey fans of failing to stand alongside their increasingly under-fire boss on Saturday for what had been widely regarded as a must-win encounter.

None of those chants at Fleetwood emerged and there were sparse boos during an admirable display of unity which had been long urged by many at the club in the build-up.

Michael Coulson’s fifth-minute opener didn’t even dampen the vocal support as the Fratton faithful once again did what was asked of them magnificently.

Unfortunately, the players on display couldn’t respond with victory, draw or even a goal.

It was unquestionably Barker’s team on display against the Minstermen, with seven of the faces recruited by his hand – in addition to renewing Trevor Carson’s contract.

He also opted for the introduction of a diamond formation in midfield, a variation hoped to inspire some sort of goal-scoring return.

Other systems have failed, while the lack of creative effectiveness from supposed width in the side has been only too obvious for too long.

As for the line-up, Chorley was back following an Achilles problem, Rhys McCabe was granted a debut and Wallace and Ryan Taylor earned recalls.

What unfolded, in fairness, was a decent display which should not be overshadowed by a result which has left Pompey one place above the drop zone.

Wallace was the will-o’-the-wisp of old, popping up in attacking positions around the pitch, and almost exclusively testing York’s keeper, usually from distance.

Daniel Alfei had the remit to attack more, and down that right flank came the hosts’ best moments, particularly in the first half. Despite the set-back of falling behind to an early goal, the Blues were bright, energetic and dominant in possession – albeit still noticeably struggling to carve out meaningful chances.

Then on 50 minutes Chorley missed the ball with his foot and instead clattered into substitute Wes Fletcher with an ugly challenge.

Fletcher sustained ligament damage and came off 18 minutes after his introduction – Pompey’s captain was sent off.

For the final 40 minutes, Barker’s side stuck at their task, they gave absolutely everything despite their numerical disadvantage.

Except there was no coming back from that body blow and Nick Pope’s goal was barely threatened again for all the huff and puff.

Cheer up, Northampton drew having at one stage held a winning position. Hurrah, smiles all round.

That’s what Pompey fans have been reduced to – praying other teams lose over these next eight matches to mask their side continuing to fail and fall.

It’s called a relegation dogfight.