Pompey 1 Gillingham 3: The Final Verdict

It was another miserable day at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
It was another miserable day at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
Anton Walkes. Picture: Joe Pepler/ PinPep

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Pompey writer Jordan Cross picks the bones out of another disappointing afternoon at Fratton Park.

A Soft Underbelly

Pompey’s soft underbelly continues to be exposed.

And their defensive weakness was there for all to see as they fell apart on Saturday, with Gillingham getting their first win at Fratton Park after 106 years of trying.

All three goals from the visitors had a mark of quality about them.

But from the Blues’ point of view they continued a pattern of preventable goals being put past them.

Conor Wilkinson took both Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess out of the game on the way to his impressive effort three minutes after the restart.

Then Lee Martin stepped up with two pieces of class to make it seven home games without a win in 2018.

While the visitors will admire the quality of both goals, there will surely be an inquest into how they weren’t stopped.

Luke McGee will not be pleased with how the second goal drifted inside his far post, as Wilkinson ran across the flight of the ball and Burgess missed his header.

Jamal Lowe then failed to clear as Josh Parker nicked the ball away from him, paving the way for an exquisite curled third.

A lack of ‘experience, leadership and communication’ at the back was Jackett’s snap reaction - a recurring theme this year.

Defeat From Jaws of Victory

There’s not been too many occasions this year when Pompey fans have gone for their half-time refreshments in fine fettle.

Yet, that was undoubtedly the case on Saturday after a 45-minute performance of energy and positivity played on the front foot.

Kenny Jackett’s side had Gillingham under the cosh for the entirety of the half, with the visitors failing to register a shot on goal.

The Blues on the other hand racked up the opportunities, with the new-look front paring of Jamal Lowe and Kal Naismith particularly catching the eye.

The pair combined for the former Hampton & Richmond man’s seventh goal of the season after 19 minutes, with Naismith’s perseverance paying off as he forced his ball through to his strike partner.

Lowe should’ve earlier buried a three-yard header from Anton Walkes’ cross and then missed a gilt-edged chance for a second, dallying when clean through and allowing Max Ehmer to make a last-ditch tackle.

Naismith’s 30 yarder was also a whisker away from beating Gills keeper Tomas Holy as Pompey dominated.

The fear at the interval was not making more of their dominance could prove costly, and so it proved.

Gillingham scored three goals from five shots on goal - and Pompey one from 17. That says everything about how Jackett’s side stole defeat from the jaws of victory.

Jack’s Back

At least there was one feelgood story to emerge from the wreckage of Saturday’s defeat.

Seeing Jack Whatmough back out in a Pompey shirt at Fratton Park was a heartening spectacle.

After six months battling back from his latest knee issue, the Gosport lad’s display was one of the few bright spots of an ultimately miserable afternoon.

Whatmough slotted in on the right side of a back three which was thrown together on the day of the Gillingham clash.

That was after Oli Hawkins’ hamstring injury led to a late reshuffle from Kenny Jackett and a switch to a wing-back formation.

Whatmough had been deployed as a holding midfielder for the majority of the week in preparation for the game, before a late-night call to the 21-year-old on Friday suggested a change could be in the offing.

Whatmough suggested the poor result tainted any pleasure at his return, but hopefully he can afford himself some satisfaction at hitting the landmark as the dust settles from the loss.

The academy graduate’s aim now has to be to push for more minutes over the final 10 games.

With the form of Christian Burgess in particular fluctuating at present, that heightened competition in the middle of defence is certainly needed.