Pompey 1 Scunthorpe 2

Johnny Ertl's effort was brilliantly saved by Sam Slocombe. Picture: Barry Zee
Johnny Ertl's effort was brilliantly saved by Sam Slocombe. Picture: Barry Zee
Pompey were crowned league champions on this day in 1949. Picture: Pompey History Society

On this day picture gallery: Pompey crowned league champions

Have your say

Pompey fans have displayed admirable patience during the most testing of times.

But enough is enough.

On Saturday some of them snapped – the result was a reaction largely unheard of at Fratton Park.

Vociferous boos greeted the final whistle which sealed a 2-1 defeat to a Scunthorpe outfit which sacked their manager days earlier.

That was followed by a highly audible rendition of ‘that was embarrassing’ from the Fratton End as the players trudged off towards the dressing room.

There had been strains of that chant at AFC Wimbledon the previous week – now it was widespread and even more powerful.

To think Wednesday marks five years since AC Milan scrambled out of Fratton with a 2-2 draw in one of the greatest occasions in modern Pompey history.

Since then the Blues have failed to win 71.65 per cent of matches in all competitions.

A staggering statistic which underpins three relegations in four seasons and now a slip down to 18th in League Two.

Guy Whittingham’s side are currently closer to the relegation zone and the drop to the Skrill Premier than they are to the play-offs.

No wonder fans are shifting uncomfortably in their seats at present, although only two of these four successive defeats have come in the league.

Through the last five years of failure and that familiar companion of defeat, rarely have those supporters turned on their players.

Avram Grant, Michael Appleton and Whittingham were lauded and applauded for their fighting spirit and proud resilience in scrapping away while the club was systematically dismantled by those inhabiting the boardroom.

Perhaps now a vast number of supporters are tired of being plucky losers with a ready smile and a hearty song on hand to lift the atmosphere.

With the club stabilised, the expectations of the side is not merely to be competitive but also to start winning games again, yet at the moment that continues to be glaringly absent.

Whittingham will rightly point to the arrival of 16 new faces this season – in addition to those who impressed last term – and the necessity of allowing them time to integrate.

Not an unreasonable point of view, history testifies successful teams generally need to evolve, to develop from a sturdy base over a period of patience.

Yet time is not what the Blues boss has at the moment in the eyes of so many – and there is the danger for Whittingham.

At present he cannot even point to results to calm the growing criticism, while the displays have also been none-too impressive.

Noticeably, the atmosphere at Fratton on Saturday was unusually flat and lacklustre, long before Scunthorpe had netted their first goal.

The two dreadful previous performances during which many of those out on the pitch were found woefully lacking in quality and application certainly would have contributed towards that.

At 14,550 it was the lowest home attendance of the season, albeit influenced by the second smallest away following of 174.

Nonetheless, Pompey fans demanded a response after recent displays – again.

And quite frankly the players let them down against a Scunthorpe side which thoroughly deserved to leave the south coast with a victory.

Had it not been for Trevor Carson, the china-plated defence would have conceded many, many more goals at the hands of a club that were dumped out of the FA Cup by non-league Grimsby in the week.

Granted, Ricky Holmes struck the bar while Tom Craddock rattled the post – but the Iron were worthy winners and the home fans were fully aware of that.

Defeat number 120 since AC Milan visited but few of those could have been greeted in such a manner at Fratton Park as Saturday’s supporters staged a backlash.

The heart of the problem, as ever, was Whittingham’s defensive unit which continues to infuriate no matter how many times it is shuffled.

Dan Potts represented the ninth defender employed by the manager this season and had a decent debut, particularly impressing in the second half.

Yet David Syers’ two strikes mean Pompey have now leaked 35 goals in 21 matches in all competitions this season – with just four clean sheets.

In addition, there have been three goalkeepers used and three goalkeeping coaches employed but still those goals flow.

Afterwards Whittingham singled out the defence for criticism in his strongest terms yet as manager, while admitting he now doesn’t know his most effective back four.

Having witnessed the startling loss of form to both Bondz N’Gala and Sonny Bradley in the past few weeks, he has a point.

As for Joe Devera, a player held in high regard at this level by so many in the game, his performances fail to live up to such billing.

And he currently represents arguably the most disappointing signing of the summer.

Behind them Carson had to pull off a string of fine saves, although his failure to keep hold of Sam Winnall’s stinging shot was capitalised on by Syers for the second goal.

Before that, Syers had netted in familiar fashion for Pompey fans – from a corner.

Rank bad defending once more from the hosts as Andy Dawson’s delivery from the right was allowed through to the far post where the midfielder netted with ease.

That goal on 40 minutes had cancelled out Craddock’s well-worked opener four minutes earlier which had invoked thoughts a Blues win might be on the way.

Simon Ferry slipped the ball down the line to pick out Holmes and the winger clipped in a first-time cross which was gratefully headed home by Craddock.

Indeed, Craddock’s all-round performance, along with that of Holmes, was something for Pompey fans to enthuse about amid the gloom which accompanied the result.

Yet the real problems remain in defence, a stubborn headache which refuses to shift and is threatening Whittingham’s job.

Interestingly, the likes of Kevin Dillon and Martin Allen were spotted at Fratton Park to witness the latest poor result for the Blues.

Tomorrow Southend will be the visitors, a team in-form and riding fifth in League Two at present.

Pompey fans have sadly become used to losing on the field of play, yet another defeat for Whittingham’s sake would be truly unthinkable.