Southend 2 Pompey 0

Jamal Lowe shows his frustration at Bradford. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss: Three wins required for play-offs

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So victory for Southend then, the glorious best of a bad bunch.

Not that Phil Brown will be concerned having reaped a first win in six matches.

Nonetheless, the manner of Pompey’s defeat says infinitely more than the 2-0 scoreline at Roots Hall suggests.

The Shrimpers were poor, lacking spark and creativity, certainly a shadow of the team which reached the play-offs last term.

Andy Awford’s side were worse.

Not considerably worse, granted, but awful all the same.

For the vast majority of Saturday’s encounter, there was actually nothing between the sides. Rather worryingly.

Both teams criminally struggled to retain possession, each faltered when it came to threatening in the final third.

At times the football was hapless, on occasions it was laughable, such was the carelessness of those on display with the ball at their feet.

In terms of quality served up, the first half was a shocking and head-shaking fare, while after the break it was a marginal improvement.

Yet Southend scored, of course. That was the difference.

Scratch beneath the surface of the victory, however, and there was not too much for the Shrimpers to crow about in the Essex sunshine.

Not that Pompey fans give a jot about their opponents’ form – they currently have their own worries to agonise over.

Namely a run of three successive defeats during which they have failed to score a single goal.

To tell the truth, they have also barely drawn any of the three goalkeepers into a meaningful save during that period.

There could be no positives to dig out of the Roots Hall rubble, no driftwood of encouragement to cling onto.

Almost to man Pompey failed to perform and suddenly a team playing with a swagger and confidence is stuttering along.

An excellent start to the campaign has faltered and Saturday was a morale-sapping display amid an overall wretched spectacle of a fixture for those present.

Daniel Bentley had one meaningful save to make in the Southend goal, at his near post after Miles Storey had weaved his way into the penalty area seconds after half-time.

Cutting his way onto the outside, the forward fired in a right-foot shot which was beaten out by the keeper.

Other than that it was routine stuff for Bentley, claiming crosses, grasping the ball when an underhit shot came his way, retrieving an errant attempt wide of goal.

Bafflingly, he was afterwards named as the sponsors’ man of the match, the presentation taking place as the players made their way off the pitch.

Clearly somebody had been watching a different game. Lucky them.

Still, Bentley’s recognition was as misleading as a scoreline swelled by substitute Shaquile Coulthirst’s 90th minute breakaway.

A two-goal gap was an inaccurate reflection on the distance between the two sides on a day when they were almost as bad as each other.

The decisive moment arrived in the 56th minute, when Paul Jones failed to hold a Myles Weston cross from the left.

His fumble gifted the Shrimpers a corner and, when Kevan Hurst delivered, the ball found its way to Barry Corr at the near post to head home from close range.

The second-half had started brightly and open, both sides displaying increased attacking capabilities and breathing precious excitement into proceedings.

Once Corr netted the result was effectively decided and Pompey’s failure to respond was as alarming as it was frustrating.

Andy Barcham replaced Storey on the right flank, Butler came on for Nicky Shorey at left-back.

Patrick Agyemang’s anticipated entrance was delayed while Awford awaited on the extent of Jack Whatmough’s cramp which flared up in the second half.

In the end a calf injury for Jed Wallace forced him off in favour of Agyemang with 11 minutes remaining.

But still the visitors couldn’t find a way back into the match and barely raised a sniff of an opportunity.

Team selection by Pompey’s boss was unquestionably attacking when it was unveiled before the match as he made two changes to the team which lost at Burton.

Johnny Ertl was replaced by Whatmough in the centre of defence, with Ben Chorley still sidelined and Joe Devera among the substitutes.

Miles Storey was brought in during a reshuffle among the striking ranks prompted by a groin problem for Ryan Taylor.

Awford opted for a 4-3-3, with Craig Westcarr as the central striker and Ricky Holmes and Storey either side, while Wallace was a more central figure in midfield.

That meant Agyemang on the bench as he continues to feel his way back following a hamstring injury on the eve of the season.

In the early stages Holmes was encouraging down the left, while Storey created an opportunity for Danny Hollands down the right.

Gary Deegan’s loose cross-field pass was picked up by Storey who charged down the wing before delivering a cross which Hollands steered with the outside of his right foot straight at Bentley.

At the other end, on nine minutes Hurst delivered a corner from the right which was met by a powerful far-post header from Jerome Williams.

Jones made a point-blank save, but the debutant then headed his follow-up wide of the target.

Regardless, the on-loan left-back from Palace would go on to enjoy an impressive bow for the Shrimpers.

With the game all-square at the break, it opened up early in the second half and Storey saw his shot blocked by the keeper.

On 53 minutes Wallace fired a left-foot shot from distance straight at Bentley, then latched onto Westcarr’s clever hooked pass only to volley it wide over the bar.

Then came Corr’s header from a right-wing corner and Brown’s side had a 56th minute lead.

The arrival of Agyemang did at least pep up the Blues and his power carved out an opening for Holmes, only for Ryan Leonard to produce a marvellous last-ditch interception.

It was left to Coulthirst to have the final say, launching a counter-attack on 90 minutes before finishing smartly.

With it a third straight defeat for Pompey was sealed, but at least two home matches are next up.

And Pompey cannot afford to perform as woeful in front of their own supporters.