Southend 3 Pompey 1: Jordan Cross’ match report

Jason Demetriou scores the second of his two goals against Pompey Picture: Joe Pepler
Jason Demetriou scores the second of his two goals against Pompey Picture: Joe Pepler
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Anton Ferdinand sat quietly scanning the pages of the bible in a period of pre-match reflection.

It was undoubtedly a left-field sight to witness a man more associated with Premier League riches and swagger in a humble moment of peaceful and introverted thought.

Yet it’s Pompey’s play-off hopes which were desperately left in need of some divine intervention, after going to a typical League One cathedral and being handed a righteous lesson in third-tier football.

Southend’s defender had retreated to a quiet corner of a virtually unoccupied Southend press room for inspiration in the pages of the good book before kick-off.

Within 12 minutes of a defensive collapse of biblical proportions, it was Kenny Jackett’s men left needing to repent their sins for their failings at the back.

Jackett’s gospel this season has preached stoicism, with the Blues boss sacrificing plenty of the attacking freedom Paul Cook afforded his team in his Fratton tenure in search of clean sheets.

The shut outs seems a distant promised land at present, though, with it 12 games and 65 days since that was achieved against Bury on December 16.

And the preventable manner of the goals is what is now seeing frustration escalate.

Kenny Jackett doesn’t do wrath. Outside the confines of the dressing room, the Pompey boss maintains an analytical approach and control of his emotions which taps into the heart of his managerial ethos.

The manner in which he dissected his side’s failings at the back, though, with a step-by-step take-down spoke of man whose patience had snapped.

Inability to stop crosses at source, physical weakness and good, old fashioned passion for the defensive job were stop-off points for Jackett in a concerted and stinging assessment of his players.

‘We’ve given ourselves a mountain to climb,’ said Jackett, who is publicly sticking to the position his team can make the end-of-season League One jamboree.

The gap, somewhat surprisingly, is a very bridgeable five points with 13 games remaining of the campaign.

That’s one thing - whether Pompey for a second look like a team capable of producing a winning run to make it happen is quite another.

The 1,920 fans who made the trip to Essex in the winter sunshine were given a clear view that doesn’t look on the cards for a second at present.

Southend’s sixth-minute opener made for cringe-inducing viewing, as Anton Walkes gifted possession to Shayon Harrison, before Matt Clarke’s botched efforts to rescue the situation ended with the defender lobbing the ball past the helpless Luke McGee and into the net.

Six minutes later, and two-goal right-back Jason Demetriou was afforded the time and space to guide his side’s second beyond McGee’s despairing dive from 20 yards.

It was the lack of pressure on the lively Stephen McLaughlin which allowed the dangerous Demetriou the space to make his game-killing intervention.

It’s clear the evidence of Pompey’s costly defensive lapses are now becoming too significant to ignore.

Jackett was barely content to accept the general consensus fortune had been a unruly bedfellow as Pompey were undone late on against Blackburn.

Fourteen shots to seven suggested any deficiencies lied in the final third, when apportioning blame for plucky defeat against the title contenders on last Tuesday night.

There was no such shrouding where Jackett’s men came up short this time.

The view the Blues had punched their weight in general play, against a foe who’d turned over the division’s obvious class act in Wigan the previous week, was misleading.

After all, the two-goal head start meant a rejuvenated Shrimpers side under Chris Powell were happy to concede possession to their rival. Yet, there was no suggestion their foe would make significant chances arise from their time with ball at feet.

Conor Chaplin, given the second start on the bounce he craves, threatened after just 55 seconds.

It was the kind of sighter of goal you’d fancy the little assassin to make the most of, but his right-footed effort passed him by as he pulled the trigger while slightly off balance.

Aside from Evans’ maiden league goal of the 2017-18 campaign in the 36th minute, it was a job to come up with much in the way of decent chances for Pompey.

Chaplin went close three minutes after the restart with a speculative effort from 25 yards. Then Pompey’s standout creative influence in Jamal Lowe dragged an angled drive not too far wide with 10 minutes remaining.

Sub Oli Hawkins’ late sight of goal came with the game gone following Demetriou’s second, and a Shrimpers’ side still unbeaten under their new manager home and hosed.

That, though, was pretty much it in terms of Pompey’s attacking threat.

Yet, this latest verse of the Blues’ season was to develop into a parable for the cost of the relative lack of January business.

That’s what Pompey fans are now referencing as Jackett’s squad took a costly hit to his numbers.

Losing three key men in the space of 33 minutes was unfortunate by any standards, but it now heaps focus on the lack of outfield strengthening on deadline day.

It was Evans who was to first depart the action clinging his hamstring, damage picked up as he made sure he was the man to bundle home Brett Pitman’s ball back across the face of goal from Lowe’s cross.

Then came Nathan Thompson’s 64th-minute lunge on Ben Coker. The Shrimpers captain’s delayed writhing on the turf spoke of a degree of gamesmanship, yet there could be no doubt the dismissal was warranted.

So another blow for Jackett’s squad, as the man who has impressed in his midfield enforcer’s role of late begins a three-game suspension at Fleetwood.

But there was still time for Pompey’s creaking options to be dealt another significant hit.

We await to see the extent of the issue behind Pitman’s 69th-minute exit - another victim to his hamstring giving way.

With Matty Kennedy missing as a result of an ankle problem, it’s a worrying list of injuries Jackett’s squad can scarcely contain.

The Pompey boss may have publicly insisted these issues are simply a football reality which will provide opportunities for others.

Yet, an afternoon to forget could well have the Blues repenting a lack of deadline-day strengthening over the next few weeks.