Jordan Cross looks back on Pompey’s defeat to Rotherham and assesses the main talking points...
The scenario was all-too familiar.
Pompey were retreating deeper and deeper in the face of the opponent unleashing all of their heavy artillery on them.
In the end, a superb rearguard action was finally breached in stoppage-time by two former Blues players to make it a galling maiden visit to Rotherham’s New York Stadium.
How ironic it was a man who was much-maligned by many at Fratton Park who was the architect of the game’s decisive goal.
Sub Michael Smith was the player who found former Pompey loanee Joe Mattock, who applied the headed finish from close range.
Of course, that’s now the third time in four games that the Blues have let it slip at the death, following late goals against Chelsea under-21s and Bristol Rovers.
That pattern emerging will be reflected upon at the Pompey training base in the coming days, that’s for sure.
It’s hard to point the finger at the defending of Kenny Jackett’s side on such occasions. Like at Bristol Rovers on New Year’s Day, bodies were put on the line and endless crosses and corners were headed and kicked clear.
In the end, though, too much was asked of the Blues’ defence amid 61-per-cent possession for Rotherham across 90 minutes – and almost total dominance of the ball in the game’s finale.
It’s that number and the inability to keep the ball up the pitch for any meaningful period as the game went on, where the fault lay.
Donohue’s wait is over
It’s been five long months in the making.
But Dion Donohue was finally given the chance to show what he could do in his preferred central-midfield role at Rotherham.
With Kenny Jackett returning to the 4-2-3-1 formation utilised for the majority of the campaign, Donohue operated alongside Ben Close at the base of the midfield.
It’s the first time in 20 appearances the August arrival has been able to show what he can do there, after largely operating as a left-back at Fratton Park.
He lasted 66 minutes in the role, before being switched to the left side of defence following a formation change as Jackett went to a 4-4-1-1 following the introduction of Oli Hawkins and Connor Ronan.
In that time he delivered a steady and efficient effort, if not a dominant one against Rotherham’s central pairing of Will Vaulks and Richie Towell.
Donohue made good use of the ball and kept things ticking over with his passing, rather than feeling the pressure to do anything too extravagant.
At 24, he currently finds himself as Pompey’s elder statesman in terms of options in the middle of the park – something Jackett will, no doubt, look at remedying.
But the manager knows he has a viable option to use there in the Welshman, and, as he showed in Pompey’s backs-to-the-wall finale, a dogged and versatile competitor.
Sylvain shows he can
Sylvain Deslandes hasn’t been a happy figure around Pompey’s training ground.
Two games and not a minute’s action since his loan arrival from Wolves has been enough to leave the left-back under a dark cloud.
Deslandes was given his chance to show what he can do finally with his full debut against in-form Rotherham.
The 21-year-old started quickly as he showcased a willingness to get forward.
That, slightly oddly, saw him pop up on the right flank to provide one early cross which proved a tad too high for Kal Naismith to direct his header on target.
Defensively, Deslandes was tenacious and keen to get as tight as he could to his man, allowing them little time to breathe.
The Frenchman had his hands full, however, with Anthony Forde his side’s standout player down the right flank and Josh Emmanuel providing powerful support from the right-back position.
Deslandes cuts a sizeable figure himself, however, and will be hard to halt when he builds a head of steam – although some of his passing was wayward at times on this occasion.
It was no surprise to see him withdrawn after 66 minutes as Forde’s influence increased, with the new boy slowing on his first senior start since September.
But there was enough to suggest he’ll offer strong competition for Brandon Haunstrup over the remainder of the campaign.