Wycombe 1 Pompey 0: Jordan Cross’ match report

Pompey sent keeper David Forde forward yesterday in the dying seconds as they attempted to rescue a point against Wycombe Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey sent keeper David Forde forward yesterday in the dying seconds as they attempted to rescue a point against Wycombe Picture: Joe Pepler
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If Pompey’s dejected troops ever needed an ovation this was the time.

Defeated, despondent and downtrodden following a loss which saw Paul Cook’s men fall to the fringes of the play-off picture.

The foot of Matt Clarke had provided the unfortunate intervention which had left David Forde flat-footed and Wycombe’s top marksman, Scott Kashket, celebrating the most fortunate of winners.

And that had floored a side who’d certainly deserved a return from the trip to take on a foe unbeaten in 16, before suffering stoppage-time agony against Spurs in the FA Cup.

But the Blues faithful outside of the 1,800 travelling supporters who made the trip to leafy Buckinghamshire wouldn’t have seen it that way at 5pm on Saturday.

They would have felt only the disappointment of a second loss on the bounce and the cold chill of a widening gap to League Two’s top three.

Yes, that table didn’t make for pretty viewing for those looking at their side in their lowest position since the formative stages of the campaign back in August.

Those packed into the Panache Stand, however, had a rather different take on proceedings.

And that was displayed in their lengthy show of appreciation for a performance which had exhibited the qualities Pompey folk have long viewed as the minimum requirement.

Of course, there was John Westwood and his rag-bag collection of waifs and strays who weren’t satisfied without taking that to another level.

They extended the Wycombe stewards’ afternoon with a drum-beating show of defiance for 30 minutes after the final whistle.

It was backing which fed straight into Cook’s post-match debrief and helped his team off their knees.

Yes, there’s been some grey days in recent times, but Pompey fans have crafted a reputation for providing a reasoned assessment of their side’s efforts.

‘The reaction of the supporters says it all,’ said the Blues boss, with the noise continuing as he gave his views after the game.

‘Those fans are proper football fans. You don’t get a response like that if you don’t deserve it. It’s top class.’

So, yes, this was a Pompey display which warranted a return. Few who witnessed what unfolded could or would disagree.

Likewise, however, no one for a second would suggest this was vintage stuff being served up.

Cook’s side could produce an argument for saying they were the better side, supported by their 16 shots on goal to Wycombe’s eight.

If this game had finished goalless, however, no one would have argued. Both teams would happily have taken the point and moved on.

There were the chances for Pompey to grab all three, however, and, for their misfortune, their inability to make the most of their sights of goal proved key to their downfall.

It took just 10 seconds for one of the clearest efforts they were to create all day to be passed up.

Gary Roberts, back in the side but short of his best as Cook returned to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, was the architect to put Jamal Lowe clear, but his finish from the edge of the box lacked accuracy.

All eyes were trained on Eoin Doyle as he went straight into the starting XI as one of five Pompey changes.

The Irishman offered glimpses rather than unequivocal evidence of what he has to give over the final 18 games.

The clearest came after half an hour. Chairboys defender, Anthony Stewart, appeared to have the Irishman in his sizeable grasp until a swivel and nutmeg left him for dead on the edge of the centre circle.

The anticipation was palpable as Doyle advanced on goal, with imagery of a net-bulging blast flashing in the mind’s eye as he pulled the trigger.

On this occasion, though, his low drive from the edge of the box didn’t quite have the anticipated conviction, allowing Jamal Blackman to save to his left.

There was enough to suggest, however, there are better days ahead for the marksman over the rest of the campaign.

In fact, Doyle would have been the preferred man letting fly instead of Enda Stevens in Pompey’s best sight of goal.

Kyle Bennett’s weight of pass made the most of the impressive left-back’s driving run seconds after Doyle’s miss.

Stevens, for all his vigour and attacking endeavour, lacks the killer instinct of a natural, born goalscorer, though.

And so we saw as he dallied a second too long before pulling the trigger. It was enough for Blackman to narrow the angle and smother his attempt on goal.

That was the best of it for Pompey before Kashket’s slice of fortune three minutes after the restart.

The 15-goal hitman had served notice of his threat when bursting clear on goal before the break, before being brought down by Stevens.

The covering Matt Clarke helped ensure it was yellow and not red he saw for his act of cynicism/professionalism.

Still, the old adage from players with goals as their stock-in-trade is you won’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. And Kashket hit the jackpot with his deflected winner.

From there, Pompey will be disappointed their second-half pressure didn’t serve up more in the way of clearcut opportunities for their efforts.

Roberts found himself occupying more and more advanced positions and will be frustrated he didn’t make more of his final ball on a couple of occasions.

And sub Carl Baker saw his lobbed shot finish the wrong side of the bar after Blackman hesitancy with 18 minutes left.

Eight minutes of stoppage time brought bluster and Forde foraying forward for corners, but, ultimately no real sights of goal for Pompey’s endeavour.

Yet, it was that graft which solicited the appreciation of the away following on an afternoon when fortune deserted their team.

The league table doesn’t have a column for hard-luck stories, however.

And the cold facts are a day the club’s coaching staff hoped would be a crucial turning point ended with the Blues slipping a place to seventh.

All around them, Pompey rivals are showing signs of hitting the form which decides whether a season is savoured or not.

Cook’s men know what’s needed, and, ultimately, they have to make their own luck on that front.