Encouraging signs for Portsmouth in loss to Southampton - but substitutions arrived too late to change south-coast derby

John Marquis struck the post for Pompey against Southampton. Picture: Joe Pepler
John Marquis struck the post for Pompey against Southampton. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey's south-coast derby defeat to Southampton… 

Encouraging signs amid poor league form 

It was as good as Pompey have played all season, according to Brandon Haunstrup.

And that’s a sentiment most supporters agreed with.

Kenny Jackett’s men have endured a lacklustre start to the League One campaign, sitting 20th in the table and collecting only six points from 21.

Performance levels have been found wanting, especially in the past two games against Burton and Wycombe.

Ryan Williams was lively against Southampton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Ryan Williams was lively against Southampton. Picture: Joe Pepler

But the south-coast derby offered a distraction away from the third tier and an opportunity for Pompey to instil confidence into the dressing room. 

Ultimately, Southampton’s quality and clinical finishing in the final third proved the difference in the 4-0 defeat.

However, “what if” was the phrase coined at the final whistle. 

The home side were the better outfit in the opening 20 minutes, consistently banging on the Southampton door.

Gareth Evans came on as a late substitute against Southampton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gareth Evans came on as a late substitute against Southampton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Two fine saves from visiting keeper Alex McCarthy denied Brett Pitman, while John Marquis must have thought he’d broken the deadlock but his effort clipped the outside of the post.

Southampton punished Pompey, with Danny Ings rounding off their maiden attack in ruthless fashion.

And despite Jackett’s men responding well, Ings’ composed finish before half-time again underlined the distinction between the two sides. 

It was a tough pill to swallow for the Blues.

Nevertheless, given there have been attacking deficiencies in the league lately, there are encouraging signs Pompey aren’t too far away from clicking. 

Williams underlines his quality 

After a frustrating pre-season, Ryan Williams now looks ready to impact Pompey’s league campaign.

The fact the Australian caused a Premier League outfit problems should mean he’ll offer a potent threat in the third tier. 

Williams delivered a man-of-the-match performance in just his third appearance back from injury.

In the eighth minute, he pilfered the ball from Ryan Bertrand before getting his head up to slide in John Marquis, whose shot was denied by the woodwork. 

While Pompey were on top before the opening goal arrived, the vast majority of their play came through Williams down the right.

The ex-Rotherham man dovetailed well with Marquis and James Bolton and those partnerships should continue to blossom.

In the second half, Williams kept asking questions as the hosts searched for a way back into the tie, with one cross unable to be converted by Ronan Curtis.

So far this season, Kenny Jackett’s never had all three of his wingers fit and available at the same time.

Just as Williams recovered from his quad problem, Marcus Harness then sustained a thigh strain at Blackpool.

Harness is set to return against Bolton this weekend, though, and that’ll significantly boost Pompey’s wide options. 

Substitutions arrive too late to make an impact

The Fratton faithful tried to cajole Kenny Jackett into making a substitution around the hour mark. 

“Gareth Evans is a blue” started ringing out from the stands, with the hope the fans’ favourite would be introduced.

It wasn’t until 77 minutes when the midfielder was finally brought on – but the game had just been put to bed. 

While Evans was waiting on the sidelines, Cedric added a third goal for Southampton, which meant any chance of forging a comeback was nigh-on impossible.

Even if the visiting right-back hadn’t extended Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side’s lead, there’s still an argument there wasn’t ample time for the ex-Fleetwood man to make an impact.

When supporters chanted for Evans to be brought on, the atmosphere had dulled and Pompey’s attacking threat had also dropped.

The midfielder’s presence surely would have reinvigorated Blues supporters and had a knock-on effect on the pitch. 

Not only that, but Evans’ drive and thrust – as well as his goalscoring prowess – would have offered something different.

Ross McCrorie was also brought on with eight minutes remaining when there was hardly a chance for him to stamp his authority on the clash.