Portsmouth 0 Hull 4: Neil Allen's verdict - Fratton Park humiliation, but tone down hysterics and kneejerk screams of promotion doom

As humiliating defeats go, perhaps now is not appropriate for an aftermath of hysterics and histrionics.

By Neil Allen
Sunday, 24th January 2021, 9:00 am
Pompey's players are dejected after Hull score their fourth goal in Saturday's top-of-the-table clash at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey's players are dejected after Hull score their fourth goal in Saturday's top-of-the-table clash at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

The fixtures portrayed a top-of-the-table clash – in truth the outcome highlighted an alarming gulf in quality.

Sufficient motivation for some, it seems, to end their uneasy truce, pick up the placards, clear their throats and call for Kenny Jackett’s removal.

A first League One defeat in seven matches and suddenly there are those among the Fratton faithful who have lost belief in their manager and players.

Apparently the defence which registered six successive league clean sheets and came within 48 minutes of claiming a post-war club record is not good enough.

Kneejerk? Well, the Blues boasted the division’s best defensive record – and goal-scoring return – heading into Hull’s visit.

As it was, 21 per cent of Pompey’s League One goals conceded this season arrived on Saturday.

The day began with Jackett’s men gunning for top spot and undefeated in the league for almost seven weeks, collecting 16 points from a possible 18 in the process.

During that period they had defeated promotion rivals Peterborough, Ipswich, Fleetwood – and Hull at the KC Stadium. Without conceding a single goal.

Saturday was not a case of stumbling upon encountering the first good side they’ve come across, despite what some may shriek.

Pompey players were awful, abject and embarrassing, while the manager’s questionable decision to drop Michael Jacobs, as well as implement a half-time double substitute deserves intense scrutiny.

Nobody should escape criticism for what unfolded against the Tigers. The Blues choked, pure and simple.

Yet, based on performances and form since the start of October, Jackett and his troops possess plenty of credit in the bank and surely warrant a touch of faith.

Certainly what we had to endure was off kilter compared to previous months of positive results, excellent football, free scoring and spiralling optimism.

It would be ridiculous to allow one bad day at the office to tear down all that encouraging work and excellent foundations constructed during that time.

If Pompey were considered talented enough to claim promotion on Saturday morning, surely they shouldn’t then be regarded as being worryingly short of quality merely 90 minutes later?

Such is the fickleness of football, we all know the answer.

Not that the Blues’ display against the Tigers should be swept under the carpet, far from it. Instead let’s treat it as an isolated result for the time being, for that’s what it is.

Perhaps, as the season marches on, we will learn that January 23 was not a blip, but the awful norm in another promotion failure.

Yet at this moment in time, without the blessing of hindsight, Saturday’s second defeat in 12 League One matches signifies nothing more than the hackneyed bad day at the office.

And it was a bad day, make no mistake about that.

Hull were the better side in a tight first-half and, according to Jackett, deserved to lead at the interval, albeit through Jack Whatmough’s unfortunate own goal.

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However, the Blues were disjointed and lacklustre after the break, ending up on the receiving end of a hammering against a side positioned a point ahead before kick-off.

Pompey destroyed AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday night – and then suffered the same scoreline at Fratton Park four days later. Unthinkable.

For all the Blues’ excellent form of late, though, there remain a few concerns, which became glaring issues exposed by an impressive Hull.

Marcus Harness’ displays have dropped off worryingly for a while, despite his undoubted quality and excellent attitude towards the team cause.

Upon his departure, Gareth Evans complimented the former Burton man as being Pompey’s most talented player, yet he has noticeably dipped.

Harness’ last league goal was against Northampton at the end of October – subsequently failing to net in his next 13 appearances.

Then there's Ronan Curtis, selected ahead of Jacobs on the left flank, despite his rival’s excellent showing in the mauling of Wimbledon.

Curtis has not scaled his usual heights this season, irrespective of eight goals from the wing, and often struggles to make a telling creative impact on big occasions.

On Saturday it was another disappointing showing from him, although he undoubtedly remains a hugely important player for the Blues and one of their prized assets.

Despite highlighting two particular individuals, Pompey failed as a team against Hull, with far too many unsatisfactory performances across the pitch.

And how Grant McCann’s side ruthlessly took advantage.

The opening goal arrived on 23 minutes when the impressive Keane Lewis-Potter was gifted a free header from a free-kick delivered from the right.

Craig MacGillivray pulled off a save, but the ball then ricocheted off the unfortunate Whatmough and into his own net.

Unimpressed by the Blues’ opening 45 minutes, at the interval Jackett opted to substitute Ryan Williams and Andy Cannon, two of his star performers of late.

Instead he introduced central midfielders Ben Close and Harvey White, switching to a 4-3-3, yet the change would weaken his team’s performance rather than strengthen it.

George Honeyman increased the visitors’ lead on 61 minutes, turning the ball home from close range after Mallik Wilks’ initial shot had been blocked on the line by Sean Raggett.

Then, just two minutes later, Honeyman’s first-time cross from the right was turned into his net by the left boot of the sliding Whatmough for his second own goal of the afternoon.

Pompey’s misery was completed one minute into time added on when substitute Josh Magennis was criminally allowed to take several touches and turn on the edge of the box before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.

New boys Charlie Daniels and George Byers, both announced by the club during the day, had watched the match unfold from the South stand.

A interesting introduction to new team-mates who were unrecognisable to their own supporters.

Still, Jackett’s men have second-placed Lincoln on Tuesday night and with it an opportunity to demonstrate that Saturday was nothing more than a freakish result.

They have shown in the past that a disappointing display is followed by a magnificent response, time and time again.

So let’s not write them off just yet – after one defeat and six clean sheets in seven League One fixtures.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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