Portsmouth 1 Wigan 2: Neil Allen's verdict - Early days but stale Blues' problems are glaring amid pressure on Kenny Jackett's future

Wigan's Lee Evans celebrates after opening the scoring in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Pompey. Picture: Joe PeplerWigan's Lee Evans celebrates after opening the scoring in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler
Wigan's Lee Evans celebrates after opening the scoring in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler
The League One campaign is still in its infancy, just three matches old.

Yet long enough to draw the reasoned conclusion that these are concerning times – for Pompey and Kenny Jackett.

The Blues occupy the drop zone, a position they will not find themselves inhabiting as the season plods on. No mistake, this isn’t a relegation side.

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However, a haul of two points from the opening three fixtures – and the accompanying lacklustre performances – is alarming.

There is sufficient damning evidence, our eyes cannot be deceived. The team is stale, the football stagnant and results have stalled, failings so glaringly obvious.

Unquestionably, this current Pompey squad is not short on talent. Neither is it devoid of commitment towards a supposed push for promotion to the Championship.

Yet there has been little proof of such strengths so far during this campaign. And that is worrying.

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Take away Jack Whatmough and the Wigan substitute appearance of Ellis Harrison, and Jackett’s players have fallen far below the standards required of them in the opening three matches.

In turn, the screams to dismiss Pompey’s boss are deafening, even if Fratton Park is presently uninhabited by supporters.

Jackett finds himself with few friends outside the boardroom and dressing room at present. As an experienced and canny operator, he realises the predicament he finds himself in.

Last term, Pompey entered November in 16th spot – by mid-March they had hauled themselves into fourth spot and registered a club-record winning streak.

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Credit to the Blues boss for an outstanding turning around of fortunes on that occasion, driven by Tornante’s admirable show of faith in the face of public discontent.

It can be argued this season’s start is even more abject. Shrewsbury, Rochdale and a decimated Wigan would have been warmly received on fixtures day – oh how the reality has frustrated.

What’s more, the performances have been largely excruciating, ponderous, predictable, mechanical and without spark and invention. Let’s be frank.

Of course the manager bears his responsibility, yet so too should the likes of John Marquis, Ronan Curtis, Bryn Morris and Co, who have still to ignite early in this season.

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Their time will come, particularly prized asset Curtis, who remains one of the club’s most accomplished performers and surely player of the year contender when normal service resumes.

But not at present. In fact, only the back four and goalkeeper should be spared criticism from the opening three league matches.

With respect, Shrewsbury and Rochdale, maybe Wigan also, won’t finish in the top half of League One this season. Yet all possessed enough nous to thwart Pompey and restrict them to two points and one goal.

Indefensible for a side with promotion aspirations.

As ever, though, it’s the manager who must shoulder the fans’ fury. Subsequently, Jackett is established as public enemy number one among the Fratton faithful.

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Many wanted him sacked following the penalty shoot-out defeat to Oxford in the play-off semi-finals. The dissenters have multiplied and expanded considerably since that time.

For Jackett, it is a blessing that Fratton Park is presently out of bounds. The reception at each banal home display this term would have been deeply uncomfortable.

Instead social media provides them with a voice. Following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Wigan, opinion favours one particular outcome.

It wasn’t merely losing at Fratton Park for the first time in the league and play-offs in almost 17 months which irritated, albeit a contributing factor.

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Pompey started brightly enough, but it soon deteriorated into another unimaginative display, devoid of direction, adventure and final-third quality.

Granted, there was a late rally inspired by Harrison’s 58th-minute introduction, certainly the Blues’ best individual attacking performance during the League One season to date.

Yet his last-gasp goal was nothing more than a consolation. Not that Jackett’s men warranted anything from the fixture, it would have been as meaningless as papering over the cracks.

And there are cracks, gaping chasms which require urgent repairs. Since day one. Still they remain, however.

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Gareth Evans’ emotional departure on Friday is irrelevant, there is a bigger picture here. The issues run deep and, for Jackett, it will be tough to win back public support, should he even embark on a wondrous run of victories to scale the table.

For Wigan’s visit, he granted a maiden start to Michael Jacobs, operating in the number 10 role in place of Andy Cannon and ironically against the side he last featured for.

The other change to the side which drew at Rochdale the previous weekend was Cam Pring introduced for Lee Brown at left-back.

As for Rasmus Nicolaisen, the Danish newcomer was named among the substitutes, a fair decision considering Whatmough and Raggett had previously yet to concede a League One goal.

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In fairness, Jacobs showed glimpses to suggest he can be the creative force this side is crying out for, particularly in the first half, yet remains short of match practice and requires patience.

Pompey themselves have hardly hit the ground running this season – and Saturday was another depressing spectacle.

Wigan took the lead on 39 minutes when former Pompey loanee, Viv Solomon-Otabor, crossed from the left, with Alex Perry’s right-footed shot blocked by Whatmough.

However, Evans’ acrobatic follow-up effort crashed into the floor and bounced over the unfortunate Craig MacGillivray, still grounded after diving following the earlier attempt.

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That lead was extended on 59 minutes when right-back Tom James’ crashed a 30-yard right-footed free-kick into the top corner, despite MacGillivray getting a touch.

Harrison had been called from the bench a minute earlier in place of the bright Marcus Harness and he would subsequently lead a partial fightback.

Such was his impact, it was a man-of-the-match display, linking up play with the midfield and retaining possession of the ball effectively as the Blues stepped up their game.

He was rewarded in the 89th minute when MacGillivray’s long kick was headed on, firstly by Curtis and then substitute Ryan Williams, before Marquis chested it inside the penalty area.

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Harrison leapt upon the loose ball, lashing it left footed into the top corner to reduce the deficit and provide late hope.

Pompey had nothing more, however, as Wigan kept hold of their lead to claim their first points of a season hindered by administration and a player fire sale.

Another body blow to the under-fire Jackett, whose ongoing position continues to questioned by a Pompey support who have long lost patience.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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