Portsmouth keeper could well depart in summer, fringe men flatter to deceive and apathy rife after Papa John's Trophy final loss

Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the three key talking points after Pompey’s penalty shootout defeat to Salford City in the Papa John’s Trophy final at Wembley.

Sunday, 14th March 2021, 6:30 am

Anger turns into apathy

The emotion after the abject display at Northampton can only be described as anger.

The Fratton faithful couldn't quite believe they watched the club they love concede four first-half goals against a Cobblers outfit who are relegation candidates.

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A week later, Pompey yet again lost to opposition they should have well and truly been putting to the sword.

Only this time against Salford, there was no ire - but instead apathy.

A third defeat in a week and slipping out of the League One play-offs has left supporters feeling indifferent, merely shrugging their shoulders as their side sunk further in the mire.

During this dire run of form, it seems that fans are becoming more and more detached from their club by the game.

Pompey keeper Craig MacGillivray dejected after the defeat to Salford, having been his side's man of the match. Picture: Joe Pepler

For all the publicity and media attention Salford garner because of their owners, they're still only a League Two side. Only a League Two side who aren't even guaranteed to be promoted this season as they sit ninth.

Yet they completely played Pompey off the park during the first half

Even when the Blues improved after the interval, Salford still very much held their own. They still arguably edged things.

When the winning Ammies penalty was notched, Pompey could hardly bemoan any sort of bad luck or decisions that harshly went against them.

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They got what was deserved – not that many supporters even care much.

Mac might be off

The one player that at least could hold his head high leaving Wembley was Craig MacGillivray

If it wasn't for his first-half heroics, we could have been witnessing another abysmal Northampton showing.

In truth, Salford could and probably should have been out of sight after 45 minutes.

However, MacGillivray got Pompey out of jail time and time again. There were big saves to deny James Wilson, Jordan Turnbull and Brandon Thomas-Asante.

The Scot must have hoped for a quieter second period, although that didn't prove the case. It was Ashley Eastham and then Bruno Andrade who both had headers thwarted, with the latter save being described by ex-Blues forward David Connolly as Gordon Banks-esque while commentating for talkSPORT.

MacGillivray's been back to his best this season and contesting for the player of the season award.

Having been at Fratton Park for almost three campaigns, he's established himself as one of the best keepers in League One and is surely banging on the door for a recall to the Scotland squad later this month.

However, out of contract in the summer, there are fears if Pompey fail to go up then he might decide to leave and try to test himself in the Championship.

In truth, who could blame him if that was to be the case?

Fringe men flatter to deceive

Another game, another rejig of the starting XI. Only this time, many Pompey fans got their wish.

Yet despite Jordy Hiwula finally being handed a start, it failed to reap the dividends.

In total, Kenny Jackett made two changes from Tuesday's loss to Sunderland. Only the players who came in were ones we haven't seen much of.

Ever since Hiwula arrived at the club in October, there has been clamour for him to start.

It's been understandable why fans have wanted to see what he could do from the outset after several impressive cameos off the bench.

However, in the most prominent game of his PO4 career, Hiwula didn't grasp his chance. He was involved in little and caught offside too often during rare Pompey first-half attacks before he was replaced by Marcus Harness at the break.

Meanwhile, George Byers walked out of Fratton Park when not named in Tuesday's squad against Sunderland.

You could understand his frustration, having come from a Championship outfit in Swansea touted to make the difference in the promotion battle.

With Andy Cannon injured, he was given just a third start since joining on loan in January.

But just like at Bristol Rovers and Northampton where Byers also started, the Blues fell to defeat.

When Ben Close came on in Byers', he looked far more comfortable next to Tom Naylor in the engine room - despite it being his first outing for almost two months.

You do have to feel for Harvey White on the left-hand side of midfield as he's not a natural winger capable of going at defenders.

However, when Ronan Curtis came on, it provided much more balance.

With the improvements in the second half, there must be a temptation for Jackett to revert to his 4-2-3-1 system where players all know their defined roles more clearly.