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Notts County 3 Portsmouth 0
Yoann Arquin gets in between Pompey defender Gabor Gyepes and keeper Mikkel Andersen to give Notts County an early lead at Meadow Lane on Saturday
By Neil Allen of the News
Published on Monday 24 September 2012
It was in the same city, a few hundreds yards down the road, where Pompey bid goodbye to the Championship 21 weeks ago.
A standing ovation accompanied Michael Appleton’s men long after the final whistle slammed the door on their relegation season.
Amid emotional and genuinely touching scenes, the likes of Marko Futacs, David Norris and Scott Allan unfurled a banner thrown from the terraces at their feet.
It read ‘Club for sale, best fans in the world come free’.
On Saturday, those fans were back in Nottingham, albeit at the home of Forest’s neighbours Notts County.
Futacs also returned, this time sitting among those 816 supporters who made the trip, with his new club Leicester in action yesterday.
Except, no such reception was afforded the current crop of Pompey players at Meadow Lane following this latest defeat.
Barely eight matches into their League One campaign, the Blues are once again embroiled in a relegation battle.
The club are still in administration and up for sale.
The difference, however, is there is no such affection for today’s Blues players.
Patience is beginning to wear thin among some sections of supporters after a third successive loss and fifth defeat in the league to date.
Not that Pompey fans aren’t used to defeats.
Two relegations in three years have inevitably yielded lashings of losses and many a depressing away day.
But the lacklustre manner in which Appleton’s side are playing at present is certainly a cause for alarm.
It also represents the ultimate treachery in the eyes of those who support them.
Unquestionably, the squad of freebies hired on a month-by-month basis by the Blues boss possesses talent and experience.
The majority turned down deals at other clubs to journey to Fratton Park, many snubbing far more lucrative terms.
They have shown a refreshing willingness to stick around regardless of being unable to seal their long-term employment.
Yet, despite that show of faith in a club which continues to plummet, performances disappoint.
Subsequently on Saturday, for the very first time, fans are beginning to question.
Questioning the players’ commitment, questioning the division the club will be turning out in next year.
And, at one time most unthinkable of all, questioning Appleton.
The fact this squad was assembled two days before the start of the new season is not seen as a defence.
The matter of 33 players used before the end of September, cuts little slack.
The case of 10 different central-defensive partnerships rolled out has been shrugged off.
Then there is the tiresome on-going takeover situation and its impact on all those employees of Portsmouth Football Club.
All are important factors and not excuses when considering the present predicament of Appleton and his men.
Such elements should not be forgotten when assessing the manager’s own performance at a club which remains in turmoil.
Pompey fans are renowned for their unshakable support of their team rather than a penchant for knee-jerk reactions.
Nonetheless, displays like that one against County cannot be simply brushed off.
Nor can the number of poor and unsatisfactory displays from Appleton’s side this early in the season.
No mistake, Notts County fully deserved their 3-0 triumph.
In truth, the scoreline could have been bigger, such was their dominance.
In Alan Judge they had the most destructive player Pompey have come across so far in League One.
From his free role in the Magpies’ side, he probed, prodded and dictated their play magnificently.
A return of a stunning goal and two assists is a reflection of a sensational display which the visitors failed miserably to stop.
Likewise, Yoann Arquin in attack produced the type of centre-forward display long hoped from Izale McLeod.
The powerhouse Frenchman netted County’s other two goals and gave the Blues – and in particular Gabor Gyepes – a torrid time.
As for McLeod, he was left flailing in a role first on the right and then left-hand side of an attacking threesome.
Getting the best out of the former Barnet man continues to be Appleton’s biggest conundrum of all.
However, McLeod wasn’t alone in producing a thoroughly below-par display – his team-mates to a man were just as poor.
Darel Rusell afterwards admitted just as much, acknowledging they are entirely the ones to blame for the current wretched run.
Brutal honesty – yet something needs to change.
Certainly, Pompey cannot afford to keep conceding the first goal in a match – a fact long pointed out by an ever-exasperated Appleton.
On Saturday, the opposition’s opener came after just five minutes.
Judge swung in a corner from the right and somehow Arquin got ahead of Gyepes and the on-rushing Mikkel Andersen to turn the ball home.
The Magpies went on to dictate the match.
Nonetheless, that first half would prove to be the brightest for Pompey.
Jack Compton, in particular, should have done far better when confronted with a counter-attack which left the visitors three on one.
Instead, the winger opted to shoot, slicing his shot horribly wide, rather than feeding either McLeod or Luke Rodgers.
Barely two minutes after the interval, Judge increased County’s lead with a magnificent 30-yard strike.
And by the time Arquin capitalised on some dreadful defending in the 57th minute, the match had long been decided.
McLeod, whose awful ball to Brian Howard started that move, was immediately hauled off.
He was replaced by Ashley Harris, who, as ever, made an impact from the bench.
Incidentally, the teenager is the only player left that featured that day against Forest.
Everyone else has departed, mainly for Championship football, through necessity to keep Pompey alive.
In their place are a group of talented players who have yet to show the same heart and desire.
And regardless of the crippling ownership situation, that remains criminal in the eyes of the Pompey faithful.