By Jonny Barrett
This week for Pompey has been what most teams would think of as a hell of a week. For us, it’s just been another week. Our old friend Mr Chanrai and his company Portpin have returned, having only withdrawn their bid the previous week. Yes, for the past couple of years he’s been hanging round the club like a man trying to be written into the will of an elderly relative, failing to realise they hate him and are leaving all their money to charity. But of course this man is the saviour right?
We all wanted him back, just like the PFA, Birch and the Council. Also, a man who is clearly perfect for the club has been linked with a takeover bid. Yes, former Watford owner, Laurence Bassini, has been linked with the club, a man who changed his surname having been declared bankrupt a few years ago. It’s getting to the point that if you’re declared bankrupt or have been involved in money laundering, along with a letter of bankruptcy/court summons, you should be sent details of how to contact Portsmouth Football Club. At least he definitely exists I suppose.
So, as it has been for so much of the past few months, Saturday afternoon was a chance to forget about our off-the-pitch worries and concentrate on the football.
There was one change to the side that played with such attacking flair on Tuesday night in the 2-2 draw against Colchester, with youngster Adam Webster coming in for the injured Lee Williamson for his first league start. Webster slotted in at right-back with the pacey Mustapha Dumbuya moving up on to the right side of midfield.
In our Dutch style Orange kit we began the match looking more like a Barnet reserve side. Carlisle came out and attacked from the off with debutant Jake Jervis on loan from Birmingham looking dangerous, finding space well before ballooning a half-volley over the bar.
Pompey looked sloppy, misplacing simple passes, but did manage to give the home side something to think about with rookie Liam Walker curling just over from distance. However, the Cumbrians kept pushing and broke the deadlock on 13-minutes with John-Paul McGovern crossing to the inexplicably unmarked Jervis who planted his header beautifully back across the goal, leaving Andersen with no chance.
The game then went into a bit of a lull with Carlisle controlling possession but not looking like extending their lead. Pompey perhaps could’ve leveled if Luke Rodgers, a man who has the permanent expression of someone who has just had their pint spilled, could’ve hit the target after good work down the left from Jon Harley.
An equaliser was then nearly handed to Pompey after Jack Compton delivered the ball in and a mix up between goalkeeper and defender forced Danny Livesey to put the ball just over his own bar.
Just after this, Adam Webster, who had picked up a knock, was brought off and replaced by Tuesday’s ‘super sub’ Jordan Obita, who went on to the right side of midfield with Dumbuya dropping back to the right side of defence.
Carlisle had a chance to extend their lead on half-time after Kevin Long gave away a free kick on the edge of the area, getting booked in the process, but the resulting attempt floated harmlessly over. So pretty much the same Pompey side that had played so well at Colchester on Tuesday night were lucky to go in at half-time only 1-0 down.
HALF TIME: CARLISLE UNITED 1-0 POMPEY
Most of the supporters were expecting, and rightly so, a better performance after half-time but we almost immediately fell two behind. Almost straight from kick-off, Jake Jervis forced Mikkel Andersen to brilliantly fingertip wide his low drive from outside the area. Despite that save, Andersen could do nothing to stop United skipper Livesey bulleting a header in to the goal from the resulting corner. This galvanised Pompey, who almost immediately reduced the deficit after Walker put Izale McLeod through with a sublime through ball, who was only prevented from scoring by a superb fingertip save from the onrushing Adam Collin, who really shouldn’t have been given the chance to get a touch on it.
McLeod, it appeared, was having one of those days having fallen on his backside when one-on-one with the keeper in the first-half. The game really started to open up with Pompey now controlling the ball but United looking dangerous on the break. McLeod completed a personal bad day at the office for himself, putting the ball well over the bar after a cut back from the hard working Rodgers.
After a quiet period in the game, in which the home side picked up a couple of bookings, Pompey almost scored twice in the space of two minutes. Firstly, a Liam Walker free kick was nervously palmed away and then Jordan Obita hit a thunderous left-footed half-volley which hit the underside of the bar and bounced to safety, denying him a goal of the season contender.
With time running out, Appleton took off strikers Rodgers and McLeod, and replaced them with local lad Ashley Harris and Chelsea loanee Connor Clifford, who dropped into midfield with Obita heading up to join Harris in attack. Paddy Madden could have made the game safe for Carlisle but he rolled a shot inches past the post.
In the 84th minute, the game seemed to be pretty much over as a contest when Kevin Long was sent off for a second bookable offence after bringing down the ever lively Jervis. However, as Pompey won a corner in the 88th minute, amazingly only a third of the afternoon’s goals had been scored. Liam Walker delivered the corner and, despite being around 4 foot 2, Ashley Harris bulleted home a header for his first competitive goal for the club.
The fourth official signaled four-minutes injury time and all of a sudden the players seemed to believe we could get a result out of this game. However sadly it was not to be with Paul Connolly trying his best Gianluca Festa impression, playing the ball towards his own goal, only for Jervis to intercept and force Andersen into a fine save, with James Berrett to pick up the ball and squeeze the rebound past Connolly on the line.
However, the drama still wasn’t over. After great work down the left from Compton, the other half of the Harris double sub, Clifford managed to slide the ball home, past Collin who really ought to have kept it out. As we pushed forward in search of an equaliser, the home side won a free kick which was quickly taken to McGovern whose effort was deflected into the path of Madden who coolly slotted through the legs of Andersen, to seal all three points for the home side. There was barely time for Pompey to kick off before the ref blew the final whistle.
FULL TIME: CARLISE UNITED 4-2 POMPEY
Man of the match: Quite a difficult decision to make given how poor we were for the majority of the game. I was impressed with the work rate of Luke Rodgers, who chased down every lost cause and I also thought Jon Harley looked very impressive going forward. However, for me it has to be first half substitute Jordan Obita. Was very tricky to deal with and was one of the few players that Carlisle found difficult to contain. A lick of paint away from a wonder goal and for a pacey, tricky player, he also has the upper body strength of a target man. The on loan Reading man is far from the finished article, occasionally keeping the ball to himself too long or going to ground in the area when he doesn’t need to but he looks very promising for the season ahead.
Support: Mixed bag really. Only the back few rows where I was were standing and singing throughout. The first half support was as bad as I’ve seen since the Premier League days I think, though to be fair we did later pick it up and by the end of the game it was something approaching proper as most of the stand stood and sang even though it was clear we were consigned to defeat. Despite our mediocre support in the first half, we easily out-sung Carlisle who remained silent for most of the game, although their terrace behind the goal did very occasionally make a bit of noise. A few of them, in hilarious and original fashion, waved money at us, although I feel it doesn’t work as well with £5 notes. I found the stewarding to be very good as they let us at the back stand throughout and only interfered once when a conga broke out which I suppose they have to do. Our glorious saviour Mr Chanrai was also toasted with a few rounds of ‘If you all hate Chanrai clap your hands’.
Summary: A very disappointing performance, in a game I think many of the fans expected a win from. We only really started playing in the last 15 minutes, but I saw enough to suggest there is a good team there that needs time to gel. Also, I must credit Carlisle who were very solid throughout and played some good stuff at time. Jake Jervis looks to be a great acquisition for them, with his strength in the air and quick feet. From that game alone, I reckon Calrisle might be looking towards challenging for the play-offs this season. I saw flashes of what Liam Walker is capable of but I think Appy is right in saying all he has is potential at the moment as he went missing for large chunks of the game. Dumbuya’s pace looks like it could be lethal if used sensibly this season and Mikkel Andersen looked solid, and couldn’t be faulted for any of the goals. However, with the clubs future in the balance I think we’re going to have to be realistic about our chances, especially when the 10 point deduction kicks in. I think it’d be a great achievement to stay up this season and if you offered me a place in League 2 for this time next season I’d take it, purely because it would mean you’d be assuring me we’d have a club. The general consensus of fans at the game is if Chanrai took over we’d be here again this time next season, and let’s be honest, none of us want that, and personally, I’d rather have a Community owned club in League 2 that had a chance to start doing things the right way, than a club owned by Chanrai in League 1, that was slowly having the life sucked out of it.