Barnsley 1-0 Portsmouth
One week ago, Portsmouth fans witnessed a lively fight between two decent footballing teams, in an open match which saw 5 goals, and countless chances, which ultimately ended in a brave comeback being thwarted by a late sucker-punch. This week however, saw Pompey suffer an early knock-down followed by 75 minutes of Harrisonesque cowering.
Portsmouth travelled 240 miles north to Oakwell, coming in off a string of decent performances that ultimately ended in disappointment. The hosts however had found their feet in recent weeks, returning home after 2 impressive away victories.
Liam Lawrence returned from suspension with Ricardo Rocha also getting a recall, replacing Kanu and Sonko respectively, with Joel Ward reverting to left-back. Barnsley had no fresh concerns and named an unchanged side from the one that beat Ipswich a week ago.
It was the visitors who started the brightest, and with barely 2 minutes on the clock, David Nugent broke the offside trap and raced into the box before curling an effort just wide of the far post. Minutes later Pompey had reason for complaint, when a ball towards John Utaka seemed to strike the hand of a Barnsley defender, but the referee ignored any protests. His afternoon was just getting started.
A quarter an hour in and the deadlock was broken, when on-loan Garry O'Connor delivered a pinpoint cross to Adam Hammill, whose sweet strike gave Ashdown no chance and gave Barnsley the lead against the run of play.
John Utaka was looking dangerous and continuously frustrated the Barnsley defence, and on the half hour, he had a shot from distance which Luke Steele done well to save and gather at the second attempt. Not to be outdone, Tykes striker Jim O'Brien hit a screamer from fully 35 yards that flew just wide just before the break.
It has been a trait for Pompey to come out for the second half and up their game this season, but today they made the exception as Barnsley came out all guns blazing and were hell bent on doubling their lead.
O'Brien, Lovre and Hammill all had chances to test Jamie Ashdown, while Pompey were defending for their lives, and seemingly unable to string half a dozen passes together. Jamie Ashdown was on top form again when O'Connor's goalbound header was expertly tipped onto the crossbar, although the referee felt Ashdown didn't get near it, deciding to give a goal kick.
A quick side note on the referee, he was awful, truly awful. The reputation of Championship referees is far from sparkling, but this one really took the biscuit. It takes a special level of incompetency to upset both sets of fans, both managers and nearly every player on the pitch, but David Foster managed it today, constantly giving throw-ins the wrong way, awarding goal kicks instead of corners and denying clear free kicks. It's easy to criticise the referee when things go wrong, but I think even Barnsley fans will be furious with what they have witnessed today.
Back to the game and Barnsley continued to boss the second half, and Jim O'Brien once again looked to cause the Blues defence problems by fizzing a ball across the face of goal, with nobody on hand to finish. Pompey were on the ropes and if it had been a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it a long time ago (Well, this referee would have probably given a touchdown).
But Cotterill hadn't thrown the towel in just yet and as a last attempt to gain a point he brought on Kanu, Ciftci and Hughes, but it was Joel Ward who came closest driving the ball towards goal from outside the box, only to see Luke Steele make a terrific save.
There was still enough time for one last chance for David Nugent as a bit of penalty area pinball seen the ball land at his feet with just the keeper to beat, but Luke Steele once again was on hand to parry the ball out for a corner (which inevitably was given as a goal kick).
The referee brought to an end a scrappy match (he managed to do that without controversy), and Portsmouth found themselves on the end of their third loss in four games, and with a tricky trip to Swansea coming up next Friday. Incidentally, this will be Pompey's first competitive game outside of England since their 3-2 defeat to Wolfsburg in the Uefa Cup.
Barnsley 1-0 Portsmouth