Portsmouth 1-5 Burnley
Prior to Pompey's must win game against Burnley I mentioned that we must be very wary of two things, fatigue and complacency. On a day which could have rallied our season into thrilling last month, those two defects came back to haunt us and possibly deliver the final nail into our brief Championship tenure.
Pompey's team was unchanged from Tuesday's victory over Hull, with Karim Rekik keeping his place ahead of Ricardo Rocha after his impressive performance in midweek. For Burnley, top scorer Jay Rodriguez was unable to shake off a groin strain in time, with Pompey's summer target Martin Paterson keeping his place.
The game started in similar fashion to Tuesday's game, with Portsmouth looking very comfortable and moving the ball around well. The Blues had a period of pressure winning a succession of corners but were unable to capitalise.
Despite the Pompey pressure, the opening goal came against the run of play, when Burnley's first corner of the game saw them pull off a well rehearsed routine, with Dean Marney dragging the ball across the face of the box to Kieran Trippier, whose low drive passed through a body of players and Jamie Ashdown to give the visitors an undeserved lead.
Their lead only lasted 3 minutes however as a neat ball from Thorne found Varney who powered past his man into the box before pulling back to Norris who struck the ball into the top corner from close range, to score against Burnley for the second time this season.
As the half progressed it was the hosts who continued to look the more dangerous, and nearly took the lead 5 minutes before the break, but Burnley goalscorer Trippier made the vital clearance after Allan's crossed was heading for Maguire.
The Clarets almost took an unlikely lead in the dying embers of the half, but Jamie Ashdown was equal to Ben Mee's shot which took a heavy deflection off Thorne, which ensured the teams went in with a goal apiece.
If conceding a goal before halftime would have been a hammer blow, Danny Ings made sure Eddie Howe's half time team talk had hit home, as within 90 seconds of the restart they had retaken the lead after heading home from David Edgar's cross.
Pompey nearly responded instantly again, as a corner swung in from Scott Allen fell for Norris, who nearly got his second of the game, but fired high and wide, among protestations that he was upended.
As the half progressed Pompey grew increasingly impatient and the game opened up with Burnley slowing the pace down well. Michael Appleton responded halfway through the half by taking off Ward and Allen and bringing on Marco Futacs and Kelvin Etuhu.
The change almost paid off instantly as Etuhu stormed down the wing and beat his man to deliver a perfect cross for Luke Varney, whose header flashed inches wide of the post.
That missed proved to be very costly in Portsmouth's season, as within a minute Burnley had doubled their lead, with Charlie Austin taking advantage of static defending, sliding the ball past Ashdown from close range.
Burnley's third goal took all the sting out of a tired looking Pompey, and suddenly they seemed incapable of moving the ball around. After such a promising first half Pompey were undone by a second half that started bad and got progressively worse.
Things got even worse in stoppage time, with Charlie Austin scoring another two goals as Pompey totally switched off, first scoring after a mistake from Jason Pearce and then finding space to fire high past Ashdown after a ball from Josh McQuoid.
Inquests will go on as to why we lost his game so convincingly after looking so strong in the first half. No doubt fatigue will be the primary excuse but it is important that this defeat is put well behind us.
With 6 games to go, the gap is now 5 points to safety, and Pompey will need an extra-special miracle to overcome that gap. What better place to start that miracle than St. Mary's?
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