An uneasy feeling filled the air at Fratton Park, as manager Michael Appleton continued to have his future speculated on. The pressure on the players was on, as they had to provide an outstanding performance to encourage the boss to stay.
True to form, the Pompey fans, in typical fashion, showed how much they value their young manager, with a chorus of “Appleton’s Blue and White Army”, resonating around the ground for the opening ten minutes of the game.
After their miserable exit in the FA Cup at home to Notts County, Pompey also failed to ever get going in this match, falling behind as early as the ninth minute.
From what appeared initially to be an innocuous Adam Forshaw free kick, the ball was flicked on unchallenged at the near post by imposing target man Clayton Donaldson and past the outstretched arm of the Blues keeper Eastwood to give the Bees an early breakthrough.
It was a sloppy goal to concede, particularly so prematurely in the match, and one that Appleton later claimed to be fortuitous as he questioned whether the striker was actually going for goal or merely attempting to flick the ball on.
And with Portsmouth conceding so early, you would perhaps expect falling behind to wake them up and galvanise the team. Yet they appeared to lacklustre, looking slow and failing to find their men. As frustrating patterns of play continued, the crowd began to replicate the frustrated feeling.
Portsmouth lacked a spark; the ability to make an incisive pass that would have unlocked the rigid back line of Brentford. The Blues effectively played the game into Brentford’s hands as they left them relatively untroubled. Portsmouth shots were limited to outside of the area, as first Jon Harley and then Akos Buzsaky fired shots wide from distance.
The early introduction of young Ashley Harris in place of Adam Webster created more momentum for Pompey, as the Blues started to create chances.
McLeod, who, after allowing the ball to bounce and chest it down, rifled a volley wide of the post before Harris himself darted in at the near post but flashed his volley over the bar from a Mathias Dumbuya delivery from the right.
The game certainly became more stretched, with both teams going for the jugular.
Yet Pompey, in the second half, continued to fail to deal with both Donaldson and the impressive Harry Forrester on the right, who continually cut in from the flank and ran at the defence.
Meanwhile, the increased sense of urgency from Pompey again emphasised their lack of composure, as they continued to play too directly in trying to force the equaliser. Two vital movements from Buszaky and Dickinson, ended in shots from afar but left Brentford Keeper Richard Lee untroubled.
However, as Appleton himself agreed, “It was one of those games that was just played box to box with neither keeper really troubled and with very little happening and we just have to move on.”
After talking about the game, Appleton then faced questions on his own personal future, and yet despite denying any knowledge of an approach for his services from Blackpool, just 24 hours later he was announced as the Tangerine’s new manager.
After almost a year in the Fratton Park hot-seat; a rather strange turn of events, but perhaps inevitable because of the fantastic job he has done at Portsmouth, which has clearly not gone unrecognised. Portsmouth go into a tricky home game against Doncaster under the helm of caretaker manager Guy Whittingham, with their immediate future continuing to look rather bleak.