The autopsy of defeat

Published: 27/11/2023

By Joe Wood

Pompeys 27 game unbeaten run now lies motionless and pallid on a slab in the footballing mortuary. Blackpool were the ones to finally despatch John Mousinho’s men on a brisk November afternoon.

The reality is that like many deaths, this wasn’t a particularly massive surprise, and friends and family had known the worst was coming for a while. The Chesterfield performance was about as close to comatose as one can get without actually being in intensive care.

The international break was a moment of make or break for the recovery of the patient. Unfortunately, it proved to be the latter.

This, while being a grim analogy, is how many felt in the immediate aftermath of the game (some even earlier, but I won’t go into that), like something was lost, something unrecoverable and like the world was ending.

Over the last 24 hours, a cursory glance over the posts on social media almost perfectly reflect the stages of grief. There was anger, blame and then finally acceptance.

To say that Saturday evenings social media posts were “wild”, doesn’t even begin to do it justice. If the Eisner’s were to enact even half the things mentioned on there, we’d be looking for a new manager, Joe Morrell would have been strapped to a rocket and sent to the moon, the referee would now be a hostage in the New Kwik-E-Mart toilets and Sean Raggett would be on his way to the citizens advice bureau to ask how Universal Credit works.

The reality is though none of those things are happening (well, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has checked the Kwik-E-Mart toilets), and neither should they.

Yes, I agree, John Mousinho did make some tactical mistakes in my opinion. Yes, Joe Morrell does have to beore intelligent whilst already on a booking. Yes, the referee was shocking… Again. Yes, Sean Raggett was on the pitch for this defeat, but he actually did ok.

Joe Morrell has been a very good player for Pompey. He keeps the midfield ticking over and has an almost limitless source of energy. He’s a Welsh international for a reason, and I would wager that if he weren’t 5’6 and were instead, 6ft, he probably wouldn’t be at Fratton Park and would probably be playing for a Championship side. The two yellow cards were inevitable after the penalty claim, and Mousinho should have seen that.

The referee and assistants made several poor decisions. The second goal and the non-penalty being the most egregious. However, Pompey’s response to these injustices wasn’t good enough. Too much flapping of arms and not enough guts to accept that things weren’t going right so you’ll have to try harder. That isn’t on the referee, that’s on you as a team.

Sean Raggett is an easy target for people because he’s not Reagan Poole and he has a history of a few mistakes. This game wasn’t one of them. He was solid and did everything asked of him. None of the 4 goals can be pinned on him.

I’m a huge ice hockey fan. A season spans 82 games in the regular season, plus up to another 28 in the playoffs. That’s a lot of games, and one of the mantras you hear most often is to “not get too high after a win, and don’t get too low after a loss”. I think this is a pretty good thing for us football league fans to remember, because whilst it’s not 82 games, it is 46, which is still plenty.

There’s a long way to go in this season, and this result won’t be the reason Pompey do or do not get promoted, but the reaction to this defeat could be the most important part of John Mousinho’s embryonic reign.

Burton are the hosts on Tuesday (because of course it’s a Tuesday at Burton), followed by the trip to Northampton on Saturday. Win those two games and this game gets forgotten. As John Mousinho himself said, “the response is all we care about now.”