Crewe Alexandra concede four on their travels to the South coast, on what was a day to forget for the Railwaymen. An injury time goal reduced the deficit but was nothing more than a consolation.
Christmas seemed to come early for Portsmouth. To travel to Fratton Park and return with a result is always tough. Crewe made that even harder when gifting them two first half goals.
Defensive mix-ups and lapses of concentration meant it was a bad day at the office for the Reds. Before today, Crewe had only conceded nine goals in their opening 12 league games.
Both sides began the game brightly, but the first chance fell in favour of the home side courtesy of a 25-yard free kick after three minutes. Ronan Curtis’ effort was easily collected by Will Jaaskelainen.
A classic Alex move nearly saw them one nil up within the first 10 minutes. The combination of Charlie Kirk and Harry Pickering again linked up, who cleverly back healed the ball to an on the move Oli Finney. His fierce effort forced Pompey goalkeeper, Craig MacGillivray into a smart save.
The Railwaymen actually had the best of the early exchanges, but Kenny Jackett’s side were a continuous threat on the counter-attack.
15 minutes on the clock and Crewe’s hopes for a third consecutive clean sheet were shattered. Crewe were in control of the situation in the defensive third but a loose exchange of passes from Ryan Wintle and Omar Beckles, allowed Ellis Harrison to pinch possession and following a combination of passes with John Marquis, he managed to squeeze the ball through to Ronan Curtis just inside the penalty area. His scuffed effort crawled past Jaaskelainen and into the corner of the goal.
The Alex responded well to their defensive error and yet again came close at the other end. That left side partnership of Kirk and Pickering was again involved to find Finney, in another advanced position. The attack minded defender struck his effort through a number of bodies and it looked to be creeping over the line. Though some miraculous defending meant that somehow the ball was scrambled for a corner.
The Reds were very much still in this contest, just as they have been in the majority of their games all season. But again, you got the feeling that nothing was going to commend their performance.
Pompey doubled their lead on 40 minutes, arguably softer than the first goal. Luke Offord rolled a pass across to his defensive cohort, Beckles, though a lapse of concentration allowed the ball to run free allowing Curtis to pounce. Beckles tried to make amends for his mistake by wrestling with Curtis but had to let him free or risked conceding a penalty Likewise, the winger rounded Jaaskelainen to squeeze home his second of the afternoon.
Following a knock in the build-up to the second goal, Beckles was substituted at half time. Replaced by Olly Lancashire.
Second half, and the next goal was crucial for either side. It took just six minutes.
Portsmouth made it three and got it in soft circumstances yet again. A low 20-yard effort from Tom Naylor beat Jaaskelainen. It was game, set and match.
Five minutes later and the Alex had conceded again. Following a controversial decision from the referee.
In what should have been a Crewe throw-in after the linesman signalled for an Alex ball, the referee allowed Portsmouth to take a quick one leaving Curtis to draw a save from Jaaskelainen. John Marquis’ follow up effort struck the crossbar but kindly rebounded for him to nod home.
Just over 30 minutes left to play. It was damage limitation time.
Artell had seen enough and on the hour mark, looked to his bench. Tom Lowery and Daniel Powell made way for Luke Murphy and Owen Dale. It wasn’t long until he made his fourth change of the afternoon after the new ruling, Ainley on for Wintle.
On 75 minutes, it just about summed up the Alex’s afternoon. Subs Dale and Ainley combined, and Ainley’s audacious half volley struck the upright.
Crewe finally got a late consolation goal courtesy of the penalty spot. Finney won the penalty and stepped up to calmly slot home in the 94th minute.
It was certainly an afternoon to forget for the Alex and they must quickly move on to Accrington Stanley on Tuesday night.