Pompey 0 Newport County 1

Newport celebrate their winner. Picture: Joe Pepler
Newport celebrate their winner. Picture: Joe Pepler
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The sound of police sirens crashed through the now-emptied Fratton Park.

More wake-up calls rather than alarm bells.

Defeat to Newport County on home turf and suddenly the eyes of so many were opened.

Such is the giddy optimism injected by Andy Awford’s early impact as boss, it is too easy to get blinded.

There are those who are convinced promotion is a given this season, a cluster have even sung about it on occasions.

Tongue in cheek perhaps, nonetheless reflective of the level of demand engulfing the Blues this season.

On Saturday it was a first defeat in game number five, not quite what was expected.

The fact it was at Fratton Park at the hands of a side already fearing a relegation battle, made the result even more unpalatable.

Referee Lee Collins bore the brunt of the disappointment, booed off at the final whistle as he made his way from the pitch.

The Surrey-based official booked 10 players in total, six from the visitors, yet the widespread belief was he should have been firmer.

Regardless, it was hardly an abject refereeing display that fixtures tend to throw up on occasions.

Instead a below-par Pompey have only themselves to blame for a first league loss in 12 league matches.

And with it arrived the enlightenment there is no comfortable path to take out of League Two this season, irrespective of what some may believe. Similarly, Saturday was no unmitigated disaster which has heart-breakingly deprived the Blues of promotion.

Certainly no need to panic over losing a match in August. Only another 41 to go to secure a spot in the play-offs and above.

Granted, Saturday’s match did throw up legitimate questions and raise concerns over Pompey’s credentials this season.

Each result, regardless of the outcome, should be analysed.

Fans have every reason to query the issue of ongoing squad rotation, team selection or a failure to break down stubborn opposition.

On Saturday the Blues were flat, uninspiring and cannot possibly claim they deserved victory over the previously struggling Exiles.

A mere two shots on target over 90 minutes tells it owns tale, while not too many flew wide either.

They were poor, frustrated by a highly-physical team whose tackling at times bordered on brutal, particularly the treatment dished out to Ricky Holmes and James Dunne.

Yet were Pompey worthy of a defeat? Not at all and when Andy Sandell fortuitously netted six minutes from time, a feeling of shock descended upon Fratton.

How their 641 supporters celebrated, a group who later had members involved in clashes with home fans, leaving one Pompey follower with a fractured skull.

The heavy police presence around the stadium reflected a club who won’t be welcomed back to Fratton Park on or off the pitch in the future.

Still, the fact remains, despite the campaign still being in its infancy, Awford’s men have already suggested they are capable of a sustained challenge.

And that is not going to swiftly disintegrate on the back of losing to Newport in a home encounter.

On the occasion they weren’t good enough for victory, yet there are plenty more days ahead and to instantly write them off would be foolish.

Clearly what Pompey must learn is how to unlock sides who venture to the south coast intent on sitting deep and frustrating.

There will be plenty of others, particularly if the Blues fly high in the league. The challenge is to win such encounters – not lose.

For Saturday’s fixture, Awford made six changes to the team which lost at Stoke in the Capital One Cup.

Hardly a surprising statistic considering the rotation policy he has employed early in the season and with some effectiveness.

Returning to three at the back, Jed Wallace was asked to operate as right wing-back ahead of Holmes, who struggled defensively in the role at Oxford.

With Jack Whatmough still sidelined with an ankle problem, it was a straightforward choice of Joe Devera, Ben Chorley and Paul Robinson as the central defenders.

Meanwhile, Craig Westcarr partnered Ryan Taylor in attack, with Dunne and Danny Hollands joining Holmes in the midfield area.

A strong Pompey line-up again in the league, not that their performance reflected that, as they struggled to break down Justin Edinburgh’s side.

In a match of few goal-scoring opportunities, one of the best presented itself to Taylor midway through the first-half.

Wallace, impressive in his right-flank job, showed the vision and composure to pick out the unmarked striker on the opposite side of the penalty area.

Taylor controlled before firing a shot just past the far post when the net should have been bulging.

It was a moment the hosts were left to rue as the match unfolded and became clear such chances were going to be at a premium.

At the other end, on 13 minutes, Ryan Jackson’s long throw was flicked on by Kevin Feely and bounced off the top of the crossbar, while Robbie Willmott’s far post follow-up was saved by Paul Jones to prevent his side going behind.

The Blues were better after the break and Wallace drove in a left-foot shot, which drew a full-length save from Newport debutant Joe Day.

The youngster also saw a fizzing low cross cleared off the line by midfielder Mark Byrne, while Westcarr swivelled and fired an excellent opportunity wide of the target.

And that was it for the hosts as they continued to be found wanting in terms of creativity.

Newport themselves rarely threatened and it took a goal of freakish calibre to settle the match.

Substitute Sandell stepped up to take a free-kick from the right in the 84th minute and delivered it into the Pompey box.

However, it was missed by everyone and the ball instead crept in at the far post – to the horror of the Fratton faithful.

A first league defeat of the campaign then, for the boss who has enjoyed a magical touch so early in his managerial career.

Certainly not an occasion for some doubters to start hammering the panic button.