Pompey 0 Chesterfield 2

Johnny Ertl and Simon Ferry confront referee Stephen Bratt. Picture: Joe Pepler
Johnny Ertl and Simon Ferry confront referee Stephen Bratt. Picture: Joe Pepler

So who watches the watchmen then?

Steve Bratt will soon discover the answer.

The likelihood is it won’t be a pleasurable experience.

Not that any of the Fratton faithful will have an ounce of compassion for the condemned man.

Certainly all eyes were on the West Midlands-based official as he dominated proceedings on Saturday.

Crucially, four of them were trained from the directors’ box, solely scrutinising his every move.

One pair belonged to a referee’s assessor, scribbling furiously away at Bratt’s questionable handing of the unfolding match.

The other pair of monitoring eyes came from the referee assessor’s assessor sat close by and just as penetrating.

Added pressure from above then to ensure Bratt’s display is rigorously examined in the ongoing pursuit of maintaining refereeing standards.

Every man for himself, the referee will certainly not be granted any charity when it comes to the wording of the filed report.

No question about it, he turned in a wretched display in front of his peers and the 15,999 Fratton crowd in the fixture with Chesterfield.

The chief talking points were four penalty appeals, all coming from the home side but going in favour of the visitors.

Granted, David Connolly’s dismissal was much-discussed in the aftermath, an off-the-ball incident with precise details still yet to be satisfactorily clarified.

Not that Guy Whittingham was willing to condemn his skipper on the matters post-match.

As with the vast majority of people in attendance, he didn’t quite see what happened.

Regardless, the 36-year-old’s lack of discipline to put himself in such a position was inexcusable and a red card warranted.

Yet Bratt’s downfall was actually the spot-kick issues which delivered the hammer blow to his reputation in the presence of people he would have been seeking to impress.

Video evidence suggests two were cast iron and another was a foul just outside the penalty area.

The fourth – on Andy Barcham in the second half – was a more debatable moment which could have swung either way.

Tallied up, the referee failed to correctly call three high-profile fouls in and around the Chesterfield area of which two were penalties.

No wonder he was booed off at both half-time and full-time as he made his way from the field.

An incensed Simon Ferry occupied his ears coming off at the interval – and was still there when he returned for the second period.

You can only assume Pompey’s midfielder drew for breath in his own changing room at half-time rather than following Bratt into his.

Still, the incensed Whittingham did enter the match officials’ room after the final whistle to force home his own point of view.

According to Pompey’s boss, culpability was inevitably not admitted as all parties agreed to disagree on the subject of those penalties.

Crucial decisions in a match which would ultimately lead to yet more frustration for the hosts as the Spireites grabbed two goals in the final three minutes to claim the victory.

Harsh indeed on the Blues, who shrugged off playing almost an hour with 10-men to turn in a fighting and gusty performance.

They scrapped for their lives, suddenly discovered they could defend and still managed to appear dangerous in attack on plenty of occasions.

This was no unambitious attempt to grind out a point by packing the back line.

And a marvellous second-half run from centre-back Sonny Bradley even almost broke the deadlock.

Roared on by the home fans, they recognised Whittingham’s men were giving all for the cause and doing their best to paper over the cracks caused by Bratt’s inadequacy.

The fact the referee was clearly the villain of the piece provided a perfect target as the home support united in voice to condemn him.

At one point, 55 seconds into the second half, Bratt adjudged the impressive Ricky Holmes had been fouled on the South Stand touchline.

Vociferous and ironic cheers then followed for around a minute in recognition of Pompey winning a decision in their favour.

Later in the half when Holmes was fouled inside the box, the referee missed that one entirely.

Barcham had already gone down under a challenge during a trademark burst into the area, although whether a spot-kick should have been awarded was unclear.

Yet as the loose ball popped up, Holmes got a toe in and was taken out by a sliding challenge.

Bratt blew, there were suspicions the foul was outside the box – then he curiously gave a throw-in to Pompey instead.

Considering referees do not traditionally blow for throws, it prompted a moment of bewilderment, with replays proving the foul on Holmes happened inside the area and was undisputable.

That was the tip of the iceberg for Whittingham’s men who had two spot-kick appeals waved away in the first half.

The first incident occurred when Nathan Smith tangled with Connolly, after the Pompey striker attempted to receive Agyemang’s pass.

Video evidence showed a foul – but outside the area. Bratt actually waved play on.

Then came the key moment of the match in the 37th minute when Connolly burst down the left-hand channel of the box.

Liam Cooper slid in and brought him down with no suggestion of nicking the ball.

The Chesterfield management thought it warranted a penalty – Bratt did not, however.

In his fury afterwards, Connolly was spotted charging into the back of Sam Hird, the grounded defender put on his side in the recovery position at one point amid the high drama.

The red card followed and for the second home match in three, a Pompey captain received his marching orders.

But the hosts fought hard, only being undone by the Spireites substitutes late on.

Firstly Armand Gnanduillet headed home Eoin Doyle’s precise right-wing cross on 87 minutes.

Then Tendayi Darikwa’s angled drive deflected off Joe Devera past John Sullivan.

A heart-breaking end to an eventful 90 minutes of football but at least the final whistle brought Pompey’s misery to an end.

Bratt’s pain is just about to begin.