Swindon 5 Pompey 0

David Connolly was given a Pompey debut to forget after the 5-0 thrashing by Swindon    ''Picture: Sarah Standing (132-216)
David Connolly was given a Pompey debut to forget after the 5-0 thrashing by Swindon ''Picture: Sarah Standing (132-216)

Another year, yet another defeat and another debut as yesterday’s outcome had a familiar ring about it.

It could have been different, admittedly – an excellent first-half showing from Pompey offering plenty of encouragement.

Yet in the end, five goals in 22 second-half minutes gave the scoreline an ugly reflection for any Blues follower as Swindon substitute James Collins wreaked havoc.

Until his entrance on the hour mark, the visitors had more than held their own, conjuring up some slick moves at times during an opening 45 minutes to be applauded.

At times it was some of the best football played by Pompey – one touch, imaginative and buzzing in creativity to maintain the manner in which the Yeovil fixture ended three days before.

Then Collins did the damage.

The striker climbed off the bench, the third of all three changes made by Paolo Di Canio, and bagged himself four goals – also creating Danny Hollands’ effort in the 5-0 loss.

The haul consisted of a 12-minute hat-trick in front of the Town End as Guy Whittingham’s men crumbled in front of his very eyes.

It was truly an abject second half from the visitors, the ying to the first-half yang, and as shocking a defensive performance witnessed by those long-suffering fans this season. There have been plenty to choose from, too.

So much for a fresh year, fresh start for a club which in 2012 saw just 11 league wins put them on collision course for successive relegations.

During that time, 64 different players were utilised, with a grand total of 70 having been named in match-day squads.

There was another new face yesterday in the form of David Connolly, who climbed off the bench in the second half having been given Football League clearance hours before kick-off.

Not that he had much opportunity to impress, with the goals flowing at the other end as the shell-shocked Blues rearguard struggled to regain their composure.

It was no happy new year, with more bleak times ahead for Pompey fans as they continue their painful downward spiral.

Before the match, the improved second-half display against Yeovil might have been invigorating for Pompey fans, but injuries and exits forced the changes yesterday.

Ricardo Rocha (hamstring) and Brian Howard (groin) were both absences from the starting line-up having featured on Saturday.

Izale McLeod had left the club by mutual consent 24 hours earlier, while loanee Paul Benson was unavailable to play against his parent club.

With Gabor Gyepes still missing with a hamstring problem, Johnny Ertl climbed off the bench to fill in at centre half and was made captain.

Jon Harley was back following suspension to occupy a left wing-back role, while Ashley Harris and Scott Allan were also given starts.

It meant Harris leading the attack, with new-boy Connolly on the bench.

When the match got under way, Simon Eastwood was called into action in only the fifth minute after Adam Webster couldn’t cut out a ball over the top down the line.

Andy Williams found himself clean through down the left channel, but the Blues keeper blocked his near-post shot with his legs and the ball bounced out for a corner.

At the other end, Harris squirted through a cross from the right but the sprawling Harley could not quite get the ball under control from six yards out and the hosts cleared.

An excellent move then saw Webster deliver the ball from the left which was headed back by Harris into the path of Liam Walker. The midfielder fired in a tremendous left-foot shot against the crossbar, yet the whistle had already sounded for offside against Harris in the build-up.

It was an entertaining opening to the match from both sides and clever play from Williams on the edge of the area in the 16th minute created room for him to fire in a shot straight at Eastwood.

Excellent play down the left between Mustapha Dumbuya and Walker then saw the latter whip in a cross which almost drifted over Wes Foderingham’s head and the keeper had to claw the ball over the bar.

Walker made a poor misjudgment in the 26th minute, however, when he blindly attempted a cross-field pass which instead was intercepted by ex-Pompey favourite Matt Ritchie. The move ended with a stunning low stop from Eastwood to keep out Chris Martin’s intelligent backheel.

Pompey, though, were playing some decent stuff on occasions and a wonderful deep ball from Walker picked out Harley’s run into the box, the veteran pulling the ball back for Darel Russell whose shot was charged down.

Lubomir Michalik then almost headed Ritchie’s free-kick into his own net, the ball instead trickling past the far post with Eastwood out of the equation.

Minutes after the start for the second half, Williamson earned himself a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area after being tugged back by Nathan Thompson.

The midfielder himself stepped up to take it and hit a shot which struck the top of the crossbar with the keeper beaten.

Yet it was Swindon who broke the deadlock in the 61st minute, inevitably though Pompey’s Achilles heel of a set-piece.

Ritchie delivered the corner from the right and Collins, who had been on the pitch less than 60 seconds, stooped to head home from close range.

Just five minutes later, the Blues slipped further behind after Collins intitially couldn’t gather the ball while tussling with Michalik.

The ball sprang loose and the substitute was quickest to react, swivelling to plant a shot past Eastwood and double the scoreline.

On 69 minutes, Collins turned provider as he cut the ball back from the right, where Danny Hollands crashed one home to turn the screw further on the visitors.

The hat-trick was completed shortly afterwards, Ritchie crossing from the right and Collins heading home to seal a remarkable entrance.

Collins completed the scoring in the 83rd minute when he nodded in Alan McCormack’s cross from the left – and another miserable day was over for Pompey.