Misfiring AFC Wimbledon slumped to their fourth defeat in six League One games with another toothless display.
The Dons were ultimately the architects of their own downfall, despite Kevin Johnson’s chronically one-sided refereeing which resulted in some unpunished thuggery from the visitors.
Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley made two enforced changes to his starting 11 that lost at Blackpool the previous week – Will Nightingale replacing the injured Deji Oshilaja and Dean Parrett given the nod to cover the suspended Jimmy Abdou – as well as benching Lyle Taylor in favour of Kwesi Appiah.
Some neat early approach play centred around the lively Andy Barcham, who fizzed a shot over Luke McGee’s crossbar and then Parrett delivered a pinpoint cross that just evaded the head of the waiting Cody McDonald.
Parrett also looked to have earned a corner with a deflected goal-bound shot, but Johnson awarded a goal-kick.
Portsmouth had offered little going forward, apart from appearing to target their former skipper Paul Robinson with several unsavoury tackles. Stuart O’Keefe’s yellow for a late lunge on the Dons captain could easily have been a red, before Brett Pitman’s aerial challenge left Robinson seething that his marker had used an elbow, resulting in him leaving the field with blood streaming from his head.
To rub salt into the wound, Pitman then theatrically enhanced an unwise decision by Barry Fuller to use both hands to fend off the Channel Islander in the area, by flinging his arms skywards as he tumbled over. Referee Johnson pointed to the spot with as much relish as the tattooed antiquarian bookshop owner reaching for his handbell in the away terrace and Pitman sent George Long the wrong way with his well-taken penalty.
But the first half drama wasn’t quite over.
Callum Kennedy jumped to nod away a Nightingale clearance only for Ollie Hawkins – dangerously leading with a clearly-raised arm – to clatter in to the left-back leaving him prone on the deck. Johnson’s response was simply to signal the end of the half and walk down the tunnel without brandishing a card.
Anthony Hartigan, 17, entered the fray as Kennedy’s replacement, but within five minutes the midfield starlet failed to deal with a whipped-in cross and fellow substitute Conor Chaplin doubled the visitors’ lead at the second attempt.
Harry Forrester and Taylor were quickly introduced, but Pompey stifled any hopes of momentum from the Dons and only a smart tip over by Long prevented Adam May from extending their advantage.
Always trying to make things happen, Taylor looked to have a fair penalty shout of his own when his heels were clipped as he surged into the Portsmouth area, but the striker’s honesty in staying on his feet wasn’t rewarded by Johnson who was unmoved by Wimbledon’s appeals.
As the Dons toiled to salvage something to cheer their supporters with, the luckless Robinson’s afternoon ended 10 minutes from time as he caught the brunt of an attempted Christian Burgess overhead kick in the face and had to be helped off, leaving Wimbledon to play out time with 10 men.
Ardley loves his statistics, but he will not have relished seeing the post-game tally of zero shots on target and not even a corner to show for his side’s efforts, having now won just five league games out of 28 during 2017. They have found the net in only two of their last 12 outings.
With a crucial match against fellow strugglers Gillingham tonight and then further home games against Milton Keynes and Rochdale later this month, his own position will inevitably come under intense scrutiny if his team continue to serve up more performances like this.