Poor form continues.
It was the proverbial game of two halves at Fratton Park, as Pompey’s poor 2018 form continued with a 3-1 defeat to Gillingham.
They dominated the opening 45 minutes and forged ahead through Jamal Lowe, only for some wasteful finishing to deny them a healthier advantage at the break.
That proved costly, as Conor Wilkinson and Lee Martin – with the latter bagging a brace – both hit the target in impressive fashion to turn the contest on its head.
Kenny Jackett made four changes from the side that were beaten at home by Blackpool a fortnight earlier.
The most noteworthy inclusion was that of Jack Whatmough, who made his first appearance since injuring his knee against Rotherham at the beginning of September.
There were also returns for Kal Naismith – playing alongside Lowe up front – Connor Ronan and Sylvain Deslandes, as Pompey switched to a 3-5-2 system.
Conor Chaplin, Matty Kennedy and Adam May all dropped to the bench, while Oli Hawkins missed out with a hamstring injury.
Before kick-off there was a minute’s applause in memory of Hall of Fame inductee Billy Wilson, who sadly passed away last month.
The Blues might have been on a poor run of form, but it did not show as they set about attacking their visitors in the opening stages.
Ben Close and Naismith both had chances from long-range and while the former’s effort was well off target, the latter’s flashed inches past the post.
And Lowe also missed a great opportunity by nodding Anton Walkes’ delivery over from just a few yards out.
But it was LOWE who broke the deadlock on 19 minutes, lashing the ball into the roof of the net following good work from Dion Donohue and Naismith.
There were cries for a penalty soon after when the ball appeared to hit Max Ehmer’s arm in the box, although referee Carl Boyeson decided the defender was unable to get out of the way.
Lowe should have extended the hosts’ advantage when Walkes’ long pass sent him racing through on goal.
But the forward spent too long getting his shot away, allowing Luke O’Neill to get back and make a timely challenge.
Pompey kept driving forward against a Gills defence who looked nervy, although keeper Tomas Holy was an assured presence between the sticks.
Gillingham brought on Wilkinson – who made one substitute appearance for Pompey when on loan from Bolton in 2016 – at the start of the second half.
And the striker made an immediate impact by grabbing the equaliser moments after the restart, beating three men before curling a fine finish past Luke McGee.
That, unsurprisingly, gave the visitors a lift and the Blues were forced to deal with some more pressure.
But they almost restored their lead just before the hour mark when Ronan curled a free-kick against the post.
Pompey were starting to look more of a threat again, only to then fall behind seconds after Brandon Haunstrup had come on to replace Deslandes.
A free-kick had been awarded to Gillingham before the switch and when it was played to Martin, the skipper’s curler somehow evaded everyone and bent into the net.
The hosts tried to fight back and Close’s 25-yard drive was not too far off target, while Donohue was unable to test Holy after being teed-up by Naismith.
Chaplin was brought on for Whatmough on 76 minutes, as Jackett tried to add some attacking vigour to his side.
But instead it was the Gills celebrating another goal – and it was a fantastic long-range strike from Martin that rocketed into the top corner.
Pompey tried to get forward in the closing stages and force a nervy finale, but there was to be no late drama on the south coast.
Pompey (3-5-2): McGee; Whatmough (Chaplin 76), Burgess, Clarke (c); Walkes, Ronan, Close, Donohue, Deslandes (Haunstrup 65); Lowe, Naismith
Goals: Lowe 19
Subs not used: Bass, Widdrington, May, Smith, Kennedy
Gillingham (4-2-3-1): Holy; O’Neill, Ehmer, Zakuani, Reilly; Byrne, Hessenthaler; Wagstaff (List 79), Martin (c) (Nasseri 90+2), Parker; Eaves (Wilkinson 46)
Goals: Wilkinson 48, Martin 66, 80
Subs not used: Hadler, Nugent, Garmston, Moussa
Referee: Carl Boyeson