It was heartbreaking, frustrating, cruel – call it what you will – for the Cumbrians at Fratton Park on Saturday afternoon as they saw a very strong performance count for nothing when Conor Shaugnessy pounced deep into time added on to snatch a victory for the home side.
With the goal having come from a wicked Jack Sparkes set piece, we asked manager Paul Simpson if it had been a lack of concentration at a vital moment that had cost his side the share of the spoils their efforts least deserved.
“It’s not even a lack of concentration,” the gaffer insisted. “They worked it and got a block, and Jack Armer just got shoved. I’m not saying it’s a foul, but they worked the block and it’s a good delivery, so it’s not a lack of concentration.
“In fact I think two of their players ran into each other and knocked Jack forward a little bit, so it put him off a little yard. He still got there to compete but because he was backtracking he couldn’t quite get the spring to be able to compete.
“It was a good delivery, he’s a big lad, Shaughnessy, he gets the head on it and it’s cruel. When you’re up at the top you get those things go your way.
“We didn’t quite get it going our way which is the story of our season and the frustration of our season. But we can’t allow it to get ourselves too down about it, we’ve got to be ready to go again.
“I’m absolutely gutted for the players out there because we certainly didn’t deserve that, that’s for sure. I thought we came here with a really solid game plan which the players executed magnificently well.
“If I’m honest, we should have made a bit more of the opportunities we had. Tomas [Holy] has had to make a couple of comfortable saves, and that one save in the second half to tip it over the bar.
“We’d got ourselves into a position where the crowd had turned and they were getting frustrated, but it’s those fine margins when you’re at the bottom or at the top. There’s a difference in it, and unfortunately we’ve been done with it today.”
It was certainly Carlisle who looked the more likely to claim a win, particularly as the second half ticked on.
“I think so, and we probably should have scored to be honest with you,” he agreed. “The keeper made a really good save from Butts [Dan Butterworth], I don’t know whether he slipped but he made it look a difficult save.
“We’ve had other opportunities where we’ve been in the final third, and I thought we had a few in the first half as well. Jack Armer put a brilliant ball in, Fin Back went on a brilliant run on the far side and we got a corner from it because we didn’t find the final ball.
“We’ve done a lot of good things, but I’m gutted for them because we’ve come away with nothing. On days like this the performance gets forgotten because people only see the result.
“The ones who have been here today have witnessed what we’ve done and how well we’ve played but you still get nothing for it and that’s the massive disappointment.
“I think the players deserved something out of it with the way they’ve gone about it but the challenge is now we have to do it every game. We have to do it at home on Tuesday night against Burton and take it into Cambridge away.
“Unfortunately we’ve got zero points out of this game today and the league table still doesn’t look very nice. I don’t want to be a team who are playing well and getting nothing for it, I’d rather play rubbish and pick points up.
“Our challenge is to make sure we stay in the league and losing to a 92nd minute goal isn’t going to help us to achieve what we want.”
Another of the really frustrating factors was that the really good chances came the way of the visitors.
“You have to score,” the manager said. “That’s the difference, the higher you go it’s the people who can go and finish it off. That’s the biggest challenge, getting those types of players into your football club.
“They’re the ones who cost the most money and the ones who are most difficult to get hold of. We’ll keep working and trying to push on.
“I think this was a huge improvement from Orient at home last weekend, that’s the first thing I’ll say. This was more like us and more like how I want us to be. Sadly again though, we’ve got no points out of it.”
The fans behind the goal deserved the win as much as anybody.
“They were outstanding, they really were,” he told us. “What a trek for them to come down here and I’m really disappointed that everybody has come away with nothing.
“That could have been a really important point for us today but sadly we’re all going home disappointed. We have to just pick ourselves up to go again.
“But it’s absolutely outstanding from every single one of them. To stay with us as well. I think they saw there was a level of performance, there was a work ethic, some really good football that probably deserved a bit more.
“It would have been nice to get a goal at that end in front of them. Really positive that they’ve come and made this journey and stuck with us during the game.”