By Jim Bonner
Updated Friday, 25th March 2016
Portsmouth 4 Notts County 0
Pompey kept their hopes of automatic promotion alive with an emphatic victory over dire Notts County at Fratton Park.
The first half was a scrappy affair as referee Michael Bull showed how inept he was after failing to award a penalty when Haydn Hollis body checked Ben Davies in the box.
The visitors probably should have been reduced to ten men too following a nasty two-footed challenge by Stanley Aborah on Michael Smith on the halfway line that sparked a fracas which resulted in a booking for the County player.
There was hardly any goalmouth action to get excited about despite Pompey keeping the ball well, but the deadlock was finally broken just before the break when Kyle Bennett was able to charge down the left, beat his man and slot the ball into the far corner from a tight angle.
That goal was just the catalyst Paul Cook's men needed as they began the second half on the front foot. Bennett bagged his second goal of the game after being put through on goal by Gary Roberts before calmly finishing past Scott Loach.
The two goal cushion meant Pompey could play with some freedom against their hapless opponents. Roberts almost lobbed Loach whilst the tricks and flicks from other players created other half-chances that weren't taken. All this whilst keeping the ineffective Jon Stead and Izale McLeod quiet up front.
It took 81 minutes for the seemingly inevitable third goal to arrive as Christian Burgess scored his maiden goal for Pompey by heading in Enda Stevens's cross.
Ten minutes later substitute Marc McNulty headed in a fourth as Ben Davies's cross found him unmarked in the centre of the box to complete the rout.
It was an easy victory for Portsmouth in the end despite a first half struggle and whilst fans will be happy the result, it cannot be stressed enough just how awful Notts County were. There was no reason to fear the new manager effect when a defence marshalled by die-hard Pompey fan Hollis and ex-England striker Alan Smith were so disorganised, they made it easy for Bennett and co. to run them ragged as the game went on.
The defence also made light work of what little threat County possessed going forward. Paul Jones dropped a cross on his return but other than that, there was no need for concern when it came to conceding goals today.
The result keeps Pompey's automatic promotion prospects a possibility although Accrington, Plymouth and Bristol Rovers all won. Oxford dropped two points at home to Stevenage but still remain nine clear of the Blues despite having played a game more. At least the win cements Pompey's play-off position as they are now four points clear of Leyton Orient in eighth.
Next up is arguably the toughest game remaining on Pompey's fixture list with a trip to Kingsmeadow to take on AFC Wimbledon on Easter Monday. Once again, only a win will do to keep the hopes of automatic promotion alive.
Pompey Player Ratings
Paul Jones: 6 - One nervy moment in a match where he had nothing to do otherwise.
Ben Davies: 7 - Some quality deliveries once again.
Christian Burgess: 8 - Solid at the back and finally got his first Pompey goal.
Matt Clarke: 7 - Slotted seamlessly into the defence.
Enda Stevens: 7 - Another assist in another assured display.
Michael Doyle: 7 - Never gave County midfielders time to play.
Danny Hollands: 5 - Passing was off.
Adam McGurk: 5 - Never really in the game.
Gary Roberts: 7 - Needs to keep this level of performance going.
Kyle Bennett: 8 - Gave the County defence a torrid time for a well deserved brace, yet still reluctant to shoot.
Michael Smith: 6 - Worked hard but only had one shot which was blocked.
Kal Naismith (McGurk 67): N/A - Added little going forward.
Conor Chaplin (Roberts 84): N/A - Deserves more time.
Marc McNulty (Smith 84): 7 - An effective cameo.