Nine Man Pompey Hold On

Last updated : 04 February 2018 By Jim Bonner

Pompey ended their match with Doncaster with nine men and battled back twice to earn a draw in an eventful match at Fratton Park.

The game couldn't have started any worse thanks to some calamitous defending to hand the visitors the lead. Nathan Thompson lost the ball to James Coppinger and he ran into the box before his shot beat three Pompey players, squirming under the returning Stephen Henderson.

Doncaster could have extended their lead as Coppinger had a couple more attempts and John Marquis' header was disallowed for offside which seemed to wake Pompey up.

The leveller came 19 minutes in as Anton Walkes struck the ball home as Rovers couldn't clear Gareth Evans' corner. Matt Clarke was announced as the goalscorer but it was definitely the Tottenham loanee who scored.

Kenny Jackett's men then dominated the rest of the half with deliveries into the box being frantically cleared whilst Ian Lawlor somehow managed to claw Clarke's close range header away from the top corner of the net.

Dion Donohue could consider himself fortunate to stay on the pitch at the end of the half as he went in for a two-footed lunge and referee Graham Salisbury looked certain to brandish a red card. However, he changed his mind during the fracas that followed and Donohue only received a booking, as did Christian Burgess and Marquis for their protests.

Pompey began the second half brightly but once again succumbed to some terrible defending from a set-piece to allow an unmarked Marquis to head in Coppinger's corner and gift the visitors the lead.

The following period of the match was a struggle to get the momentum going but the breakthrough finally arrived when Brett Pitman finished Donohue's cross at the far post. (Although it looked like an own goal from where I was sitting in the Fratton End!)

It was after that equaliser, however, when the match took a bizarre turn.

Henderson collapsed to the floor following a routine catch and was clearly in agony but with all three substitutes used, Kal Naismith was forced to stand in as an emergency goalkeeper.

That injury meant there were seven minutes of added time to be played and Pompey were forced to see them out with nine men after Burgess received a second yellow card for a stupid handball where he looked to have punched the ball away from his challenger.

The Fratton Park atmosphere turned to backs-to-the-wall fervour as Darren Ferguson's men would have fancied themselves to snatch a late winner but Ben Whiteman's drive was dramatically saved by the outstretched leg of Naismith.

The Pompey defence then did everything to ensure that Doncaster couldn't get another attempt on goal and eventually the whistle blew to confirm what ended up being a decent draw for Portsmouth, even if the wait for a win in 2018 goes on.

You have to feel for Henderson who seems to have a quad injury and thankfully was able to walk out of Fratton Park unaided. However, it seems like he could be out of action for quite a while and thus Luke McGee will return between the sticks far quicker than he believed.

Whilst the circumstances of the match meant that a point was a good result, they still paper over the cracks when it comes to Pompey's defending which gifted Rovers two goals because of lack of concentration, whether it was dallying on the ball or not marking Doncaster's biggest threat.

It'll be interesting to see how the defence copes with Burgess' absence at stadium:mk next week as it looks like Hawkins will deputise alongside Clarke, with Pitman returning to the starting eleven. The latter must feel great to have finally scored in open play after such a barren run by his standards, but he was still aided by some shoddy defending from Doncaster.

There were some other positives to take from the game. Walkes had a good debut at right back, whilst Donohue has well and truly put his poor start to his Portsmouth career behind him. He may have been lucky to stay on the pitch, but he should be teaching Gareth Evans and Matty Kennedy a few things about how to cross a ball.

Pompey are still in the hunt for the play-offs, too, as many of the teams above them failed to win. However, the race for promotion has become much more congested with teams like Gillingham and Plymouth on extremely good runs when they looked like relegation fodder earlier in the season.

Victory at struggling Milton Keynes next week is an absolute must.

Pompey Player Ratings

Stephen Henderson: 6 - Shaky start but did little else wrong. Hope his injury isn't too serious.

Anton Walkes: 7 - Looks like an excellent prospect.

Christian Burgess: 5 - Stupid second booking and not at his best.

Matt Clarke: 7 - Another solid showing.

Dion Donohue: 7 - Some excellent deliveries and good defensive work, too.

Nathan Thompson: 6 - A mixed afternoon.

Ben Close: 6 - Needs to impose himself on the game.

Gareth Evans: 6 - Solid if unspectacular all-round performance.

Connor Ronan: 6 - Some bright moments.

Matty Kennedy: 5 - Crossing was woeful at times.

Oli Hawkins: 5 - Struggled to get into the game.


Luke McGee

Sylvain Deslandes

Theo Widdrington

Jamal Lowe (Evans 72): N/A - Had to dig in when Pompey were reduced in numbers.

Kal Naismith (Kennedy 72): N/A - Will be talking about that save for a long time!

Conor Chaplin

Brett Pitman (Hawkins 59): 7 - Back amongst the goals.