Pompey Cruise To Opening Day Win

Last updated : 09 August 2015 By Jim Bonner

Pompey won their opening game for the first time in nine years in some style after comfortably beating Dagenham & Redbridge 3-0 at Fratton Park.

Paul Cook made his first big call of the season pre-match by handing a debut to new goalkeeper Brian Murphy and dropping Paul Jones to the bench. Only Nigel Atangana and Matt Tubbs survived from last season as nine players made their Pompey debuts yesterday and they were all impressive.

The difference that Cook had made to this Portsmouth team was evident right from the start as they virtually dominated the entire match. They started well with some crisp passing setting up chances and this team, unlike so many before them, actually look a threat from corners as Christian Burgess was the first to head wide from an early corner.

There were a fair few "nearly" moments from Pompey as killer passes either went slightly astray or were blocked by the Dagenham defence but Matt Tubbs ensured Mark Cousins had something to do with his stinging drive early in the first half.

The game slowed down after such a positive opening and the baffling decision to have a drinks break midway through the first half didn't help matters.

Dagenham's best chance came when a counter-attack saw a long cross headed well wide by Jamie Cureton who was left in too much space but Pompey continued attacking towards the end of the half with Gary Roberts and Gareth Evans going close before the whistle blew for half-time.

The second half followed the same pattern as the first and for all of Pompey's complex passing moves to create chances the opening goal was a simple one as Evans headed in Kyle Bennett's corner.

The second goal came soon after and again it was a fairly simple one as some dismal defending from Dagenham saw Enda Stevens' long throw reach Bennett in the box and he smashed the ball onto the underside of the crossbar and into the net to double the lead.

The chances kept coming and Pompey bagged their third goal when the tenacious Roberts won the ball from the dallying Josh Passley and passed to Bennett who was urged to shoot by the home fans. He obliged by firing the ball into the top corner from distance.

There could have been more goals to come as late moves were lacking that predatory instinct to finish them off but none of the Pompey fans cared as they were sent home extremely happy after such a dominant victory. 

The best thing about it was that everyone played their part and worked hard too. It was so refreshing to see the back four rarely resort to the long ball by always attempting to pass the ball out from the back. Burgess and Clarke looked comfortable with the ball at their feet and the former also looks a genuine threat from set-pieces.

Roberts was as influential as you'd expect him to be and the fans have taken to him already. Evans was quieter until he scored but he soon found himself more involved as the game went on whilst Bennett couldn't have dreamed of a better debut with an assist and two goals under his belt already and his pace always means he'll be a threat.

Despite all the new faces, however, it was Nigel Atangana who arguably shone the most in the new 4-2-3-1 system. He was all-action and his passing looks to have improved since the summer. Hopefully the injury he sustained during the game isn't too serious and he'll be back soon.

The only player who didn't look too comfortable in the ew formation was Matt Tubbs. He did plenty of running but didn't have many chances although it may just take some time for him to get used to playing the lone striker role.

Whilst it was a very impressive team performance yesterday and it's exciting that there's more to come from this team it's important that we don't get too carried away. After all, Dagenham were poor and barely had a chance all match although how much of that was down to Pompey's own performance in making them look so bad is uncertain.

Tougher tests are due in the coming week as Derby come to town on Wednesday and a difficult trip to Plymouth awaits next Saturday as Pompey fans will get their first taste of how this new team can perform away from home.

But for now it would be foolish not to enjoy a memorable opening day win and if the team can play like that consistently over the next nine months then that will have its own reward come April.

Pompey Player Ratings

Brian Murphy: 6 - Virtually nothing to do.

Ben Davies: 7 - Kept moving as if he was 24, not 34-years-old.

Christian Burgess: 7 - Comfortable with the ball at his feet and a threat from corners too.

Matt Clarke: 7 - A performance that showed maturity beyond his years.

Enda Stevens: 7 - Looked accomplished in his role at left back.

Michael Doyle: 7 - Didn't have too much to do but did it well anyway.

Nigel Atangana: 8 - Looked like a different player who could flourish this season if given the chance.

Gareth Evans: 7 - Took his time to get going but when he scored he might have had more.

Gary Roberts: 7 - Quality is there for all to see and he worked extremely hard too.

Kyle Bennett: 9 - Couldn't have asked for more from him on his debut.

Matt Tubbs: 6 - Looked a little lost in the new formation.


Paul Jones

Adam Webster

Brian Haunstraup

Danny Hollands (Atangana 68): 6 - Would like to see him play further forward.

Adam McGurk

Conor Chaplin (Tubbs 84): N/A - No time to shine but may start on Wednesday.

Jayden Stockley (Bennett 76): N/A - Got involved and showed some nice touches.