Pompey continued their good form at Fratton Park yesterday thanks to a 4-0 thrashing of woeful Hartlepool United.
The game started slowly with both teams guilty of giving the ball away and some sloppy defending. The visitors may well have taken an early lead when Adam Webster failed to clear the ball and Rakish Bingham forced a save from Brian Murphy as a result of that mistake.
Pompey soon began to take control of the match and pegged Hartlepool back in their own half, creating a few chances of their own. The deadlock was eventually broken on 32 minutes when Caolan Lavery was found outside the box and shifted the ball to his right foot before curling a sweet strike past the helpless Trevor Carson.
The lead was doubled just four minutes later when Ben Davies' cross from the right was diverted beyond Carson by Adam Jackson for an own goal. Matt Bates then almost scored an own goal of his own but Carson was able to hold his misplaced header.
At the other end, Murphy had just one save to make all half as he produced "one for the cameras" when he dived to push Scott Fenwick's volley out for a corner but that came to nothing and Paul Cook's men went in at half-time with a comfortable lead.
The second half continued with Pompey dominating proceedings and there would have been a "goal of the season" contender had Gareth Evans finished after Marc McNulty beat several players with an outstanding dribble upfield.
The comedy moment of the match then arrived as Bingham had an opportunity to run through the Portsmouth defence and into the box but his first touch was poor and he then tripped over himself with nobody anywhere near him. He then squnnied to the referee for a penalty and ended up getting booked for dissent instead, much to the home fans' amusement.
Evans did get himself on the scoresheet soon after thanks to some shambolic defending from Hartlepool. Enda Stevens swung in a cross that wasn't cleared, McNulty's shot was saved by Carson with the loose ball falling to Evans after another Pools defender sliced it straight to him and he couldn't miss.
The only negative to come from the match came when Christian Burgess was taken out by Hartlepool striker Mikael Mandron in his own box and had to limp off. Thankfully, it doesn't look like the injury is too serious.
McNulty added a fourth goal to the tally in the 90th minute when he was put through by Stevens and coolly slotted the ball past Carson to complete the rout.
Overall, there can't be any complaints over that performance as Pompey grew into the game and their superior attacking quality showed. It is absolutely imperative that Pompey hold on to Lavery and McNulty for the rest of the season as they have been central to the team's revival in attack and that's now three straight wins at home and seven unbeaten.
Enda Stevens also deserves a lot of credit for his performance yesterday. He is one of the players who isn't really noticed in the team yet does his job effectively and played his part in the last two goals. He is more than just a "steady Eddie" type player and should be recognised for it.
If there is to be criticism on yesterday's performance then there were a few occasions when Pompey's defending was lacklustre. There were a couple of goalmouth panics and also a couple of occasions where a better striker than Rakish Bingham would have scored after running through on goal.
But that's just being picky and the result sees Portsmouth leap Accrington (who didn't play yesterday) into fourth but more importantly make up three points on Oxford who lost at home to Cambridge and two points on Plymouth who drew with Carlisle.
Pompey are still six points behind new league leaders Northampton, however, and travel to Sixfields to play them next weekend. What a game that promises to be!
Pompey Player Ratngs
Brian Murphy: 6 - Made one save of note.
Ben Davies: 7 - Another good showing.
Christian Burgess: 7 - Hopefully won't be out for too long.
Adam Webster: 6 - Mixed fortunes. Almost caught out a couple of times.
Enda Stevens: 8 - Under-appreciated.
Michael Doyle: 6 - An easy game for him.
Danny Hollands: 6 - Steady enough.
Gareth Evans: 7 - Has a knack of popping up in the right place at the right time.
Marc McNulty: 8 - Makes things happen and has a good scoring ratio. Must keep him.
Kyle Bennett: 6 - Lively but need to see more end product from him.
Caolan Lavery: 7 - Scored a beauty.
Matt Clarke (Burgess 85): N/A - May end up seeing more of him soon.
Ben Tollitt (Bennett 75): N/A - Squandered a chance late on.
Adam McGurk (Lavery 80): N/A - No time to impress.