Pompey Power Into Play-Off Positions

Last updated : 31 December 2017 By Jim Bonner

Pompey capped a memorable 2017 with a 3-1 win over struggling Northampton to end the year in the League One play-off places.

Kenny Jackett's men couldn't get golng at the start of the first half despite forcing Matt Ingram into an excellent save when he blocked Ollie Hawkins' effort with an outstretched leg after being played through by Brett Pitman.

However, the visitors grew into the game and were arguably the better side in the opening period. Luke McGee had to backtrack to catch the ball after Sam Hoskins attempted a cheeky lob and then the Pompey keeper had to push away a long range effort from Matt Grimes.

The big talking point of the match came when Nathan Thompson had to receive treatment for an injury whilst Pompey were in possession. Referee Lee Swabey decided to restart with a contested drop ball which resulted in Danny Rose being kicked by John-Joe O'Toole.

The Pompey midfielder had to be carried off with what seems to be a fractured tibia and that will, at best, see the influential midfielder out until Easter and he may well have played his last game this season, perhaps his final match for Portsmouth, too.

Matters got worse when Ben Close lost the ball to O'Toole and Christian Burgess was caught flat footed by his through-ball, which allowed Chris Long to run through on goal and slot past McGee.

The idiotic Cobblers striker then decided to goad the Fratton End with his celebration which turned out to be a huge mistake as a frustrated and largely silent home crowd suddenly became hostile and had a target to abuse.

That seemed to wake Pompey up and it didn't take long for the equaliser to arrive. Matty Kennedy played a one-two with Close before rifling the ball into the far corner of the net to score a goal met with chants of "Wanker, what's the score?" aimed at the forlorn Long.

Those chants were soon elevated a few decibels when the match was turned on its head before the break. Burgess produced an excellent long pass for Hawkins who superbly headed the ball over Ingram and into the back of the net from twenty yards.

Pompey raced out of the blocks in the second half and had a couple of attempts on goal before scoring the killer third. Dion Donahue produced a pinpoint cross for Hawkins to bundle the ball home at the far post at which point the Cobblers collapsed.

Close struck the crossbar, Ingram produced a great save to deny Hawkins a hat-trick of headers and Jamal Lowe hit the side netting instead of the target amongst other chances in a period which should have seen Pompey add to their goal difference.

Instead, they had to settle for three as Northampton barely mustered an attempt on McGee's goal and the match fizzled out, barring one last reception for Long who was taken off by a fuming Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as he wondered why his striker had to give the opposition extra motivation.

The final whistle blew to confirm Portsmouth's 18th home league at Fratton Park in 2017 and the fact that no Premier League or Football League club had a better home record in the calendar year than Pompey.

It was a deserved win despite the slow start and the manager must be praised for his changes to the starting eleven that worked perfectly.

Donahue's introduction for Brandan Haunstrup may have been enforced but he produced his best performance yet since arriving from Chesterfield thanks to his marauding runs down the left and curling in some excellent crosses into the box.

Kennedy and Hawkins' contributions were more obvious but to see them, especially the latter, return to the side and have such influence can only bode well for the rest of the season.

Of course, the victory came at a cost and losing Rose for such a long time could be a huge blow. We all wish him a speedy recovery but it seems like those Toumani Diagouraga rumours are about to get stronger with the transfer window opening tomorrow. Gareth Evans limping off at half-time with a hamstring injury doesn't help matters, either.

In the meantime, Pompey will have to rely on the youthful pairing of Close and May for tomorrow's match at the Memorial Ground but Bristol Rovers have had a mediocre season so another win shouldn't be out of the question.

If the Blues can be victorious in that match and consolidate sixth position then it would put them in a very strong position with no game for thirteen days, allowing the squad to be strengthened in time for a trio of tough games coming up.

There can be no doubt that 2017 has been one of the best years to be a Portsmouth fan and it's going to take something special for 2018 to beat it.

Happy New Year!

Pompey Player Ratings

Luke McGee: 6 - Not too busy.

Nathan Thompson: 7 - Always consistent.

Christian Burgess: 7 - Has to take some of the blame for Northampton goal but decent otherwise.

Matt Clarke: 7 - Typically dependable.

Dion Donahue: 8 - Surprisingly excellent and needs to be now he's currently the only fit (makeshift) left back.

Danny Rose: N/A - Hopefully recovers fast and well.

Ben Close: 7 - Also shares blame for Cobblers goal but looked accomplished as the game swung in Pompey's favour.

Gareth Evans: 6 - Worked hard until forced off.

Brett Pitman: 6 - Linked up well with Hawkins but lack of goals from open play recently is a concern.

Matty Kennedy: 8 - Started slow but ended up being a constant threat.

Ollie Hawkins: 9 - Scored possibly the best header seen at Fratton Park for years and played his target man role extremely well.


Alex Bass

Matt Casey

Adam May (Rose 29): 7 - Stood in well but will face tougher tests.

Kyle Bennett

Jamal Lowe (Evans 46): 6 - Should have scored.

Conor Chaplin (Pitman 89): N/A - No time.

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