Pompey Turn Off The Gas

Last updated : 14 February 2016 By Jim Bonner

Pompey got their season back on track thanks to a well deserved and immensely satisfying win over fellow promotion contenders Bristol Rovers yesterday.

Eyebrows were raised when Marc McNulty was dropped in favour of Michael Smith but that decision turned out to be completely vindicated as Paul Cook's men, playing in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, completely dominated the opposition.

Rovers were indebted to goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall who kept the scoreline respectable with a string of excellent saves, the first coming right at the start when he somehow got down quickly enough to keep Christian Burgess' header out.

Kyle Bennett also had an effort pushed wide as Pompey surged forward consistently as if last week's defeat to Leyton Orient had never happened.

The goal was coming and it arrived when Smith's excellent crossfield ball was met by the returning Ben Davies and he delivered one of his trademark crosses into the box for Gareth Evans to deftly flick goalward, even if it originally looked like the ball would drift wide rather than nestle in the corner.

Pompey's hard work was almost undone soon after by a combination of poor decision making from referee Trevor Kettle and even worse finishing from Rory Gaffney.

Kettle should have stopped play when Gary Roberts was injured (given that he stopped play every other time a player was down) but allowed the game to continue as Gaffney ran through unchallenged on goal but he could only strike the crossbar from close range.

Roberts was involved in another incident soon after as he ran towards goal and was clearly elbowed in the face by a Rovers player and yet Kettle did nothing when he should have brandished a red card.

That came during the visitors' most impressive part of their performance but Pompey soon got back on top and both Evans and Roberts failed to score from close range when set up by Enda Stevens and Smith respectively.

Thankfully, Smith gave Pompey a two goal cushion heading into the break after he headed in another quality cross from Davies and from then on it would simply be a question of how many goals Pompey could score in the second half.

Mildenhall denied Evans early in the second half and then almost conceded a comedy goal after a mix up with Tom Lockyer. Smith had two excellent chances to extend the lead after that but fired wide crom close range and then was denied by the onrushing Rovers goalkeeper when he was played through by Roberts.

Smith was then applauded off as he was replaced by McNulty and it didn't take long for him to extend Pompey's lead after Bennett did well to shrug off a Rovers player and thread the ball through to the Sheffield United loanee who buried it in the bottom corner.

Evans could have added a fourth immediately after but somehow Mildenhall clawed his effort away from all of two yards. There were other half-chances after that but Rovers added some respectability to the scoreline when Lee Brown arrowed a stoppage time free kick past Ryan Fulton.

The final result really flattered Rovers as this was Pompey's best performance for quite some time and the perfect way to bounce back from their worst showing of the season against Orient.

Davies made a hell of a difference upon his return with two assists whilst Roberts and Bennett looked like completely different players from last weekend as they looked up for the battle and also crafted plenty of chances against the brittle Bristol backline.

Smith may have missed a couple of good chances yesterday but his goal and overall contribution to the team will have silenced his early doubters. Hopefully he continues to improve and bags himself a couple of goals at Huish Park next week.

Special mentions should go to academy lads Ben Close and Adam Webster who really looked the part yesterday. The former rarely misplaced a pass and kept Liam Lawrence quiet whilst the latter won virtually every challenge and looked so comfortable on the ball.

But the whole team were excellent and won a game that they really had to given the nature of the promotion race. A defeat would have been seriously damaging but the victory takes Pompey up to fifth although once the number of games played by every promotion chasing team has evened itself out, the picture will be much clearer.

Hopefully the result and performance will be the catalyst for Portsmouth to go on a winning run now. Potentially, the next three games are all fixtures that promotion challenging teams should win and so there's a huge opportunity to close the gap on the top three during the rest of the month.

This season is far from over.

Pompey Player Ratings

Ryan Fulton: 6 - Little to do.

Ben Davies: 8 - Showed us what we were missing last week.

Christian Burgess: 7 - Worked well with Webster.

Adam Webster: 8 - Continues to improve.

Enda Stevens: 7 - Solid as usual.

Michael Doyle: 7 - Shackled the Rovers midfield.

Ben Close: 8 - Already looks the part.

Gareth Evans: 7 - Should have had more than one.

Gary Roberts: 7 - Looking back to his best.

Kyle Bennett: 8 - A constant threat.

Michael Smith: 8 - Missed a couple of chances but overall contribution to the team was excellent.


Alex Bass

Matt Clarke

Adam Barton

Ben Tollitt

Adam McGurk (Roberts 75): N/A - Kept things ticking.

Conor Chaplin (Bennett 86): N/A - No time to impress.

Marc McNulty (Smith 69): 7 - Glad to be back on the scoresheet.