Pompey Win Eventful Fratton Clash

Portsmouth finally won a home match in 2018 after beating Oxford United 3-0 on a dramatic afternoon at Fratton Park.

The hosts started the match brilliantly and took the lead when when Connor Ronan's corner was headed across goal by Matt Clarke at the far post, leaving Kal Naismith with an easy tap in from point blank range.

More chances were created as Pompey took advantage of some slack Oxford defending but the dangerous crosses into the box were eventually dealt with. The home fans were pleased with how their side were playing as they kept the ball on the ground and rarely resorted to dull direct tactics.

Oxford eventually played their way into the game and Pompey had Luke McGee to thank for two crucial saves in the first half. He just got his hand to tip James Henry's long range strike onto the crossbar and then his outstretched arm prevented Malachi Napa's shot from finding the corner of the net.

Pompey had one good chance on the break during the visitors' spell of dominance as Brett Pitman couldn't finish a counter-attacking move but he proved extremely useful at the other end of the pitch as he hacked the ball clear off the line following some pinball in the Pompey box.

The second half continued in the same way the first ended with Oxford on top and the inevitable equaliser looked like it was coming when Clarke was penalised for pulling Rob Dickie down in the box (rightly, but referees rarely give such decisions) and a penalty was awarded.

Up stepped Alex Mowatt who struck his spot kick onto the post much to the delight of ex-Swindon stalwart Nathan Thompson who said something to Mowatt which clearly upset him, as the Oxford man retaliated with a slap.

Thompson went down in embarrassing fashion holding his face and eventually Mowatt was shown the red card when the fracas had died down. McGee was also booked for his reaction to the event but Oxford were reduced to ten men and that killed any momentum they had.

Jamal Lowe was on hand to beat his man and whip in a brilliant cross for Pitman to smash in from close range just to add salt to Oxford's wounds and effectively win the game for Pompey with 20 minutes to go.

The result was truly made safe when Thompson sent Lowe through on goal but rather than pass to an unmarked Pitman, he decided to round Simon Eastwood in the Oxford goal and almost had the ball taken from him by a defender. Thankfully, he was able to dig out a cross and Pitman converted it before reminding Lowe how "lucky" he was to have played himself out of a tricky situation.

There might have been more goals as the disheartened ten men of Oxford understandably tired and offered no threat once Mowatt was dismissed but it was just the three goals to confirm Pompey's first win at Fratton Park since late December.

Let's discuss the major incident of the match first, shall we?

Thompson's reaction to getting slapped by Mowatt was embarrassing for all to see and despite suggestions on social media, it's doubtful that the two players have any history as Mowatt was playing for Barnsley last season. (The Oxford player doing the "crybaby" gesture in the photo of Thompson last season is actually Chris Maguire, a player Pompey fans are on good terms with!)

Nathan is known for being a bit of a wind up merchant and as someone who, until this season, has played his entire professional career at arch rivals Swindon, he was always going to relish a chance to get at the old enemy.

The only defence for his reaction to the slap is that he knew the referee would spot it and have no choice but to send Mowatt off for violent conduct. Karl Robinson also needs to realise that Thompson's reaction to Mowatt's penalty miss doesn't constitute a booking and if it did, then we all may as well give up watching football and start watching some egg chasing instead. But then it's not like Robinson to be bitter about any matter regarding Portsmouth, is it?

The bottom line is that Oxford fans can squinny about Thompson's reaction or the fact that Pompey were "lucky" but their player lashing out isn't down to bad luck, it's just stupidity and it was costly. Whoever the match sponsors were today did well to troll the Oxford fans further by naming their arch-villain as the man of the match, too!

Mowatt missing that penalty was clearly the game changer because if he scores then Oxford probably win bearing in mind that they were already in the ascendancy and Pompey's home record in 2018 has been abysmal, having thrown away a lead to Gillingham just over a fortnight ago.

Who knows? Perhaps this penalty incident is the catalyst Pompey need? Last season's turning point also involved a penalty as Eoin Doyle's spot kick was saved only for Christian Burgess to head in the resulting corner and get the fans believing again.

Moving away from the big talking point, some praise should be given to McGee for his two outstanding saves to preserve the lead in the first half whilst Lowe and Pitman seem to be forming quite the understanding based on the last two games. Jack Whatmough was also imperious once again and Burgess will have his work cut out getting back into the side at the moment.

Joe Gallen also deserves some credit for bringing on Gareth Evans so early into the second half as a player to keep hold of the ball and calm things down whilst Oxford were on top. As talented as Ronan is, he can burn out in matches quickly and isn't the kind of player known for keeping possession under pressure. Hopefully Kenny Jackett's family issue isn't anything serious but at least he has a capable number two.

On a final note, despite the amount of negativity coming from Pompey fans who had completely written off a tilt at the play-offs just a couple of weeks ago, the Blues are now in eighth place and just two points off Peterborough in sixth with just eight games to play and two of them are against the worst two teams in the division.

A trip to Walsall is up next before another huge home match against Wiagn on Easter Monday. Win those two games and all of a sudden the promotion picture looks much brighter than it did before the clocks went forward.

Pompey Player Ratings

Luke McGee: 8 - A couple of wobbly distributions but did his primary job very well.

Anton Walkes: 6 - Still not sold on him. Stands off of the opposition too often and is beaten too easily.

Matt Clarke: 7 - Silly foul to give away the penalty but solid otherwise.

Jack Whatmough: 7 - Won virtually everything in the air and took one in the face for good measure in the first half.

Dion Donahue: 7 - Another solid outing for a player who has completely changed the fans' opinion of him.

Nathan Thompson: 7 - Reaction to slap overshadowed what was otherwise a fairly decent performance.

Jamal Lowe: 8 - Caused allsorts of problems for the Oxford left back and bagged two assists.

Ben Close: 6 - Kept things ticking.

Connor Ronan: 6 - Still lacking an end product but clearly has talent.

Kal Naismith: 7 - Grabbed an early goal and defensive work in the box can't be understated, either.

Brett Pitman: 8 - Oh how he has been missed. Four goals in two games and hopefully more to come.

Substitutes

Alex Bass

Christian Burgess

Brandan Haunstrup

Adam May (Thompson 87): N/A - Clever for management to bring Thompson off when on a booking and game was won. May was the obvious replacement.

Matty Kennedy

Gareth Evans (Ronan 51): 7 - Gave the midfield a stronger look.

Conor Chaplin