Second Half Showing Destroys Daggers

Last updated : 10 April 2016 By Jim Bonner

Portsmouth maintained their push for automatic promotion with a somewhat flattering 4-1 victory at Victoria Road yesterday.

As cliché as it sounds, this really was a game of two halves with Pompey's first half performance an absolute atrocity only to be mirrored by a much improved display after the break.

The only real noteworthy chance for Paul Cook's unchanged team in the first half was a Kyle Bennett shot that flew past the post but that was as good as it got as the game was littered with silly fouls and football that was Sunday League quality at times.

That applied to Dagenham too as they took a while to get going but Paul Jones came to Pompey's rescue when he blocked Matty Cash's effort from close range but there was nothing he could to to prevent the hosts taking the lead.

Whilst Ashley Hemmings's overhead kick was technically brilliant, the defending and marking from the free kick that led to the goal was abysmal with defenders not getting tight enough in the box. 

It might have got worse as Justin Hoyte's free header flew over the bar soon after and when the half-time whistle blew Cook won't have had to prepare his team talk as the boos and "angry encouragement" from the travelling fans would have served as motivation for the players as they trundled towards the dressing room at the break.

Whatever the manager did say at half time, it worked as Pompey emerged with a greater sense of urgency in the second half.

A couple of chances went begging before Dagenham's resistance was finally broken. Some neat play from Gary Roberts led to Michael Doyle lashing in an equaliser from around eighteen yards and the sense of relief was palpable.

Dagenham did muster one final chance soon after that equaliser as yet more poor defending from a corner allowed Olliver Muldoon to have a strike that thankfully flew into Jones's arms rather than the back of the net.

That was as good as it got for John Still's team, however, as Pompey moved into another gear and won a free kick just outside the box. After some bickering with the referee as to where to take the set-piece, Bennett floated the ball into the box and it was headed in by Christian Burgess to give the visitors the lead.

That goal broke Dagenham's spirit and a similar free kick from Bennett was glanced in by substitute Gareth Evans with five minutes to go to confirm the victory but the scoring wasn't to finish there.

Three minutes later Bennett weaved his way into the box and curled the ball past Mark Cousins to add some shine to the scoreline that perhaps flatters Portsmouth slightly given how bad their first half performance was.

But that will be forgottenn now as the job was done in emphatic fashion in the end and it's a testament to the character of the players to come back and blitz the Daggers in the second half when they could have succumbed to pressure themselves and crumbled.

Bennett was clearly the best player on the pitch but the likes of Doyle and Gary Roberts also stepped up when required. The defending will need addressing going into the final stretch of the season as a better side than the worst team in the Football League would have taken advantage of some of Pompey's sloppy marking yesterday.

Still, the bottom line is that it's the results that matter now and three points and an extra three goals added to the goal difference is a good return. It is also good to know that the "failure to win three in a row" curse is finally over, too.

The result means that Pompey have kept pace with Oxford and Accrington Stanley after their wins at Crawley and Luton respectively and have gained two on Bristol Rovers who came back from two goals down to draw with Northampton yesterday.

The big news, though, is that Plymouth's wobble continues as they were beaten 2-1 by Wimbledon and are now just two points ahead of Pompey having played a game more than them before their visit to Fratton Park on Saturday.

What a game that is going to be!

Pompey Player Ratings

Paul Jones: 7 - Always alert and could do nothing about the goal.

Ben Davies: 6 - More subdued than usual.

Matt Clarke: 6 - Struggled at times.

Christian Burgess: 7 - Scored but needs to improve his defensive awareness.

Enda Stevens: 5 - Not his greatest game.

Michael Doyle: 7 - Bagged the crucial equaliser.

Danny Hollands: 6 - Improved as the game went on.

Adam McGurk: 5 - Offered little.

Gary Roberts: 7 - Made things happen in the second half.

Kyle Bennett: 8 - Loves playing against Dagenham.

Michael Smith: 6 - Worked hard but no real goal threat.


Brian Murphy

Adam Webster

Ben Close

Kal Naismith (Bennett 89): N/A - No time.

Gareth Evans (McGurk 80): 7 - Got his second header of the season against Daggers.

Conor Chaplin

Marc McNulty (Roberts 89): N/A - No late goal this time.