Smash And Grab At MK

Last updated : 11 February 2018 By Jim Bonner

6,257 Portsmouth fans left stadium:mk in bedlam yesterday after two late goals secured Pompey's first win of 2018 in dramatic fashion.

Kenny Jackett's men started the game brightly, forcing MK into basic errors and keeping Lee Nicholls busy in the goal in front of the huge travelling contingent of Blues fans.

Despite that, Luke McGee was also called into action on his return to the side as he denied Kieran Agard one-on-one after he was put through on goal for the first big chance of the game.

Gareth Evans then tested Nicholls with a long range effort that he had to push away whilst his save from Donohue's strike was much more comfortable. There was a feeling amongst the Pompey fans that they would have been ahead had their final ball been better and there was always the worry of being hit on the break.

That's exactly what happened on 21 minutes as Josh Tymon easily beat the defenders marking him on the wing and his centre into the box was pushed away by McGee only for Ike Ugbo to (just about) fire home the loose ball.

Pompey continued to press and both Matty Kennedy and Ben Close narrowly missed the target before Brett Pitman's attempted lob had to be pushed over by Nicholls.

Barring the goal conceded, the first half hour of the match had been promising from a Portsmouth perspective but the home side eventually gained a foothold and the visitors were indebted to McGee for keeping the scores level before the break.

The Pompey keeper parried away Callum Brittain's shot and then kept out Scott Wootton's header at point blank range from the resulting corner as an open half of football came to a close.

The second half didn't have the fluidity of the first as both sides struggled to retain possession and Pompey frustratingly began to resort to long ball tactics having played some good football in the first half.

McGee again denied MK twice later in the half as Ugbo was played through on goal only for his effort to be saved by the keeper's feet and then he did brilliantly to turn Ed Upson's goalbound header over the crossbar.

Despite Pompey's poor second half performance, there was always a feeling that a team as poor as MK Dons would concede if any amount of sustained pressure could be maintained.

An equaliser almost came when Wootton hacked Pitman's shot off the line and Oli Hawkins' header hit the post as the clock ticked into the final minutes of the game.

The breakthrough finally came on 84 minutes when a short corner was played to Donohue and his superb delivery was headed in by Matt Clarke. That goal was met by delerious celebrations at the opposite end of the pitch, from both a fist-pumping McGee and the fans behind him of whic a few lobbed blue flares onto the pitch.

A draw would have been fair on balance of play but having suffered the pain of being on the wrong end of three stoppage time winners in January, it was Pompey's turn to dish out the pain.

Some scrappy play led to a long ball into the box being headed down by Pitman, it wasn't properly cleared and Conor Chaplin was able to beat Nicholls to the ball and poach a dramatic last-gasp winner for Pompey.

Some celebrations in the opposite end were delayed as referee John Brooks had given some soft decisions during the game and the MK players who didn't have their heads in their hands protested that a foul should have been given during the build up.

However, those protests were ignored, Chaplin and his team mates ran towards over 6,000 ecstatic Pompey fans to celebrate before seeing out the remaining seconds of the match to confirm a dramatic win and a much needed three points.

Undoubtedly there will still be Pompey fans recovering having celebrated a first stoppage time winner away from home since Matt Tubbs tapped in a rebound at Luton in August 2015. Nobody will care that yesterday's winner was almost certainly undeserved having lost games to Bristol Rovers and Rotherham in the same manner.

However, that win may paper over some cracks because some of the defending, especially at full back, left a lot to be desired and the attacking play in the second half was virtually non-existant until the final ten minutes. On another day, yesterday's match could have ended with 6,000 fans booing their team off the pitch for losing to such a poor team.

Thankfully, Pompey showed plenty of character to get back into the game and the victory can be attributed to the performances of two players in particular.

Clarke, playing his 100th match for Pompey, showed why he is destined for bigger things than slumming it in League One. Not only did he score the vital equaliser but at times he played like a one-man defence, compensating for the sluggish Hawkins beside him whilst showing just how composed he can be for a defender still in the early years of his career.

However, the man of the match award has to go to McGee for a string of outstanding saves that enabled Pompey to claim all three points. He must have been disappointed to have been dropped last week but his performance yesterday was the perfect response. His reactions to Pompey's goals were those of a man who clealy cares about the club and its fans.

The result now means that Pompey are now just three points behind Bradford who currently occupy 6th place in League One and currently have a game in hand on the Bantams. They have just hired Simon Grayson, however, and should start picking up points again soon.

Whilst finishing in the play-offs is still a possibility much will depend on how Pompey perform in the next two difficult fixtures, starting at home to Blackburn on Tuesday night before a trip to rejuvenated Southend.

But for now, Pompey fans can live in the moment and celebrate what will be a very much talked about victory in Milton Keynes.

Pompey Player Ratings

Luke McGee: 9 - Outstanding display to keep Pompey in it.

Anton Walkes: 5 - Caught out too often.

Oli Hawkins: 5 - Sluggish and struggled with the pace of the game at times.

Matt Clarke: 8 - The stand out outfield performer.

Dion Donohue: 6 - Delivery was mostly excellent but defending occasionally lacklustre.

Nathan Thompson: 6 - Mixed afternoon.

Ben Close: 6 - Good first half.

Gareth Evans: 5 - Often slowed attacks down when Pompey could break.

Connor Ronan: 6 - Good on the ball but offers nothing when not in possession.

Matty Kennedy: 6 - Was a goal threat and can consider himself unlucky to be taken off at the break.

Brett Pitman: 6 - Came close to scoring a couple of times.


Alex Bass

Sylvain Deslandes

Theo Widdrington

Adam May

Kal Naismith

Jamal Lowe (Kennedy 46): 5 - Didn't really get involved.

Conor Chaplin (Ronan 46): 7 - Goal poaching instinct won it for Pompey.