Pompey 3 Carlisle 0

Danny Hollands scores Pompey's third goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Danny Hollands scores Pompey's third goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Joe Pigott celebrates Southend's winner against Pompey in League Two. Picture: Joe Pepler

Southend’s sterling record in November ahead of Pompey clash

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Craig Westcarr has become accustomed to receiving applause and cheers while honouring the call of the substitutes’ board.

In truth, more a sarcastic reception from the Fratton faithful delighted at his removal, rather than genuinely appreciative of his efforts.

Such is the backlash from the striker’s failure to sufficiently impress following a summer arrival from Walsall.

So similar territory entered then upon Westcarr’s 79th minute withdrawal against Carlisle.

Except on this occasion when the home fans rose to their feet and clapped, they meant it from the heart and with a nod of respect.

On Saturday Westcarr was good, very good, perhaps his finest yet in a Blues shirt in a display that even his staunchest critics would have embraced.

He scored, he created, but it was the ex-Walsall man’s all-round contribution and work-rate which shone brightest through an excellent team showing.

For the numerous matches he has struggled to impress during his time at the Blues, it is only right the 29-year-old’s Cumbrians star turn should be applauded long and loud.

Fittingly as he left the Fratton pitch, the Blues fans warmly acknowledged a crucial impact in a dominant 3-0 success.

Of course, Westcarr wasn’t alone in catching the eye during a dominant and highly-encouraging display from Andy Awford’s side, the vast majority of his team-mates also rising to the occasion.

Ricky Holmes was back to his impish finest, displaying the form which last year won him the player-of-the-season accolade ahead of Trevor Carson in a two-horse race.

Since then his performances have been frustrating, blighted by a back complaint and largely absent of form to water down his effectiveness in wide areas.

With Holmes you will always get work-rate and effort, even if off-colour, but on Saturday the creativity also returned for comfortably his best display of the campaign.

Indeed, his deft ball over Courtney Meppen-Walter to release Miles Storey for the second goal reflected a stunningly well-worked goal.

The winger’s reaction was to stand there motionless with arms aloft as several of his team-mates galloped over to celebrate with him.

A slice of brilliance from Holmes during a match he consistently led the charge against a wilting Carlisle made to look the most inadequate opposition Pompey have faced this season.

Or as their boss Keith Curle so accurately described it as “Men against boys”.

Certainly it was as good as the Blues have performed during the campaign, conjuring up some fine displays across the positions.

The 4-4-2 system has dragged out the best in Holmes by introducing genuine width, while Danny Hollands has been a revelation over the three-match duration.

Miles Storey has now netted twice in three starts since a sabbatical away from the first team designed to boost his drained confidence, while Joe Devera continues to surprise with his level of performances.

Then there is Westcarr, the man- of-the-match and player who fully warranted the acclaim from Blues followers brought to their feet following his substitution.

He had gone eight matches without scoring, the most recent goal coming on September 2 with that classy chip against Yeovil in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Since then he has struggled, out of form, lacking confidence, and at one point repositioned onto the bench last month as Awford shuffled his strike options.

Yet from the moment he pounced on 80 seconds, the catalyst was provided for Blues fans to witness a growingly-maligned striker transform in front of their very eyes.

And with it precious hope Westcarr can now consistently demonstrate his worth in a side which has mainly struggled for goals this season.

It was a poacher’s goal which set the Blues on their way, Storey’s shot from the left parried by Dan Hanford with Westcarr swooping to net.

Curle’s side had arrived for the fixture with four wins in six matches, representing a much-desired improvement in form since arriving at the helm.

Within 80 seconds at Fratton Park they had fallen behind and in the first- half, especially, struggled to keep out the rampant hosts.

The pressure was incessant, Holmes wreaking havoc down the left flank while the strike pairing of Storey and Westcarr causing plenty of problems to a Cumbrians defence featuring debutant Tom Anderson.

Inevitably the scoreline was doubled on 26 minutes when Holmes launched a counter down the right flank.

He spotted Storey pulling off last man Meppen-Walter, clipping the ball with superb precision over his head for the striker to run onto.

The loan man from Swindon did the rest, galloping forwards before unleashing a ferocious effort from just inside the box to finish off an excellent move.

The half finished with wave upon wave of Pompey attacks, several appeals for handball inside the Carlisle box and some largely desperate defending.

The break would see the visitors make two substitutions and the changes did stabilise them as the tempo decreased in the second half.

Pompey remained in control, Carlisle continued to barely threaten, yet the break-neck action of the opening 45 minutes died down as the hosts saw out of the result.

Then on 74 minutes the third goal arrived when Westcarr sent in a precise cross from the left and Hollands popped up at the far post to lash home.

Appointed skipper for the day following illness to Ben Chorley, it was the midfielder’s first goal of the season, a surprisingly-low return following last season’s heroics.

There was still time for right-back Hayden White to produce a disgraceful challenge on Hollands in the 89th minute which earned him a straight red card.

Miraculously Hollands managed to rise to his feet from the X-rated challenge and see out the four minutes of time added on.

Although Bradley Tarbuck – off the bench for his Football League debut – did appear to be booked mistakenly during the angry aftermath.

And so Pompey find themselves ninth following a second-successive Fratton Park win.

While Westcarr has catapulted himself to the top of the table.

Watch match highlights here

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