Pompey 3 Rochdale 0

Nathan Thompson has been sidelined with a groin problem

Pompey handed defensive injury boosts

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Riot acts had been read, videos studied, inquisitions launched, meetings held between manager, chief executive and chairman.

But after all the words and positive soundbites, Saturday was time to perform on the field of play.

And how Guy Whittingham and his side spoke volumes during a swaggering triumph over Rochdale as they emerged commendably from a testing week.

Clearly the York disgrace could not be allowed to occur again, while Whittingham himself has faced growing criticism from supporters in the painful aftermath.

His sternest examination yet then, during the community club regime which appointed him permanently as boss in April.

The response was always going to be crucial.

Actions rather than mere words were required to turn back the worrying tide cascading his way, even so early in the campaign.

Trevor Carson and Thery Racon were recruited – both starting against the Dale – with fellow newcomer Gavin Mahon an unused substitute.

John Sullivan didn’t even make the match-day squad, having kept goal for the previous six matches until those Bootham Crescent errors.

He was, however, watching from the South Stand on Saturday as well as mixing with the players in the dressing room.

Alan Knight was spotted in the directors’ box, resplendent in suit and tie having been nudged out of the dug out to go in a ‘different direction’.

Thankfully his trumpeted knee and hip problems did not appear to hinder his ability to negotiate Fratton Park.

They were the casualties of a Whittingham ruthlessness in the past week which until now had lain dormant, publicly at least.

Dress up the squad and backroom changes how you will, the fact remains Pompey’s manager has opted for drastic alterations to his set-up, unquestionably upsetting some in the process.

Yet the immediate outcome was a comfortable 3-0 success over an in-form Rochdale.

Of course, it remains to be seen the long-term effect of the past week’s swift redrafting of the Pompey blueprint but Saturday was very, very impressive.

For that Whittingham and his players deserve every ounce of high praise, just as they warranted the torrent of criticism for that York debacle.

Not even the injury losses of David Connolly and Danny East in the build-up, joining Simon Ferry and the suspended Yassin Moutaouakil on the sidelines, knocked the Blues out of their stride.

If anything, the returning Joe Devera at right-back provided one of the best displays in a team gushing with self-belief, bravery and desire.

He was rock solid upon his comeback, also venturing forwards effectively a few times, although the centre-back partnership of Sonny Bradley and Bondz N’Gala is going to take some dislodging.

Pompey made a mockery of a side which hadn’t dropped a point last month and whose boss, Keith Hill, days earlier had picked up the manager of the month accolade.

They swarmed over the visitors from the first minute, not allowing them to play and continually threatening when pushing forwards, particularly through Jed Wallace.

Johnny Ertl was the Ertl of old, as was his partnership with Racon, picking up where they left off at the end of the previous season as a dominant midfield force.

Tackles were won in the centre of the park, the ball was retained, second balls were picked up – all things not seen at York.

Up front John Marquis displayed a willingness to work on his full debut, untiring and committed, he even appeared after the final whistle for a warm-down on the Fratton pitch.

Defending from the front alongside Patrick Agyemang, the Dale defence and goalkeeper were given little time to dwell on the ball and several times visiting keeper Josh Lillis was forced into hurried clearances.

Indeed, all that was missing from Marquis’ game was a goal and, in truth, he could have comfortably helped himself to a hat-trick to ensure the scoreline was even more emphatic than it was.

Then there was debutant Carson, whose remarkable double save in stoppage-time drew a standing ovation from the home fans – and another nod of acknowledgement in the direction of Whittingham’s alterations.

The first was a point-blank stop and when Peter Vincenti followed up to head into an empty net, the Irishman flung himself to claw the ball away.

The visitors were claiming the ball had already fully crossed the line.

But nothing was forthcoming and Pompey had only their second League Two clean sheet of the season.

Carson had already finger-tipped Matty Done’s powerful drive from distance over the bar in the first-half but that aside had little to do.

Timely then that in almost the final act of the match, during four additional minutes, he would have the last say to hammer home the very reason for his presence.

In total there were five changes to the team beaten away to the Minstermen.

Ricky Holmes joined Marquis, Devera, Carson and Racon in the starting line-up and he went on to provide two assists.

But it was that man Jed Wallace who would open the scoring in the 23rd minute.

Albeit this time it did not emanate from his own half.

Racon couldn’t quite seize control of the ball and when a Rochdale defender hacked it clear Wallace was on hand to pick it up, take one touch and unleash a left-foot drive past Lillis.

In doing so he revealed a T-shirt in tribute to a family friend, Russell Turner, who recently died.

By then Marquis had already sent a left-foot shot wide of the far post with just the keeper to beat following an Agyemang flick-on.

The scoreline remained that way until the 51st minute when N’Gala headed home Holmes’ right-wing corner.

It was the first Pompey goal in front of the Fratton end this season and 14 minutes later the same pair combined to register another.

Marquis then missed at the far post after Wallace had driven in a cross.

And he later failed to take the ball around Lillis when Romain Padovani had presented him with a one-on-one chance.

Still, George Cummins should have pulled one back for the Dale when he clipped the outside of the far post.

Pompey had their win, though, and Whittingham had the reaction he wanted as he emerged from his first test this season with flying colours.