Three and easy for Pompey

Gareth Evans opened the scoring for Pompey on 19 minutes Picture: Joe Pepler

Gareth Evans opened the scoring for Pompey on 19 minutes Picture: Joe Pepler

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Pompey returned to winning ways - and League Two’s play-off places - with an impressive 3-1 triumph over Bristol Rovers at Fratton Park today.

The Blues, who had been without victory in their previous three league encounters, netted twice in an action-packed first half, with Gareth Evans and Michael Smith on target.

Substitute Marc McNulty added to the home side’s scoring 13 minutes from time, before Rovers defender Lee Brown struck a last-minute consolation.

Smith’s goal, which came in stoppage-time at the end of breathless opening 45 minutes, was his first for the Blues since arriving earlier this month on transfer deadline day.

Paul Cook’s side shrugged off their disappointing 1-0 loss to Leyton Orient last time out with a lively start on the south coast and could have been ahead as early as the second minute.

Defender Christian Burgess rose highest from Ben Davies’ corner but Rovers goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall was equal to his powerful header with a superb reflex save.

Pompey were not to be denied, though, and led after 19 minutes with Smith’s fine hold-up play finding Davies in space on the right flank to deliver an inviting cross that Evans flicked home in front of the Fratton End.

The visitors came close to levelling five minutes later when the lively Rory Gaffney found himself in space in the Blues box but could only smash his shot against the crossbar.

Evans then had a good chance to double Pompey’s lead but snatched at a chance when well-placed in the area, with Gary Roberts following suit moments later.

It mattered little, though, when Smith rose highest from another inviting Davies cross on the stroke of half-time for his maiden Blues strike.

The new arrival should have doubled his own tally 10 minutes into the second half when he inexplicably fired wide from close range with the goal at his mercy.

Mildenhall was then swiftly off his line to deny that-man Smith again as the Blues threatened a third goal to put the game beyond doubt.

With Smith tiring, McNulty was brought on off the bench.

And the substitute crowned a memorable afternoon when he collected Kyle Bennett’s pass in his stride before firing home for a third.

Evans was then denied a late fourth by a sensational point-blank stop from Mildenhall, before the visitors themselves got on the scoresheet at the death.

Brown’s last-gasp thunderbolt from a free-kick right on the edge of the box gave Ryan Fulton no chance in the Pompey goal.

Regardless, the Blues returned to form with a bang at Fratton Park to move up to fifth place in the table.

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