Yeovil 4 Pompey 3: Neil Allen’s match report

Michael Smith completes his hat-trick. Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Smith completes his hat-trick. Picture: Joe Pepler
Paul Cook celebrates winning the League Two title with Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler

Emotions still raw as Pompey prepare for reunion

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It was defeat in the cup competition few want to compete in, let alone attend.

Yet for Michael Smith it was a precious lifeline accepted as he averted his early-season confidence of crisis in devastating style.

Out-of-sorts, short on belief and omitted from the two previous Pompey squads, the Geordie was recalled for last night’s trip to Yeovil Town.

His response was a classy hat-trick, consisting of three outstanding goals, well-worked and sublimely finished, in the much-maligned Checkatrade Trophy.

Smith’s contribution couldn’t prevent a loss for Paul Cook’s side in front of a crowd of 1,534, of which 270 were Pompey followers.

Indeed as one of 11 changes, it has incurred the Blues a £5,000 fine from the Football League – having failed to meet competition selection criteria.

Still, his was a worthy inclusion in the bigger picture in terms of boosting confidence of both the striker and the Fratton faithful.

Meanwhile, Kal Naismith weighed in with two first-half assists as he maintains his resurgence having spent so long appearing to be on his way out.

Pompey have two other group games in this competition, their elimination not yet sealed.

And in Smith they now have a striker ready to challenge for a first-team spot, particularly should Cook field two up front against Crawley Town on Saturday.

With Cook overhauling the entire side which won at Exeter City on Saturday, the opportunity was handed for plenty to prove they are ready for more starts.

Matt Clarke partnered Adam Barton in the centre of defence, with Naismith left-back and Adam May completing the back four by operating at right-back.

Ben Close and Amine Linganzi occupied the holding midfield spots, with Kyle Bennett, Gareth Evans and Ben Tollitt the attacking three.

Leading the line was Smith, back in the side having been omitted from the Blues’ previous two squads following a poor start to the season personally.

Cook chose not to name a full complement of substitutes, with the Academy’s Nick Hall serving as substitute keeper on a four-man bench.

As for Yeovil, they made just the three changes – one enforced with Ryan Hedges on Wales under-21 international duty.

Retaining his place was Matt Butcher, a Denmead youngster and former Wimbledon Park Tigers player on loan from AFC Bournemouth.

In addition, ex-Pompey striker Izale McLeod led the attack having arrived from Notts County.

When the game got under way, Pompey were given a scare after 50 seconds.

The ball ricocheted off May and into the path of McLeod.

The former Blues striker, making his full debut for the Glovers, took a touch before driving a shot against the far post – with only keeper Liam O’Brien to beat.

McLeod again threatened moments later when Barton missed his header and the forward reacted quickly only to see his shot take a slight deflection which diverted it into the sidenetting.

Yet it was the visitors who took the lead on 10 minutes through a superb header from Smith.

Naismith swung in a cross deep from the left and the Geordie striker rose magnificently at the far post to plant a header past Jonny Maddison.

Within three minutes the hosts had drawn themselves level when Matt Dolan’s 30-yard free-kick was deflected in by Bevis Mugabi.

On 21 minutes, Butcher let fly with an angled left-foot shot which had O’Brien at full strength to parry, with Clarke sliding in ahead of McLeod to clear.

Within a minute the Glovers had the lead when a diagonal ball from deep was misjudged by Barton, allowing striker Tommy Eaves the opportunity to calmly finish.

At the other end, a deflected Naismith cross from the left fell invitingly for Evans to plant a header on goal on the run.

But his effort was straight at Maddison.

In the 27th minute the Blues found themselves further behind when McLeod produced a delightful one-two with Otis Khan before slotting the ball past O’Brien for a well-worked goal.

The goals continued to flow when, in the 37th minute, Smith collected Naismith’s cross from the left with his back to goal before brilliantly turning his man to finish.

Yeovil’s response was for Eaves to grab a second with an unchecked surge down the middle before placing the ball into the bottom corner past O’Brien.

Pompey’s keeper then had to claw away McLeod’s lofted effort as the hosts once again found it too easy to break through the opposition defence.

The visitors were 4-2 down at the break but within nine minutes of the restart had pulled one back as Smith completed his hat-trick.

May swung in a ball from the right and the towering striker sent a header back across goal and into the far corner of the net.

That signalled the arrival of Conor Chaplin on 55 minutes – in place of Tollitt.

And shortly after he was pulled back on the halfway line by Khan as he threatened to burst through, earning the offender a yellow card.

With Clarke having completed 61 minutes, he made way for Tom Davies in the Blues’ second substitution.

On 82 minutes there were appeals for a Pompey leveller when Linganzi got the final touch but the keeper gathered amid shouts the ball had crossed the line.

There was to be no equaliser, though, as the visitors slipped to a 4-3 defeat in their opening group game.