Late Naismith stunner earns Pompey win
Kal Naismith's late stunner ensured Pompey lived to fight another day in the Checkatrade Trophy after they beat Bristol Rovers 1-0 in front of a post-war record low crowd of 1,200 at Fratton Park.
The Blues looked to be heading out of the much-maligned competition after Michael Smith’s early penalty miss.
But Naismith’s late strike means Paul Cook’s side will now be casting their attention to Yeovil and Reading under-23s tomorrow night - with a win for the Royals’ youngsters the result required to seal Pompey’s progress.
Back here at Fratton, Rovers surprised the hardy few gathered inside the ground by substituting their goalkeeper Kelle Roos after just three minutes in a tactical switch designed to bypass player restriction rulings and a fine.
Two minutes later, though, they may well have wished they hadn’t as replacement stopper Will Puddy brought down Smith after trying to retrieve his own heavy touch.
Smith, however, was unable to capitalise as Puddy gained redemption by diving low to his right to deny the Blues striker an early breakthrough.
Rovers then spurned a glorious chance to open the scoring moments later when Rory Gaffney somehow contrived to head Daniel Leadbitter’s inviting cross into the ground and over the crossbar from four yards out.
Team-mate Luke James attempted to show Gaffney how it was done midway through the half when his teasing run was followed by a fierce 30-yard drive that cannoned back off the foot of the post as the visitors signalled their intent.
The game, though, rather petered out until the half-time whistle, which was preceded by Naismith coming close for the Blues when his free-kick whistled past the junction of crossbar and post.
Pompey wasted a great chance to open the scoring early in the second half when Amine Linganzi headed Naismith’s inviting cross over the bar.
Jermaine Easter was then guilty of fluffing his lines for Rovers as he snatched at the impressive Leadbitter’s cross.
Blues boss Cook rang the changes as the hosts went for the win but Noel Hunt and Danny Rose, who were both introduced to the action, only contrived to get in each other’s way late on when Smith’s inviting cross evaded the pair inside the six-yard box.
Naismith, though, showed his intention of netting a late winner when his free-kick was tipped over the bar by Puddy.
Moments later, however, and the Scottish winger had the final say with a swerving 35-yard effort screaming past the Rovers goalkeeper - who appeared to lose his footing attempting to make the save.
The Blues will now wait to find out their Checkatrade Trophy fate.