Pompey 3 Bristol Rovers 0: Neil Allen's match report
Pompey results continue to fluctuate '“ but Brett Pitman's goals are a reliable presence.
Perhaps it was an inevitability that Fratton Park would witness a home victory last night considering that has been the pattern in the wake of each of their previous three losses.
Kenny Jackett’s side seem capable of providing an instant response to the arrival of a disappointing defeat – and that was definitely the outcome against Bristol Rovers.
The Blues ran out 3-0 winners under the lights at an atmospheric Fratton Park, racing clear late on during a tight encounter.
And it was that man Pitman at the heart of it, grabbing two goals during an impressive second-half display which grew in character by the minute.
Oli Hawkins had given Jackett’s men a 42nd-minute lead, heading home Dion Donohue’s cross for his maiden goal for the club.
But it was Pitman who put the destiny of the points beyond all doubt with two goals in eight minutes during a deadly finale.
That’s eight goals in 10 league games now for the summer recruit and skipper, who continues to demonstrate top-class finishing.
Certainly the outcome could not be disputed, as Pompey produced a gutsy display defensively at times, coupled with their decisive attacking threat.
And following a 2-0 defeat at Scunthorpe on Saturday, they have clambered back on track at the earliest opportunity.
Jackett had opted to retain the side which lost 2-0 to the Iron.
Pitman was given the all-clear to continue, despite a niggling knee problem.
Meanwhile, Damien McCrory was not ready to return from his twisted knee.
McCrory’s ongoing absence meant Donohue continued at left-back, with Brandon Haunstrup offering cover from the bench.
Elsewhere, Conor Chaplin was denied the opportunity for his 100th Pompey outing.
The popular striker was ruled out of Bristol Rovers’ visit through a hamstring injury, ensuring he must wait a little longer to reach the three-figure landmark for the Blues at the age of 20.
His place on the bench went to Kyle Bennett, recalled to the squad after missing out in the previous two fixtures.
However, there was once again still no room for Danny Rose, while Jack Whatmough and Milan Lalkovic continue to be sidelined through injury.
There was little to enthuse about in the opening exchanges as both sides struggled to find their feet.
Yet a ball over the top down the left channel did release Tom Nichols into the box on 14 minutes, putting him through on goal.
The covering Matt Clarke came across to put the striker out of his stride before Christian Burgess tidied up by dispossessing the opponent and calmly playing the ball out.
At the other end, a wonderful run and cross from the right by Jamal Lowe appeared destined for Hawkins at the far post.
However, a visiting defender got the slightest of touches to nick it away from the Blues striker and Jackett’s men were denied.
On 18 minutes, Rovers striker Ellis Harrison produced an attempt with a right-footed shot from 25 yards.
However, his effort was comfortably wide of Luke McGee’s goal.
The match was opening up and Lowe drove in a fierce cross from the right which just needed a touch at the far post but Pitman didn’t gamble and it shot out for a goal-kick.
Magnificent defending by Burgess and Clarke then foiled Rovers on 21 minutes – and earned applause from the Fratton faithful.
The centre-halves in turn threw their bodies in front of Billy Bodin’s fierce shot and then the follow-up from Ollie Clarke during some courageous defending.
On 42 minutes, with half-time approaching, Pompey won a corner down the right.
And it yielded the breakthrough.
Donohue’s initial delivery was half-cleared and the full-back slung in another left-footed cross, this time to the far post where Hawkins headed home, despite a defender’s attempt on the line to clear.
Referee John Busby swiftly consulted his linesman over a potential offside situation but the goal stood and Jackett’s troops had the lead.
The second half began in quiet fashion, although Hawkins did earn Tom Lockyer a booking by getting in front of him to win the race to Matty Kennedy’s ball down the left channel.
The resulting free-kick, however, was blazed high into the Fratton End by Pitman.
On 60 minutes, Pitman collected Kennedy’s pass and somehow wriggled along the byline before glancing the ball back with no team-mate to capitalise.
Rovers introduced the first substitution of the game, with Nichols making way for Dominic Telford on 66 minutes.
A tigerish tackle from Nathan Thompson then dispossessed Bodin after the winger threatened to capitalise inside the box when Burgess had been beaten in the air.
Pompey should have extended their lead on 71 minutes after a tremendous cross from Stuart O’Keefe from the right.
His delivery picked out the unmarked Hawkins at the far post but the striker’s header flashed past the far post when he should have hit the target.
However, six minutes later and it was 2-0 to the hosts.
Kennedy struck a sublime right-footed cross from the left and Pitman arrived at the near post to power home a header which Sam Slocombe was unable to beat out.
There was still time for Pitman to bag a second, brilliantly outmaneuvering Lockyer to fire home his eighth of the season in the 85th minute and seal a 3-0 triumph.