Doncaster 0 Pompey 2

Dave Kitson puts his body on the line to net the opening goal
Dave Kitson puts his body on the line to net the opening goal
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Pompey fell flat against Blackpool. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gaffer: Pompey were terrible, an absolute shambles

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Aaron Mokoena finds himself refused entry to England while he awaits his work permit.

When he finally does collect the crucial piece of paper, he will discover he is now barred from Steve Cotterill’s starting line-up.

Such is the price to be paid for the latest head-shaking moment to hit Fratton Park in the last week.

Granted, it may be mere coincidence that – in the absence of their skipper – Pompey saw their 11-game wait for a win comprehensively ended.

Admittedly, it may be nothing more than a quirk of fate that he should be missing when they picked up their first clean sheet since December 11.

Yet there can be no arguing the impact his replacement had during the 2-0 triumph over Doncaster Rovers.

Ricardo Rocha has long been the peoples’ champion when it has come to agonising over the defensive line-up.

Well, Mokoena’s work-permit woes went and threw the former Portuguese international the lifeline he and his disciples have long craved.

What’s more, on Saturday’s showing it appears Rocha will not be relinquishing his stranglehold for a good while yet.

Not that the 32-year-old was the star of the show for the Blues.

No. That honour was bestowed on Joel Ward, who roared back to form in impressive fashion and topped it all off with a classy goal.

Nonetheless, after six matches away from the starting line-up, Rocha was back where many people believe he belongs.

This time Greg Halford was his central defensive partner – the seventh combination Cotterill has named in his starting line-up this season.

And the newly-united duo laid the platform for not merely a morale-boosting victory but also an optimism-invigorating one.

Nobody needs reminding of the defensive frailties which have undermined Pompey’s season from the very first match at Coventry.

Going into Saturday’s fixture, just three shut-outs had been recorded in all competitions – all of which involved a certain Mr Rocha.

Subsequently, Doncaster would make it number four, with that lucky omen at the heart once again.

Pompey kept it tight at the back and the victory duly followed. No concidence there.

They deserved it, too. The Blues conjured up one of their most impressive all-round displays of Cotterill’s era so far.

Sean O’Driscoll described the encounter as being between two ‘disjointed’ sides.

Well that is clearly doing the Blues a disservice.

He may find it will be more than Cotterill having angry words with him if he maintains such a belief in the presence of Pompey fans.

The visitors bossed possession in addition to keeping Doncaster penned in their own half by an insatiable willingness to close down and harry.

Led by a rejuvenated Dave Kitson, it was a tempo Cotterill’s side managed to maintain as they comfortably saw out the match to a deserved conclusion.

To a man, the visitors put in excellent performances. It was a day when it all clicked together with devastating results.

In the meantime, Mokoena is stranded in South Africa.

Still, after Saturday’s scoreline he is sure to have been forgiven by Pompey staff, players and fans alike.

Especially if the team can play like that in his controversial absence and especially if it means Rocha remaining in the side.

And – troublesome hamstring permitting – expect Rocha to be there to stay in the defence while his skipper watches on with nose pressed against in the window.

Only the late dismissal of Jonathan Hogg soured an otherwise perfect day for the Blues.

The combative midfielder had already upset a touchy home crowd with several of his challenges in another full-blooded display.

Then, in the final minute, he jumped up in an attempt to block James O’Connor’s cross and was adjudged by referee Andy Haines to have handled.

It was a second yellow card and means an automatic one-match ban for the youngster with no prospect of an appeal.

Until that point, it had been another eye-catching display from the on-loan midfielder, who is rapidly proving to be something of a star.

Not that his Keepmoat Stadium fate should detract from an impressive performance from Cotterill’s men.

In a first-half they dominated, the deadlock was broken in the 42nd minute through Kitson.

Doncaster failed to clear Liam Lawrence’s corner and, inside a packed penalty area, Halford drove a shot against the right-hand post.

But Kitson was there to bravely head home the rebound, taking a thumping from Sam Hird’s right boot in the process.

It was only his second goal in 16 matches and came after a week of personal heartache with his son in hospital ill.

Yet the former Stoke man insisted on playing, even if he ended up with a fat lip and no memory of his goal.

Seven minutes after the break, the outstanding Ward doubled their advantage to seal victory.

Jamie Ashdown’s goal-kick was flicked on by David Nugent and there was Ward to produce a classy lob over keeper Greg Woods.

It was a finish worthy of any striker and the youngster continues to earn the plaudits in a sensational maiden first-team season.

Doncaster had no response as the Blues comfortably held out for victory, despite their numerical disadvantage late on.

With the defence marshalled so magnificently by Rocha and Halford, there was no capitulation as has so often been the case this season.

At right-back, Ritchie de Laet produced his best display since his debut at Nottingham Forest, while Hermann Hreidarsson was ever the competitor at left-back.

At the final whistle, Cotterill and O’Driscoll had a frank exchange of words, their second such meeting of the game.

It was a remarkable sight from the duo, who spent two years at Bournemouth together as players and have kept in touch since.

Still, Cotterill had the last laugh as Pompey picked up their first win and first clean sheet since victory at Norwich on December 11.

That was also a match which finished 2-0, saw Kitson net and Rocha star at the heart of defence.

Coincidence? Not a chance.