Gillingham 0 Pompey 1: Neil Allen’s match report

Matty Kennedy celebrates his match-winning goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matty Kennedy celebrates his match-winning goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
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There was little to inspire a television audience, with only wisps of quality to entertain those present at the Priestfield Stadium.

Nonetheless, Kenny Jackett collected successive victories as Pompey boss during his fledgling tenancy.

The fact he has achieved that with a side ever-diminishing in availability courtesy of injury, should draw praise, regardless of the stuttering 1-0 win over Gillingham.

It was Matty Kennedy who settled a largely drab occasion, lashing home 26 seconds into the second half after Curtis Main’s header had struck a post.

A decisive moment in an encounter lacking thrills, with neither keeper particularly worked during the meandering route to the final whistle.

Granted, Sean Clare had strong first-half appeals for a penalty under a challenge from Matt Clarke ignored. It looked harsh.

Still, the struggling hosts, with Peter Taylor in caretaker charge, looked barely capable of scoring, particularly after falling behind.

Meanwhile, Pompey failed to demonstrate enough nous to put to the sword a side greeted with ironic chants of ‘We are staying up’ from their home faithful.

As it was, Jackett’s men warranted a win which dovetailed the midweek Checkatrade Trophy triumph over Crawley Town.

Yet by the end of the game Dion Donohue and Ben Close had been substituted through injury concerns, the latter seemingly holding his right hamstring.

More problems in that department for Jackett, with injuries continuing to ravage his team selection.

Christian Burgess was once again ruled out with his calf problem, while Adam May picked up at knock against Crawley – joining Brett Pitman, Conor Chaplin, Jack Whatmough and Milan Lalkovic on the sidelines.

At least the Blues were boosted by the availability of Nathan Thompson following his head injury the previous weekend against Oldham Athletic.

He returned to right-back in place of Drew Talbot, with striker Oli Hawkins continuing to partner Clarke in the centre of defence.

Overall, there were two personnel changes to the team which performed so disappointingly against Oldham, with Curtis Main and Kyle Bennett handed recalls.

Main has handed his first Pompey league start since September 2016, replacing the injured Pitman, while Bennett operated in the hole behind.

Such is the length of the injury list, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain was named among the substitutes, having been called back from a loan spell at non-league Oxford City.

When the match got under way, there was an early scare for the Blues when Luke McGee came off his line for a high ball and ended up colliding with Donohue.

With a gaping goal, Thompson came across the clear, while his two team-mates were on the floor and the defence wide open.

The game’s first attempt on goal arrived on 17 minutes through Kennedy.

During an lacklustre opening from both teams, Pompey’s left winger found himself with the ball and cut inside to fire off a right-foot shot which was beaten out by Tomas Holy.

There was little difficulty for the keeper but it represented an attempt all the same in a match struggling for quality early on.

Then the visitors carved out two moments of danger in the Gills’ penalty area – the first when Kennedy’s cross from the left caused problems and Jamal Lowe’s shot was blocked and scrambled clear.

In the same move, the ball fell to Close on the edge of the box and his low right-foot attempt had Holy scrambling across his goal to take low down.

Jackett’s men were beginning to get on top and Bennett tricked his way down the left before driving a fierce right-footed ball across goal but nobody could apply the final touch.

On 25 minutes, Clarke fouled Lee Martin approaching the edge of the penalty area.

However, Billy Bingham’s resulting free-kick flew narrowly over the bar.

The Blues won the game’s first corner on the half-hour mark and Donohue’s delivery from the right was clawed over well by Holy as it went over his head towards the far post.

There was real let-off for the visitors on 34 minutes when it appeared Clare should have been awarded a penalty following a Hawkins challenge.

Bennett had been squeezed out of possession down the right and Clare surged into the box only to seemingly be tripped by the sliding Pompey player, who failed to make contact with the ball.

However, referee Chris Sarginson saw nothing untoward and no foul was awarded – much to the home fans’ disgust.

Gillingham were forced into a change on the stroke of half-time with Ben Nugent limping after losing out in a tackle with Main. He was replaced by Jack Tucker.

The deadlock, though, was broken in the opening 26 seconds of the second half.

The overlapping Thompson delivered a tremendous first-time cross from the right and Main’s thumping header crashed against the left-hand post with the keeper beaten.

And there was Kennedy following up to lash a right-foot shot into the empty net for his second Pompey goal.

In the 54th minute, the goalscorer combined well with Stuart O’Keefe during a lovely flowing move down the left – with the resulting shot deflected for a corner.

However, the Gills thought they had levelled in the 66th minute, only for celebrations to be cut short for an offside flag.

Finn O’Mara whipped in a dangerous cross from the left which was headed home by Josh Parker at the far post – but the flag intervened.

Donohue had already been limping and straight afterwards he was replaced at left-back by Brandon Haunstrup.

There was the occasional Pompey threat to extend their lead but it never arrived, despite four minutes of time added on which were a little nervy.

Gillingham were booed at the end, while this inconsistent Pompey side at present managed successive victories during their ongoing development.