Hartlepool 0 Pompey 2

Gary Roberts celebrates his goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Gary Roberts celebrates his goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Clarke has found himself back in familiar surroundings in the centre of defence in recent weeks  Picture: Joe Pepler

Back home – but Pompey defender would switch back

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Pompey moved another step closer to League One with impressive victory at Hartlepool.

A goal in each half from Kal Naismith and Gary Roberts did the damage at Victoria Park and got the 977 travelling fans partying.

Naismith’s unstoppable 11th goal of the campaign caught the eye before he turned provider for the returning Roberts’ ninth finish of the campaign.

Paul Cook’s side had to stand firm against first-half pressure from Pools but the second goal 15 minutes after the restart knocked the life out of the home side.

And that meant an impressive Blues defence picked up their 19th clean sheet of the campaign.

The only black mark on the day was seeing Noel Hunt stretchered off before the interval with a shoulder injury.

Dave Jones inevitably was given some light-hearted stick from Pompey fans for his Southampton connections within 30 seconds of kick-off.

And Lewis Alessandra was an early booking after an ugly challenge on skipper Michael Doyle.

But Pools were looking bright going forward with Nathan Thomas, in particular, at the heart of their work on the front foot.

Kyle Bennett saw his shot blocked in the 13th minute with Stevens’ cross flashing past Naismith seconds later.

That link-up reaped dividends in the 17th minute, though, as the Blues made the breakthrough with Naismith ripping home an unstoppable first-time finish from the Irishman’s centre.

Despite the setback, the home side were still giving Pompey plenty to think about with the Victoria Park crowd making themselves heard.

Hunt then fired at Joe Fryer when well placed on the edge of the box as the visitors played on the counter-attack.

Pompey were certainly being given a lot to deal with as Jones’ side produced wave after wave of attack but their defence was standing firm.

Just before the break there was a blow, however, when Hunt was flattened after an aerial challenge. The striker was stretchered off to be replaced by Roberts.

Pompey had a let off six minutes after the restart when the dangerous Thomas cracked a 20-yarder off the post.

Roberts then somehow headed high and wide with the goal gaping three minutes later from a peach of a ball in from Stevens.

Evans’ penalty appeals were ignored as he went to ground under the attentions of Nicky Deverdics after a charge forward.

But daylight was put between the teams after 60 minutes when Naismith’s shot was blocked and the Scot slid the loose ball to Roberts, who applied the finish a few yards out.

Cook’s side were now cruising and could have had a third when Naismith cracked a right-footed shot off the post from just outside the box.

They comfortably saw out the win, however, to maintain the six-point gap over fourth-placed Stevenage and move to within four points of Plymouth in second.