Late heartache for Pompey at Rovers

The Pompey players look dejected after Stuart Sinclair's goal at the Memorial Ground
The Pompey players look dejected after Stuart Sinclair's goal at the Memorial Ground
Conor Chaplin celebrates his winning goal. Picture: Joe Pepler

Chaplin’s emotional release after last-gasp Pompey winner

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A much-depleted Pompey threw away a one-goal lead in the last 10 minutes to start the new year with a 2-1 defeat at Bristol Rovers.

Oli Hawkins’ header gave the Blues the lead, before late strikes from Stuart Sinclair and Liam Sercombe ensured the visitors left the Memorial Stadium empty-handed.

Kenny Jackett was forced to include academy talents Dan Smith and Matt Casey in his match-day squad, as well as recall Theo Widdrington from the Hawks due to Pompey’s lengthy injury list.

The hosts were out of the traps quickly and Luke McGee was forced into action on two minutes when he thwarted Billy Bodin’s 25-yard shot.

The Blues' best chance of the first period came in the 27th minute. Brett Pitman cracked a 20-yard angled left-footed effort that forced a decent save from Gas keeper Adam Smith and Jamal Lowe was unable to pick out a team-mate from the follow-up.

McGee was again called into action shortly after the restart on 51 minutes when he saved Bodin’s powerful effort with his legs.

Nathan Thompson could only partially clear before Rovers fired the ball back into the box and Tom Nichols shot wide.

But the Blues took the lead in the 64th minute through Hawkins’ seventh goal of the season.

Adam May’s perfectly-weighted cross found the striker at the back post and he steered his effort into the far corner.

Pompey continued to pressure Rovers’ goal as Ben Close had a goal-bound thunderbolt blocked on 72 minutes and then Matty Kennedy’s angled right-footed effort just flashed beyond the far post.

Yet the Gas got themselves back on level terms six minutes from time.

McGee could only parry Bodin’s shot as far as Sinclair, who calmly finished from close range to equalise.

And Darrell Clarke’s troops ensured Pompey returned to Fratton Park with nothing at the death.

Substitute Liam Sercombe’s stinging effort from 35 yards went through bodies to beat McGee low at his right-hand post.

Nevertheless, Jackett's outfit remain in the play-off places due to Peterborough's draw at Doncaster.