Maidenhead United 0 Portsmouth 4 – Neil Allen’s match report

Substitute David Wheeler heads home Pompey's fourth against Maidenhead. Picture: Joe Pepler
Substitute David Wheeler heads home Pompey's fourth against Maidenhead. Picture: Joe Pepler
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During a half-time onslaught inflicted by the heavens, bolts flashed beyond Maidenhead’s main stand.

Thankfully for Paul Robinson, though, lightning didn’t strike twice.

Excused from Hawks duty courtesy of a blank weekend, Pompey’s coach was permitted to occupy the visiting dugout at York Road on Saturday.

It was four years to the month when the central defender suffered the ignominy of FA Cup elimination at the hands of Aldershot as Blues skipper.

That 1-0 Recreation Ground scoreline, witnessed by the BT Sport cameras, remains the only time in Pompey history they have slumped to a competitive defeat against non-league opposition.

Another slur scrawled across the Blues’ proud name during  the bleakest of times.

For Robinson, the scars of that wretched November 2014 outcome are permanent. Career-long reminders of hazards ingrained within the FA Cup’s fabric.

Certainly he can be excused for possessing a degree of trepidation upon arriving at Maidenhead, irrespective of the hosts’ abject recent form.

As it panned out, nobody of Pompey persuasion had anything to fear. Such is the calibre of player operating under Kenny Jackett currently, there would be no repeat.

The moment Ben Thompson achieved the breakthrough on 43 minutes, the match was effectively settled in their favour. No upset, no cup shock, no memorable scalp for the National League Magpies.

Certainly reward for Jackett, who had the presence of mind to retain his big-hitters and trusted performers rather than opt for rotation among a sizeable squad admittedly in need of match minutes.

Pompey’s boss fielded his strongest – and most reliable – side at present.  No risks were to be taken for an early-afternoon fixture which kicked-off amid sporadic rain and leaves clinging onto the pitch.

Dauntingly for the non-leaguers, the Blues entered the occasion boasting their longest unbeaten away run during a Football League season.

And Jackett’s selection was designed to leave nothing to chance, maintaining a formula continuing to prove successful – and Maidenhead’s fate was set once conceding the opening goal.

This current Pompey side excels at maintaining hard-earned leads. Defensively resolute, admirably resilient, and on Saturday had Nathan Thompson back from suspension to enhance the team’s street-wise nature.

As the visitors cantered towards their 4-0 scoreline, chants of ‘ole’ emanated from the 710 travelling faithful, while home fans sung humorously about their fleeting moments of touching the ball.

Pompey’s performance was controlled, patient and highly professional, dispelling any notion among the television audience that the underdog may claim another triumph to treasure.

Granted, there was one glimmer for Maidenhead, a heart-fluttering juncture to invoke a pang of anxiety while the encounter was still goalless.

Perhaps a sliding doors moment to be forever referred to by Magpies followers among the 3,205 crowd present. In truth, we shall never know.

Yet on 24 minutes, the ball was hooked into the box from the left and the powerfully-built Ayo Obileye brought it under his control with skill, in the process generating goal-scoring menace.

Suddenly the hosts were presented with an opportunity – and the defensive midfielder subsequently crashed an angled right-footed shot against the outside of the left-hand post.

Ultimately, it represented the closest Maidenhead came to testing Craig MacGillivray, who was faced with no shots on target and challenged to deal with just one corner during the match’s duration.

By that stage, Pompey had themselves also struck the woodwork, although Tom Naylor’s chance in front of the Bell End was far more gilt-edged.

Skipper Gareth Evans’ fiercely-struck half-volley deflected into the path of the holding midfielder, who firstly had to deal with a ricochet before stabbing a right-footed shot against the bar from four yards.

Evans, on the occasion of his 150th Blues outing, would later mark the personal landmark with his 16th assist during that period as he maintains his integral presence within Jackett’s team.

In the last 12 years, no player has appeared more for the club. Now he joins Linvoy Primus, Gary O’Neil, Kanu, Matt Taylor, David James and Richard Hughes in breaking the 150-game barrier in non-too-distant times.

Still, it was Ronan Curtis who carved out the breakthrough two minutes before the break during a man-of-the-match display.

The summer arrival was instructed to link-up with the Republic of Ireland’s senior squad following the fixture, but before then turned in an energetic and waspish display at an increasingly wet York Road.

The Irishman drove down down the left towards the byline before clipping in a cross met with a clean left-footed volley delivered by Ben Thompson to break the deadlock.

It was the Millwall man’s maiden Pompey goal during a loan spell proving to be of the highest quality.

With any building tension released, the visitors headed into the interval clutching a lead they refused to relinquish – and eyes fixed on adding to the tally.

Sure enough, on 55 minutes, Evans hooked in a first-time cross from the byline down the right and the delivery was met with a looping header from Oli Hawkins.

It was a fifth goal in six games for the striker who continues to brush away those who still criticise his contributions and question an ongoing inclusion ahead of Brett Pitman.

In the 60th minute it was 3-0 after Ben Thompson’s free-kick was headed back across goal at the back post by Jack Whatmough.

Hawkins couldn’t collect the ball, yet Jamal Lowe reacted to swivel and steer a low shot into the bottom corner for his seventh of the campaign.

There was still opportunity for a fourth and, in the 83rd minute, Lee Brown’s free-kick was parried by Carl Pentney, with David Wheeler reacting quickest to produce a diving header.

The QPR winger, who had previously played at Maidenhead with Staines and Lewes, now clutched his second Pompey goal during a fitful loan spell.

So Pompey are through to round two of the FA Cup, potential pitfall safely negotiated and 11 away matches undefeated this season.

For the Fratton faithful – and Robinson – no non-league humiliation.

We’ve seen such horrors occur before, but not on Saturday and not involving this talented League One-topping team.