Pompey 6 York 0: Neil Allen’s match report

Marc McNulty scores his first goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Marc McNulty scores his first goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Fratton Park had demanded goals – and finally Paul Cook’s side delivered.

Pompey fans had witnessed successive goalless draws on home turf, the most recent against AFC Wimbledon attracting boos at the final whistle.

No such concerns last night against York City, however, as the Blues found their scoring boots in devastating fashion.

Granted, it took Jonathan Greening’s mindless elbow on Michael Doyle on the stroke of half-time to open the floodgates.

Up until that point, Cook’s men had displayed plenty of entertaining, enterprising, attacking football against a side who entered the fixture having lost six in a row.

Yet for all their excellent approach play, the vital first goal had failed to arrive in front of a crowd of 13,616 fans.

It finally came in the second half when the 10-men of York were prised apart in ruthless fashion by the hosts who racked up six goals without reply.

Marc McNulty was the star man, registering the first home Pompey hat-trick since Danny Hollands against Plymouth Argyle in the final game of the 2012-13 campaign.

The striker, on loan from Sheffield United, had been thrust into the starting line-up in place of Adam McGurk after he was given the all-clear following a head injury at Carlisle.

There were also maiden Blues goals for Ben Davies and substitute Ben Tollitt, while Conor Chaplin – another substitute – also got his name on the scoresheet.

As for Kyle Bennett, a player who has endured an adverse reaction from some Pompey fans, he was given a standing ovation when he left the pitch on 73 minutes following a superb showing.

Doubters may point out that Cook’s men failed to score when York had their full quota of players on the pitch.

Regardless, as in the visit of Barnet in September, they exploited their numerical advantage magnificently – and didn’t the Fratton faithful bask in it.

Cook made one change to the side which were denied victory so cruelly at Carlisle on Saturday – with McNulty coming in for McGurk.

The loanee had come off against the Cumbrians having received a knock to the head minutes after scoring his maiden Blues goal.

Yet with no concussion he was able to be named in Cook’s starting line-up, operating as the lone striker with Lavery dropping in behind him.

Meanwhile, there was a recall for Adam Barton to the bench, in place of Nigel Atangana, who dropped out of the squad.

Jayden Stockley and Jack Whatmough were again not ready to feature as they continue their return from injury, while Gary Roberts and Paul Jones are still sidelined.

Meanwhile, opponents York couldn’t fill a bench – naming only six substitutes.

There were also two changes in Jackie McNamara’s side following Saturday’s loss at Leyton Orient – their sixth successive defeat.

Anthony Straker and Emile Sinclair came into the team, with Ben Godfrey and hip-injury victim Michael Coulson missing out.

When the match kicked off Pompey had their first sight of goal on five minutes when Bennett spotted the crossfield run of Gareth Evans to slip him in.

The midfielder fizzed in a cross from the left-hand byline but Lavery couldn’t make contact.

There were appeals for a York penalty moments later when a cross from the left struck the arm of Davies but referee Iain Williamson gave a corner.

Next, Vadaine Oliver produced an acrobatic volley from Greening’s free-kick but Brian Murphy held it.

On 11 minutes, Davies fired a free-kick into the box from deep and Christian Burgess let fly with a diving header only for George Swan to come up with a timely block to concede a corner.

Then Lavery broke into the left-hand side of the penalty area only to fire into the side-netting from inside the six-yard box.

Another Davies free-kick was met with a glancing header from McNulty which flew agonisingly wide of the far post as the hosts continued to threaten.

On 17 minutes, Davies’ corner was fumbled by keeper Scott Flinders and found its way to Michael Doyle outside the box, who fired a left-foot shot over.

The Blues had strong appeals for a penalty waved away when McNulty went down under a challenge from behind by Eddie Nolan, following Bennett’s pass.

Cook was furious with the decision, likewise many of the Fratton faithful. Still the pressure continued, Lavery finding Evans with more luck than judgement, only for the midfielder’s left-foot shot to be saved by Flinders.

The hosts were playing some fluent football and on 29 minutes Lavery flicked on Murphy’s kick to McNulty, who fed the ball back to the striker but his angled shot flew past the far post.

As the pressure was piled on, McNulty fizzed a shot over the bar, while a fierce Bennett shot agonisingly missed the far post.

In the 41st minute, Webster clipped a delightful ball through which was met with a left-foot shot from McNulty and saved at his near post by Flinders.

The Minstermen were reduced to 10 men on the stroke of half-time when Greening sent an elbow into the face of Doyle as the latter leapt for a header.

Just 35 seconds after the interval it took a magnificent point-blank save from Flinders to deny Lavery’s goal-bound header. The deadlock was broken, however, on 49 minutes when another Davies cross somehow evaded everyone and found the net at the far post.

Pompey doubled their advantage three minutes later, when Evans’ cross from the right was missed by Bennett and then knocked back by Doyle.

McNulty stuck out a foot from six-yards out to divert it past Flinders.

The on-loan striker had not finished scoring and on the hour mark stretched the lead further when he crashed home Bennett’s pull-back from the right.

Cook’s men were rampant and when Bennett put Evans through his first shot was saved by Flinders, before his follow-up, directed towards an empty net, was blocked for a corner by Femi Ilesanmi.

McNulty completed his hat-trick on 71 minutes when he nudged Doyle’s magnificent slide-rule pass beyond Flinders.

Substitute Tollitt was the next on the scoresheet, firing a first-time shot home for his first Pompey goal after a fine cross from Enda Stevens down the left.

On 84 minutes, it was six as Flinders parried Evans’ drive and substitute Chaplin was there to prod home.

And there were cheers around Fratton Park as Cook’s outstanding side demonstrated they do indeed know where the goal is.