Pompey kick off 2017 with victory against Luton

Christian Burgess scores with a header in the first half Picture: Joe Pepler
Christian Burgess scores with a header in the first half Picture: Joe Pepler
Mark Catlin. Picture: Joe Pepler

Foreign opposition pencilled in for Pompey friendly

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Pompey got 2017 off to the best possible start with an impressive 1-0 victory over promotion rivals Luton Town at Fratton Park.

The Blues were fully deserving of their three-point haul which sees them close the gap on the top three to four points.

Christian Burgess’ first-half header proved the difference, with the hosts even affording to miss a last-minute Gary Roberts penalty on a day to savour for 17,402 who packed the park.

There was some confusion early on when Luton goalkeeper Christian Walton appeared to handle outside his area, only for Pompey to be awarded an indirect free-kick inside the box, which saw Michael Doyle’s fierce effort well blocked.

Doyle’s next involvement in the game saw a long delay to proceedings as his full-blooded but fair tackle on Cameron McGeehan resulted in the Hatters youngster leaving the field on a stretcher.

Pompey settled back into their stride quickest and after Kyle Bennett and Carl Baker both shot off target, they made the breakthrough.

Burgess rose highest to power home a header from close range following a superb Baker delivery from a free-kick wide on the left.

Seven minutes of injury-time were signalled at the end of the half as Burgess came close to doubling Pompey’s lead, heading wide from Kal Naismith’s corner to bring an end to a dominant first period for the Blues.

The hosts began the second half as they ended the first, with Gareth Evans close to doubling their advantage – heading Baker’s delivery at Walton from close range.

But Luton showed why they are in the promotion hunt themselves and sprung into life, with Danny Hylton capitalising on a rare Burgess mistake to see his chipped effort rebound back off the crossbar.

The second half then became a more open affair with chances for either side as tension crept into the game.

Baker, Naismith and Michael Smith all wasted half-chances for the hosts, before Jonathan Smith spurned a glorious chance to level for the Hatters as Hylton’s cutback was somehow miscued wide of the target.

The visitors used all three of their subs before the hour mark and were left to rue that when Hylton was injured and forced to hobble on for the remainder of the game.

A sub of Pompey’s own had the chance to win it after another won a penalty for the Blues in added time.

Noel Hunt was brought down in the box but Roberts - back from a two-game rest - could only fire waywardly over the bar.

Thankfully, there was no way back for the visitors as Pompey saw out the remainder of added time to claim a crucial three-point haul.