Pompey 1 Swindon 2

Matt Ritchie scored on his long-awaited return to Fratton Park    Picture: Steve Reid
Matt Ritchie scored on his long-awaited return to Fratton Park Picture: Steve Reid
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It was as predictable as they come in football.

As foreseeable as Nigel Quashie crashing the ball over the bar, as probable as Harry Redknapp taking over Bournemouth as manager for a second time.

As obvious as Sulaiman Al Fahim failing to meet his self-imposed deadline to satisfy PKF with a proof of funds.

Although, admittedly, the former Blues owner did spring a surprise by declaring on Twitter he was instead on safari in Tanzania.

It was fated that Matt Ritchie would make an impact on his long-anticipated return to Fratton Park.

Not that the Gosport lad ever wanted to leave in the first place, of course.

Steve Cotterill dropped the bombshell back in January 2011 and, after 10 matches for his boyhood heroes, Ritchie was off to Swindon on a permanent deal.

That exit has long been a source of regret for many Pompey fans, who to this day still mourn the loss of one of their own.

Sure enough, Ritchie popped up on an emotional Fratton reunion to register a goal and inspire his Robins team-mates to last night’s 2-1 victory.

Respectfully, the 23-year-old elected not to celebrate upon his 45th-minute opener, even trying to calm down his jubilant colleagues.

A gesture no doubt appreciated by the Fratton faithful on another miserable night in League One, marking Pompey’s third successive league defeat on home soil.

Ritchie’s strike was certainly no more than Swindon deserved following a breathtaking first half in which they could have chalked up many.

Instead, they went in at the break just one goal to the good.

By the time Andy Williams’ classy finish was produced in the 55th minute, it appeared the match was effectively settled in favour of Paolo Di Canio’s men.

That was until the final seven minutes for the Blues to recover in a barnstorming finish, with Lubomir Michalik hitting the bar and Izale McLeod the post.

Wes Foderingham saved brilliantly from substitute Ashley Harris, while Brian Howard and substitute Luke Rodgers wasted glorious chances.

Michalik did finally net during four minutes of stoppage time from Harris’ corner, but the equaliser would elude the hosts.

It meant another disappointing defeat on home turf ahead of a tough match at Notts County this weekend.

Appleton had, though, made four changes to the side which suffered defeat to Walsall at the weekend.

At the heart of his reshuffle was the centre of defence, with Michalik and Gabor Gyepes named in the starting line-up.

It was a Blues debut for Michalik, having arrived at Fratton Park on a one-month deal less than a week ago.

He replaced the injured Kevin Long, while Gyepes recovered from his ankle problem quicker than expected to return to the side.

There was also an instant recall for Jordan Obita, who was red carded in his last Fratton appearance during the visit of Oldham.

The on-loan Reading teenager was asked to be part of an attacking midfield three behind lone striker McLeod, with Rodgers dropping down to the bench.

The other change involved a return to the starting line-up for Jack Compton, reclaiming his left-midfield spot off Harris, who dropped to the bench.

Yet it was Swindon who raced out of the blocks when the match got under way.

In the third minute, Gary Roberts swung in a cross from the left which was met by the head of Williams, who put the ball over the bar.

Moments later, Ritchie had Mikkel Andersen in all sorts of trouble when he drove in a shot from outside the box which the keeper couldn’t hold, Compton sliding the ball out for a corner.

Still the visitors poured forward and Jay McEveley thundered in a long-ranger which prompted a save from the busy Pompey keeper.

Swindon thought they had finally taken the lead in the ninth minute when Roberts sent in a brilliant cross from the left which was nodded home by Williams.

However, the striker was adjudged to have been offside and the goal was swiftly ruled out.

The Robins continued to dominate and in the 12th minute, a slip from Gyepes inside the box gifted the way to goal for James Collins, but Andersen was equal to his shot and pulled off a save.

Pompey began to claw their way back into the match and a delightful piece of skill and pass from Lee Williamson released McLeod who lifted a half-volley just over the bar.

In the 21st minute, more good work from McLeod drew a save from Foderingham, yet Williamson took too long over his follow-up and McEveley threw himself in the way to block his shot.

It was proving entertaining stuff and Andersen had to come to the rescue again in the 26th minute when Williams left Gyepes for dead with a piece of skill and shot from an acute angle.

Seconds later, the on-loan keeper conjured up a stunning flying save to deny Collins’ header and Mustapha Dumbuya hacked the ball off the line.

It was desperate stuff from the hosts and another frantic moment in the penalty area saw Gyepes somehow head off the line during an almighty scramble.

But on the stroke of half-time the deadlock was broken, inevitably by Ritchie.

The midfielder was given far too much room and space on the left-hand side of the penalty area and drove in a low shot which beat Andersen at his near post.

Swindon increased their lead 10 minutes in to the second half with a superbly-taken goal from Williams.

The striker cut his way down the left, dragged the ball back and slipped a shot into the far corner of the net to give the keeper no chance.

Pompey subsequently went into their shell but, on 83 minutes, a magnificent run from the halfway line from McLeod teed up Howard, only for the skipper’s shot to be saved.

From the resulting corner, Michalik hit the crossbar and moments later, as Pompey poured forward, McLeod hit the far post.

With four minutes of time added on, Michalik did net with a free header from a corner.

It capped an exceptional end to the match for the hosts, yet Appleton’s men couldn’t reduce the deficit further and another defeat was ensured.