Portsmouth 3 Lincoln 2: Neil Allen's verdict - Ronan Curtis delivers timely reminder in his forgettable season to cap thrilling Blues second half

Ronan Curtis is enduring comfortably the worst of his four Fratton Park seasons, the unfortunate casualty of system changes and positional switches.

Friday, 15th April 2022, 5:16 pm
Updated Friday, 15th April 2022, 5:44 pm

Yet the Irishman today delivered a timely reminder of his goal-scoring talents to settle a lively second half against Lincoln.

Curtis had been benched for the occasion, Danny Cowley’s only change to the side which performed so admirably in the 3-0 success over Rotherham in the week.

Another blow in a desperately disappointing campaign for the hard-working winger, who has been challenged to adapt to changing formations with characteristic enthusiasm.

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Gavin Bazunu pushes away John Marquis' first-half attempt at Fratton Park. Picture: Barry Zee

Still, he was introduced in the 76th minute for Aiden O’Brien at a time when the Blues were leading the Imps 2-1.

Within two minutes, Michael Appleton’s men had completed a two-goal comeback to level through substitute Ben House’s first touch.

To their credit, Cowley’s men did not allow themselves to fall to shell shock, instead raising up once more.

And, eight minutes from time, keeper Jordan Wright failed to hold Sean Raggett’s low left-footed strike, which bounced on its journey.

And there was Curtis, pouncing from close range, to tap home his eighth of the season.

Perhaps it papers over the cracks, with Pompey having surrendered a 2-0 advantage following George Hirst’s second-half penalty and then Michael Jacobs’ sublime free-kick.

They had been cruising too, only for Ted Bishop and then ex-Eastleigh striker House to haul themselves level.

Thankfully Curtis provided some late-season joy – both for himself and Pompey – with his 48th career goal for the Blues and victory.

The Irishman had dropped to the bench for what was an unchanged 18-man squad for the visit of ex-Pompey boss Appleton.

That meant Louis Thompson (hand), Michael Jacobs (hamstring) and Marcus Harness (knee) recovered from injury scares to retain their places.

The trio had all been fitness doubts after collecting knocks in that 3-0 success over the Millers.

Ex-Pompey striker John Marquis started for Lincoln, although there was no place in their squad for one-time loanee Chris Maguire.

The Imps also named just five substitutes as injuries bite deep into their Sincil Bank squad.

It took just 27 seconds for the visitors to create the game’s first chance, when Liam Cullen pulled back a cross from the right.

That was latched onto by Lewis Fiorini, yet his first-time left-footed shot ballooned harmlessly over the bar.

Marquis then took his first touch upon his Fratton Park return, a moment which was met with boos from some of the home fans.

On six minutes, an excellent slide challenge from Joe Morrell saw the ball fall to Marquis on the angle, yet his first-time right-footed attempt was straight at Gavin Bazunu.

At the other end, Harness flicked Sean Raggett’s ball down the line into the path of Hayden Carter and his dangerous left-footed cross was headed out for the match’s first corner by Adam Jackson.

The Blues were forced into a substitution on 11 minutes when Morrell, who had gone down twice with a leg problem, was replaced by Ryan Tunnicliffe.

On 15 minutes, Raggett bravely won a tackle, with the ball falling kindly to Michael Jacobs inside the box.

He in turn fed O’Brien to his right, whose shot from the angle flashed agonisingly past the far post and failed to even go out of play.

On 32 minutes, Regan Poole’s shot from outside the box took a deflection off Tunnicliffe and flew harmlessly through to Bazunu, yet it was on target nonetheless.

Louis Thompson became the first player to earn a yellow card following a foul on Ted Bishop, his latest indiscretion.

Pompey’s play had hit a lull, with the visitors looking more threatening, and, approaching half-time, Clark Robertson did well to come across and block a Marquis shot.

Indeed, Lincoln were finishing the half on top, with Anthony Scully curling a right-footed shot just over the bar.

During two minutes of time added on, Fiorini tried to lob Bazunu from 30 yards, with the keeper ending up in the netting as it just drifted over.

The second half began with Connor Ogilvie’s cross from the left headed over by Hirst, when he should have done far better.

In the 48th minute, Cullen’s clumsy challenge on Jacobs earned the Blues a penalty in front of the Fratton End.

Hirst stepped up for spot-kick duties and struck it right footed under the body of the diving Jordan Wright to make it 1-0.

Moments later, Thompson’s block ricocheted to O’Brien, putting him clean through, only to smash his shot straight against the keeper and waste the opportunity.

Lincoln countered with Cullen’s shot from inside the box brilliantly palmed away by Bazunu to cap an eventful minute.

On 65 minutes, Harness did well down the right, beating his man before driving in a cross which was diverted over the bar at the near post by O’Brien.

Jacobs was fouled by Adam Jackson on 68 minutes, earning the Lincoln man a deserved booking for his challenge.

From the resulting free-kick, the attacker curled a sublime right-footed free-kick into the far corner of the net to make it 2-0.

Within two minutes Bishop had reduced the deficit, unmarked inside the box to take three touches before striking a shot with the outside of his right foot to make it 2-1.

It was awful defending from the Blues, caught napping having established a two-goal advantage over the visitors.

Thompson, who had received treatment several times, finally left the pitch in the 71st minute, replaced by Shaun Williams.

Hirst came close to restoring their two-goal advantage when Ogilvie crossed from the left and the goal scorer sent a first-time left-footed shot just past the post.

In the 77th minute, House was introduced for Marquis, with jeers and boos soon turning to applause as the former Pompey man came off.

Within a minute, the striker had turned home Jamie Robson’s left-wing cross at the far post, having got ahead of Ogilvie.

Having possessed a 2-0 lead, the match was now back level pegging, with Lincoln now in the ascendancy.

On 82 minutes, Pompey regained their lead following a mistake from the Lincoln keeper.

Raggett pushed forward and let fly with a left-footed shot which bounced before Wright, only for him to push it out and Curtis capitalised from close range to make it 3-2.

Yet the Imps almost levelled once again, with Cullen hitting the bar and Conor McGrandles striking the rebound over the bar.

During eight minutes of time added-on, Hirst wasted a chance to seal the victory, not that it mattered as Cowley’s men made it successive Fratton Park triumphs.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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