Portsmouth 3 Rotherham 0: Neil Allen's verdict - Magnificent Leicester City man adds his name to the loan irreplaceables with stunning striker masterclass for brilliant Blues

Ahead of Rotherham’s visit, Danny Cowley had spoken of the ‘impossible’ challenge to replace impressive loanees Gavin Bazunu and Hayden Carter.

Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 10:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th April 2022, 11:03 pm
Clark Robertson is congratulated by Michael Jacobs after heading home his free-kick in the first half against Rotherham. Picture: Robin Jones - Digital South

Tonight George Hirst demonstrated why he should also be added to that list.

The Leicester City man endured a forgettable season-long loan with the Millers last term, with no goals and four starts.

During his reunion this evening, the Fratton faithful were chanting ‘Sign him up’ in recognition of a striking masterclass from the youngster.

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While it was a terrific team display to triumph 3-0 over the promotion-chasing visitors, it was Hirst who was comfortably the star performer.

There was the run, turn of pace and power which brilliantly created the second goal for Marcus Harness following Gavin Bazunu’s throw out.

There was the swivel and first-time right-footed finish for the third goal in front of the Fratton End on 65 minutes to put the game out of Rotherham’s reach.

Yet it was his overall display which excelled, giving the visiting defence a torrid time right until stoppage time, when he cut in from the right and threatened to grab another.

For a player who couldn’t score in 32 outings in a Millers shirt, Hirst now has 11 for the season, establishing himself as second-top scorer.

Fitting also that another Rotherham old-boy from last term, skipper Clark Robertson, would open the scoring in the 35th minute by heading home Michael Jacobs’ free-kick.

Suddenly the Cheltenham debacle, for which Hirst had been replaced by Tyler Walker, was eclipsed at Fratton Park by a superb team showing.

Precious late season cheer for the Fratton faithful in a season in danger of petering out without a realistic play-off push.

The Blues head coach made five changes in the aftermath of Saturday’s dismal 1-0 loss which saw the visiting fans turn on the side.

There were recalls for Louis Thompson, George Hirst, Clark Robertson, Joe Morrell and Michael Jacobs in tonight’s encounter with Rotherham.

That meant dropping to the bench were Mahlon Romeo, Shaun Williams, Tyler Walker, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Aiden O’Brien.

They joined Ollie Webber and Jay Mingi among the substitutes against the third-placed Millers.

Rotherham included former Pompey players Michael Smith and Joe Mattock, while Blues target Jamie Lindsay was also named in their starting XI.

Meanwhile, there was a lovely moment for Harry Jewitt-White who, before kick-off, signed first-year professional forms on the pitch in front of the Fratton support.

The midfielder from Hayling Island has made five first-team appearances over the last two seasons and graduates from the Academy.

In the opening two minutes of the match, Michael Smith received a talking to from the referee after taking out Sean Raggett when the defender had cleared the ball.

As ever, the Blues man clambered to his feet with the minimum of fuss, setting up an intriguing battle between the pair over the course of the evening.

Clark Robertson received the game’s first booking on five minutes after taking down Joshua Kayode following a misjudgment from Raggett.

Raggett dithered over a clearance, before leaving it to the Scot, who was forced to take action and concede a free-kick as Kayode pounced – and was clearly not happy.

Lindsay followed him for an ugly lunge on Jacobs on eight minutes which had some home fans calling for a red card.

Pompey had their best moment of the match so far on 20 minutes, when a moment of class from Jacobs created space for him down the left, before feeding the overlapping Curtis.

The Irishman’s cross was latched onto by Harness, yet his first-time left-footed shot was blocked from close range by Viktor Johansson.

Nonetheless, it was an encouraging break from the hosts with, as ever, Jacobs at the very heart of it.

Neither keeper was being tested and Carter earned a round of applause for an ambitious effort from outside the box which flew over.

The deadlock was broken on 35 minutes, through Robertson’s first goal for the Blues.

Jacobs delivered a free-kick from the left which perfectly picked out the skipper, whose header found the far bottom corner of the net to make it 1-0.

There were nervous glances towards the linesman, but the goal stood and Pompey found themselves in front.

At the other end, a tremendous run down the left by Jordi Osei-Tutu saw him scamper past Joe Morrell before his cross was knocked wide by Kayode.

During three minutes of time added on, Jacobs was booked following a change on Michael Ihiekwe, albeit his yellow card for a number of fouls.

Rotherham made one change at the interval, with Ben Wiles replaced by Ollie Rathbone.

A promising Pompey moment on 50 minutes saw Hirst lay the ball into the path of Jacobs as he broke through the middle for a clear path on goal, only for the linesman’s flag to be raised.

Then a lovely move, with Jacobs again involved, saw Hirst sky the ball high over the bar and into the Fratton End from just inside the box.

Rotherham were still trailing and, on 57 minutes, Kayode came off for Freddie Ladapo as they freshened up their attacking options.

Pompey doubled their lead on 59 minutes through a superbly-worked goal.

It came from Bazunu’s throw out down the middle to Hirst, who showed a remarkable turn of pace to ride one tackle, sprint past Chiedozie Ogbene and then drive in a cross from the right.

It was perfectly placed, with the unmarked Harness there in the middle to claim the simplest of finishes on the run.

In the 64th minute, Jacobs’ corner from the left found its way to Carter outside the box and his right-footed half-volley was brilliantly tipped over by the keeper.

Within a minute it was 3-0, with that man Hirst this time getting on the scoresheet.

Morrell flighted in a cross from the left, with keeper Johansson coming for it, only to be beaten in the air by Raggett.

The defender’s header fell to Hirst, who connected with a sweet right-footed shot to send it into the empty Rotherham net.

The impressive Jacobs made way for O’Brien on 69 minutes, rightly earning great recognition from appreciative home fans.

He was soon followed by the scorer of the second goal, Harness, replaced by Romeo on 75 minutes, then Williams was introduced for Thompson.

In the 87th minute, Bazunu had to stretch himself to reach Barlaser’s free-kick from the left, which went out for a corner.

There were to be no late dramas, however, as the Hirst-inspired Blues pulled off an eye-catching victory to lift the late-season gloom.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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