Pompey returned home to Fratton Park for the first time in 28 days this afternoon, following two league away games and also a Wembley final.
The sun came out, the Checkatrade Trophy made a pitch-side appearance, and spirits around the stands high as expected after five consecutive Blues wins… little did they know, that would soon be made SIX!
It was an evenly balanced first 20 minutes on the South Coast, new Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy stated in midweek that his side would come to attack Pompey… and attack they did.
Ian Henderson had the Dale’s best opportunity of the first-half, putting a weak header wide of MacGillivray’s goal on the 10th minute following a chip in on the right-flank from Matty Done.
However, we all know that when a team comes down to Fratton to attack, it’s the Blues who usually come out on top – and that’s exactly what they did.
It took 21 minutes in the end for Kenny Jackett’s side to open the scoring – Jamal Lowe with a pacey run and a smart cross at a tight angle to tee up No.9 Oli Hawkins to nod home his 7th league goal of the season and Pompey’s first of the afternoon.
A great header from the 27-year-old, who celebrated his birthday just last week, to give the home side the lead. Visiting keeper Josh Lillis had no chance, as Hawkins’ header was directed perfectly into the top right-hand corner and out of his reach.
POMPEY 1-0 Rochdale
But then, a moment or two of absolute madness immediately after the opener – Jamal Lowe almost found himself doubling Pompey’s lead just seconds from the restart but for a great, strong save from the Dale shot-stopper… and then down the other end, Aaron Wilbraham almost scored his 2nd goal against the Blues this season!
A quick ball over the top following Lowe’s missed opportunity saw Wilbraham chasing the ball one-on-one with Craig MacGillivray, who booted the ball against the 39-year-old, but fortunately for him and for the 18,009 home fans inside Fratton Park the ball trickled out for a goal-kick as opposed to in the back of his net.
Dale midfielder Callum Camps had a good opportunity to equalise just a few moments later, but his free-kick sailed miles over the Fratton End goal as if he were trying to score a conversion. Wrong sport, Callum!
Pompey though could, and perhaps should have been out of sight after just 35 minutes. A Lee Brown corner was met once again by Oli Hawkins but his header this time went agonisingly over the bar – not too long after another header was aimed straight at the man between the sticks.
And it was all Pompey from then on til half-time, a handful of decent opportunities but nothing was going in… that was until Nathan Thompson won the Blues a penalty right before the close of the first 45.
Jamal Lowe must receive plaudits for his role in the build-up to the spot-kick, his trickery and clever flick on to right-back Thompson was outstanding, before Ethan Ebanks-Landell lunged in and wiped out the No. 20 – the aforementioned Ebanks-Landell rightfully received a yellow card for his cynical challenge.
Up stepped captain fantastic Brett Pitman to take the penalty, and it never looked in doubt. He sent the keeper the wrong way and doubled Pompey’s advantage, scoring his 5th goal in his last 6 games in the meantime!
POMPEY 2-0 Rochdale
The first-half finished with Portsmouth 2-0 up on Rochdale, with scores elsewhere looking like this:
BARNSLEY 2-0 Fleetwood
Charlton 0-1 LUTON
Sunderland 3-3 Coventry
Whilst the live League One table read:
1. Luton 90
2. Barnsley 82
3. Sunderland 81
4. POMPEY 80
5. Charlton 76
6. Doncaster 69
Into the second-half then and unsurprisingly it was the opponents, Rochdale, who started off the stronger of the two sides.
Matty Done, who was probably the most impressive of all the Rochdale players on the pitch, saw his long-range effort fly just over the bar just three minutes in, before pinpointing a cross to Jim McNulty moments later, whose header looked as though it was looping over MacGillivray in the Portsmouth goal – a few of the Pompey players visibly frustrated with Ronan Curtis, who perhaps could have done better with his defensive duties leading up to the chance.
Pompey seemed to have woken up following the mini onslaught from the visitors with a few promising chances of their own, but the Dale did eventually find a way into the game – Aaron Wilbraham slotting underneath MacGillivray to pull one back and make the score 2-1 after 54 minutes.
Ball watching from the Blues defenders, four of which unable to prevent Matty Done from laying off his unmarked teammate.
Pompey 2-1 ROCHDALE
From the kick-off, Pompey had obviously had the kick up the backside that they needed heading into the final 35 minutes of the match – Brett Pitman saw his 25-yard curling shot tapped away by Lillis in the Dale goal… Lee Brown’s resulting corner was met by Christian Burgess, whose header back into the mixer was a good one but somehow the visiting defence was able to scramble the ball off the lune and clear.
On the 57th minute, Kenny Jackett made his first substitution of the day, bringing on Gareth Evans for Ronan Curtis.
Low and behold, five minutes later the vice-captain claimed the title of super-sub – heading in to an open goal from just five-yards out. Jamal Lowe with his second assist of the game.
POMPEY 3-1 Rochdale
The game then was dead and buried, but it was a little frustrating perhaps for the Fratton faithful to see that the Blues then decided to sit back, defend and invite pressure from their opponents, prompting a 15 minute period of quietness on the pitch.
With 15 to play, Oli Hawkins made way for Omar Bogle, receiving a standing ovation from the home fans whilst walking off the pitch.
And then on the 79th minute Pompey rounded off the scoring via Jamal Lowe, who fittingly done so to celebrate the birth of his second child, Dexter, earlier in the week.
The goal came via a Matt Clarke lump up forward, with Jamal Lowe using his speed to get in behind the one-man Dale defence of Ebanks-Landell, controlling well and rounding the keeper to put away Pompey’s fourth into an empty net.
POMPEY 4-1 Rochdale
A slight worry may be the departure of Brett Pitman, who appeared to call over to the gaffer to be substituted after that goal. He was subsequently replaced by Bryn Morris with ten minutes on the clock.
Suddenly an almighty roar echoed around the stadium as news filtered in of another goal at the Stadium of Light, where promotion rivals Sunderland were playing Coventry City.
It was 3-3 at half-time, Coventry had thrown away a 3-1 lead… but Pompey academy graduate and former favourite on the South Coast Conor Chaplin gave the Sky Blues a 5-4 lead after 78 minutes – just one minute after coming off the bench!
Chaplin was then booked for his excessive celebration, but he, nor anyone else related to Coventry or Portsmouth will care because his strike did make the difference in the end, as Coventry ran out 5-4 winners.
The final action of the game back at Fratton came in the 89th minute. Jamal Lowe with another excellent delivery into the box, deep to Lee Brown who somehow headed wide, despite an empty net in front of him.
Perhaps the nosebleed of being so far up the pitch put him off? Nonetheless, it meant nothing at all as Portsmouth claimed all three points in an impressive victory over relegation threatened Rochdale.
Full-Time: Portsmouth 4-1 Rochdale
Other Full-Time results in League One:
BARNSLEY 4-2 Fleetwood
CHARLTON 3-1 Luton
Sunderland 4-5 COVENTRY
League One table following the end of all action across the division:
1. Luton 87
2. Barnsley 82
3. Sunderland 80
4. POMPEY 80
5. Charlton 79
6. Doncaster 69
Pompey are now just 7 points behind leaders Luton… with a game in hand… we couldn’t, could we?
My Man of the Match: Jamal Lowe (1 goal, 2 assists and 1 other contribution to Pitman’s penalty)
Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close; Lowe, Pitman (c) (Morris 82), Curtis (Evans 57); Hawkins (Bogle 76)
Goals: Hawkins 21, Pitman 45+1 (pen), Evans 62, Lowe 79
Subs not used: Bass, Walkes, Haunstrup, Dennis