Pompey 3 Sunderland 1
A storming second-half performance secured Pompey three crucial points beating visitors Sunderland, 3-1.
Kenny named an unchanged team with David Wheeler back on the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury.
The first period was a lively affair but only an appetiser for what was to follow the break. The game started with the crowd roaring on the two teams and they traded blows with Ronan Curtis causing problems down the left and Oli Hawkins always a threat in the air. Meanwhile, Nathan Thompson blocked a shot with his face and Whatmough had an effort deflected into the arms of Craig MacGillivray.
The second half started in explosive fashion with Curtis sending Hawkins clear into the box only to be upended by Glenn Loovens. The referee pointed to the spot and showed the Black Cat a red card – Sunderland’s fifth of the season. Up stepped skipper Gareth Evans to smash the penalty home. Pompey now had a man advantage but the visitors have plenty of experience of playing a man down and in fact, have not lost this season with ten men.
Five minutes later Hawkins linked again with Curtis and the Irishman ran on into the box and ignored Jamal Lowe free in the middle and slotted the ball past the keeper at the near post. Pompey fans were in heaven but the celebrations were soon cut short when Sunderland struck back with Luke O’Nien ghosting in unmarked to slot home a deep cross from Reece James.
Pompey immediately came close to restoring when Evans had an effort deflected narrowly wide. The resulting corner saw Hawkins header well saved by McLaughlin but the ball dropped for the ever-impressive Ben Thompson to smash home.
From there the Sunderland threat had been extinguished and Pompey went in search of more goals but Hawkins headed narrowly wide and sub Brett Pitman had a goal ruled out for offside.
Fans all week have been talking about the table-topping game with Oxford back in 1986 when Santa helped Alan Biley net two late goals. Yesterday’s game will also go down in Fratton Park folklore.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; N.Thompson, Whatmough, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, B.Thompson; Lowe, Evans (c) (Close 72), Curtis (Green 87); Hawkins (Pitman 81)
Goals: Evans 48 (pen), Curtis 53, B.Thompson 63
Booked: Hawkins, Curtis, N.Thompson
Subs not used: Bass, Walkes, Burgess, Wheeler
Referee: Peter Bankes
Attendance: 19,402 (2,637 away fans)
So, Pompey reach Christmas top of the table and with fifty-one points from 23 games. There will be plenty to celebrate over Turkey on Tuesday but the job is only half done and the second half starts Boxing Day with Pompey out for revenge at Gillingham.
The Blues boss told the official website: “It was a really good performance, particularly in the second half. We upped the tempo and got the goals that secured the win. Before the break it was quite cagey and there weren’t too many chances, although there was a big save from our keeper.
“But, overall, I felt it was two very good teams going at each other and we didn’t want to leave anything out on the pitch. I don’t think the referee had any other choice for the penalty and Gareth took it fantastically to give us the lead. We went further ahead and then their lad got the other side of Ronan, who was otherwise excellent, to score.
“But we had many chances throughout the half and could have got even more, so the result was thoroughly deserved. We’ve got 50 points before Christmas which is a fantastic achievement by the players and shows great consistency.
“We didn’t seem to have any injuries and hopefully everyone’s good, so now we’re looking forward to Boxing Day.” It was a big game because of the size of the two clubs and how well they’re both doing in the division. The fans were fantastic and created an excellent atmosphere that really helped to drive the players on.”
Mike Barnard 1933-2018
Former Pompey inside forward Mike Barnard passed away this week aged 85. Portsmouth born Mike was one of the last of an era when sportsmen played more than one game having been a professional cricketer with Hampshire winning the County Championship in 1961.
Mike played 125 games for Pompey during the fifties and following relegation from the first division he decided to concentrate on cricket – imagine that today! In both sports he was an unsung hero as at Pompey it was fellow forwards Jackie Henderson and Peter Harris were grabbing the headlines.
Again when he turned to cricket full time he opened the batting with Roy Marshall but it was the West Indian who with his flamboyant style again got the attention on the fans while Barnard gave his support at the other end. His greatest sporting achievement was to win the County Championship in 1961 – the first time Hampshire had won that accolade.
I never saw Mike play for Pompey but did see him play for Hants including their first one day game at Burnaby Road when they beat Kent in the Gillette Cup in May 1965.
On retirement, Mike was a leading light with John Hughes as Radio Solent attempted to cover the local sport in depth. Mike spoke very well from experience on the sports he had played at the top level.
Move over Mary….
As viewers of yesterday’s Football Focus will know Mary Berry’s rule as queen of baking is over and Matt Clarke has taken over the mantle – not queen of course but king!
Anyone for a chocolate brownie?
Happy Christmas to you all and let’s hope Santa brings you all what you have asked for!
2018-19 Prediction League – December
Gillingham (a) – Wednesday 26th December 2018 – click here.
Fleetwood (a) – Saturday 29th December 2018 – click here.