Pompey 4 Rochdale 1
On a day when all eyes (ears) were on what was happening 350 miles away, Pompey strolled to a comfortable victory over a Rochdale side fighting for their lives.
Kenny made one change bringing back Ronan Curtis on the left flank in place of Gareth Evans. Interestingly Louis Dennis replaced James Vaughan on the bench.
Pompey opened strongly and pinned back the visitors for long spells. Dale were left to give away a succession of free-kicks from which the hosts created little.
Just when it seemed Dale had weathered the storm Jamal Lowe got away on the right and his firm cross was headed home brilliantly by Oli Hawkins. Lowe could have doubled the lead minutes later but Lillis saved well.
The visitors then had their only chance of the half when Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess got into a tangle and failed to find Craig MacGillivray, Wilbraham pounced but his block flew wide. The Pompey keeper worryingly needed attention but carried on with no obvious signs of an injury.
As half time approached Pompey put together a superb passing movement which ended with Lowe slipping in Nathan Thompson and he was brought down as he entered the box. Brett Pitman sent Lillis the wrong way with the spot kick.
The second half started as would be expected with Rochdale seeking a foothold in the game but from a Pompey attack that they got what would prove just a consolation goal. Lee Brown took a dead ball kick in the right-hand corner and when Dale broke at speed Pompey were caught short at the back and Done squared for the unmarked Wilbraham to slot home.
With news that Coventry were winning at Sunderland, it was imperative that Pompey did not let their lead slip and also attempt to improve their goal difference. To that end, Kenny pulled off Curtis and threw on Evans and within five minutes he had headed home a cross after more good work from Lowe.
With the delivery of his second child in the week and a hand in all three goals, all Lowe needed to put the icing on the cake was a goal and that arrived with ten minutes left when he collected a long Clarke pass rounded the keeper and slotted home. Job done.
We were almost home before we found that Conor Chaplin had scored the winner at Sunderland and Pompey, although still fourth have promotion in their own hands.
There are some tough games left however with visits to Burton and Sunderland and home games with Coventry, Peterborough and Accrington
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
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 18,197 (188 away fans)
The Blues boss told the club’s website: “The table looks incredibly open between four teams and it’s close – I wouldn’t say that anyone is particularly in the driving seat. Along with Sunderland we’re a place behind Barnsley with a game in hand and you have to say that Charlton are in there as well.
“We have to keep pushing and trying, with an attitude like the one we showed against Rochdale able to help us. It’s nice to have form at any time of the season, but it always helps if you can put together a sprint finish.”
“We’re really pleased with the performance and how our players responded to the pressure. You could see from Rochdale’s attacking formation that they didn’t come here to defend – they wanted to take the game to us, which suited us to a degree. They’re fighting for their lives down at the bottom, have changed their manager and been on a decent recent run.
“While we had to contain that, you also have to use the opportunities to hurt them and we managed to score four goals. When the ball turns over and there are spaces, we have the quality to exploit them and had a great answer to their threat.”
Going for a Burton
Burton Albion are certainly upsetting the promotion apple cart at the moment. Last weekend they ended Barnsley’s long unbeaten run with a 3-1 win at the Pirelli Stadium and then on Tuesday, they carved out a 1-1 at Sunderland.
Pompey, of course, are the next visitors to the Staffordshire club on Good Friday for a televised game. After that, they entertain Luton and take a trip to play off hopefuls Peterborough.
It is going to be a tough test for Pompey.
Pride in Pompey
I have been supporting Pompey for very nearly sixty years and over most of that period I have only rarely been able to think that I have real pride in the club I support.
As a young lad, the side began the slide down the divisions and then when that was arrested the club hit financial problems, scrapped the reserve and youth sides and ran with a squad of eighteen.
In the seventies, we had the Deacon era with huge spending and disastrous results with the club reaching the bottom rung of the league ladder with a loud bang!
Hooliganism affected a lot of clubs but Pompey were suffering more than most and their name was dragged through the mud by the media for many years. Alan Ball came and gave us pride but after one season in Division One, Deacon sold up and Pompey sunk again into mediocrity before Milan arrived. He took us to where we belong and then made the mistake of selling to the wrong man and more shame was to follow.
But now after the club was bought out by the fans, we can now have pride in what we have achieved – the League Two championship, a winning Wembley final with over 40,000 fans cheering on our team, Community Club of the year for the second time and even the Women’s side is collecting silverware.
Am I proud of the team I support? I am now.
Jean-Eric Choupo-Moting is the new king of And finally… thanks to his efforts for PSG at the weekend. Choupo-Moting’s intervention on the goal line against Strasbourg was catastrophically inept that it has to go down as the worst miss of all time.