Image courtesy of portsmouthfc.co.uk
Image courtesy of portsmouthfc.co.uk

On Tuesday night, Pompey fans arrived at Fratton Park hoping to end a five match run without a league win.  They were also looking to see Pompey record a first home win in the league since the beating of Barnet, after a series of stalemates and one defeat at the hands of Exeter.  Tuesday night games had not been a happy time for the blues, with them having failed to record a win in any of the three league games prior to Tuesday.  Their opponents, York City, were also also on a terrible run or form, not  won a point in the league for six games.  The game was the first for Pompey since Carlisle snatched a 95th minute equaliser on Saturday to stop them coming back with a win.  In terms of team selection, Paul Cook made one change to the starting lineup, with Marc McNulty coming in for Adam McGurk, as Cook decided to return to 4-2-3-1 after experimenting with a 4-4-2 against AFC Wimbledon in the last home game, which ended 0-0.

Right from the whistle, Pompey looked bright.  Gareth Evans made inroads down the right hand side before flashing the ball across goal, where it just evaded the sliding Lavery.  York then threatened, when they worked their way into Pompey’s box but saw Vadaine Oliver’s volley saved well by Murphy.  After ten minutes, Ben Davies floated in a lovely free kick from the right, where Christian Burgess failed to get a clean header on the ball and could only win a corner.  Adam Webster then glanced a header wide from the resulting corner, but things looked far better for Pompey than they had in previous games.  Caolan Lavery then had a shot on goal and, a couple of minutes later, so did Marc McNulty as he glanced a header just wide of the far post.  Scott Flinders, the York ‘keeper, was getting on the nerves of most Pompey fans by taking as long as he could over his goal kicks, but he was on hand to make a great save from Michael Doyle’s goalbound volley on 17 minutes, as he tipped the ball acrobatically over the bar.  Kyle Bennett then went on a great run before setting up McNulty.  However, the Scottish striker took too long to pick his spot and ended up being bundled over by the York defender and, despite appeals for a penalty from fans and players alike, the referee ruled that play should continue.

Gareth Evans then saw his far post chip headed over brilliantly by Eddie Nolan, when an goal seemed the most likely outcome.  Both Nolan and Flinders found themselves caught up in the net, to the delight of the Fratton End, and play had to be stopped for them to untangle themselves.  Caolan Lavery was then able to pick out Gareth Evans, but the ex-Fleetwood Town man saw his shot saved at the near post by Scott Flinders.  On 29 minutes, a Brian Murphy goal kick was brilliantly won in the air by McNulty.  The ball was picked up by Lavery, who did well to beat his man before dragging his shot narrowly wide of the far post.  Kyle Bennett then came close when he cut inside his man on the edge of the area and drove the ball towards goal, but his shot found its way narrowly wide of the near post.  On 39 minutes, Adam Webster clipped a ball into the area to McNulty, who got between the two centre backs but saw his shot saved well by Flinders.  Just before the break, ex-West Brom midfielder, Jonathan Greening sent a vicious elbow into the face of Michael Doyle as the two players contested a header in midfield.  The Pompey players and staff were incensed, and Greening was given his marching orders after the situation had been calmed down.

After the break, Pompey came out the stronger side again and almost broke the deadlock within 30 seconds of the restart.  A magnificent cross from Ben Davies picked Caolan Lavery who made solid contact on a header to send it goalwards.  However, Scott Flinders made a magnificent save to keep the scores level as he acrobatically tipped the ball over the bar.  On 49 minutes, however, the Blues did take the lead.  Ben Davies sent a dangerous cross into the box which took a flick off of the defender on its way through and beat Scott Flinders.  The goal was somewhat fortunate, but over the years Pompey fans have seen plenty of those go in against them, so they weren’t complaining.  That signaled the opening of the floodgates, and a minute later Marc McNulty added a second when he diverted Michael Doyle’s mishit shot past Flinders.  After an hour, McNulty added a second when he buried a pull back from Kyle Bennett into the net from 12 yards.  After the disappointing late goal against Carlisle, it certainly looked as if Pompey had been doing work in the week on seeing out games, and that was evident, as they were able to keep possession of the ball and pick their moments to break down the defence.

Gareth Evans was putting in a hard-working performance, and found himself through on goal again, only to see his first shot saved well by Flinders and his follow up cleared off the line.  On 71 minutes, Michael Doyle played the ball through to McNulty, who slotted home when one-on-one against Flinders to complete his hattrick.  Caolan Lavery could easily have tapped the ball in from a yard out, but he realised the milestone McNulty was about to pass and thought better of it.  Paul Cook chose to make a double substitution after that, bringing on Conor Chaplin and Rommy Boco for Ben Davies and hattrick hero, Marc McNulty.  A few minutes later, Cook brought Ben Tollitt on for Kyle Bennett and the young scouse winger made an instant impact, slotting home a great Enda Stevens’ cross through the legs of Scott Flinders.  Even Rommy Boco had an attempt on goal as his long range effort flew high into the crowd in the Milton End on 80 minutes.  On 86 minutes, Chaplin completed the rout as he bundled home the rebound from another shot by the tireless Evans.  Flinders failed to hold the winger’s drive and Chaplin got to the rebound ahead of him, sliding in to put Pompey 6-0 up.  There were no further chances of note, and Pompey successfully kept a clean sheet and recorded a great win.

Overall, the scoreline speaks for itslef in this game, as Pompey completely outclassed their opponents.  Although it took the red card to signal the start of the goals, Pompey had been well on top throughout the first half.  Once in front, Pompey played brilliantly to ensure they kept themselves tight defensively while passing the ball around and picking their moment to launch attacks on the York defence.  A couple of players had predicted a thrashing being on the way so it was good to see them proved right, and for Pompey to end their unwanted runs at home and in the league.  The man of the match award went to McNulty for his hattrick, but it could easily have gone to several other players – most notably Gareth Evans; Ben Davies; or Kyle Bennett.  Paul Cook had backed his playing style to come off once the right tweaks had been made, and that certainly proved to be the case.  Pompey seem to be an accomplished side when playing against ten men, as they showed previously against Barnet, and Pompey will have been delighted that their work in traning paid off.  On Saturday, Pompey travel to Wycombe Wanderers, where they will come up against the team who lost the playoff final last season on penalties, so it will prove to be a tough test.  However, hopefully Pompey will be able to bring the momentum from the York game into the Wycombe one and another thrashing may be in order!

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