Luton Town 1
Portsmouth fight back aginst Hatters
Pompey stretched their unbeaten away run to five matches by coming from behind to beat Luton at Kenilworth Road.
It looked like being a tough night for the Blues when Danny Hylton gave the visitors an early lead and then had another effort disallowed.
But Michael Smith soon evened things up with his second goal in as many games and Gareth Evans turned the match on its head just before the break.
The Hatters did not put apply too much pressure in the second half, but there was still a sense of relief when Kal Naismith came off the bench to wrap things up.
Paul Cook made one enforched change from the side that drew with Cheltenham at the weekend.
Conor Chaplin was suspended after collecting his fifth booking at Whaddon Road, so was replaced by Smith up front.
Pompey almost found themselves ahead after just four minutes, with Christian Walton superbly saving Matt Clarke’s header before Alan Sheehan hacked the ball clear.
But instead it was the hosts who took an early lead when Evans was lying on the turf with an injury.
Sheehan took advantage of the space that created on the Luton left, whipping in a cross that Hylton expertly guided into the top corner.
Hylton had the ball in the net again just seconds later, but this time his celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.
And it was the opposition fans feeling jubilant on 11 minutes after seeing their side grab an equaliser.
SMITH fed the ball to Carl Baker and when he was tackled, the striker guided the ball in off the post from the edge of the box.
It was a breathless, end-to-end encounter, with both sides showcasing fine attacking flair and also some sloppy play.
A couple of Luton free-kicks caused a few nerves among the travelling supporters, but one was saved by David Forde and the other headed clear by Christian Burgess.
Gary Roberts then missed an excellent opportunity at the other end by heading Baker’s cross straight at Walton.
Olly Lee went close for the Hatters on 32 minutes, volleying narrowly past the post after being picked out on the edge of the box by Sheehan’s corner.
Both sides seemed keen to get forward whenever possible and a crisp effort from Michael Doyle flew into the side netting.
Roberts came close to firing the Blues ahead before the break, drawing a fine stop from Walton after his initial effort had been blocked.
And when the midfielder won a free-kick it finally did lead to Pompey taking the lead in stoppage-time.
His short pass to Baker led to a 20-yard drive that deflected off the Luton wall and flew behind for a corner.
Roberts stepped up to take the corner and when the visitors failed to deal with his dangerous cross, the ball landed at the feet of EVANS to hook home.
(1 – 2)
Pompey started the second half as they had ended the first – on the attack.
Bennett found space to shoot on the edge of the box, but scuffed his effort wide, while Roberts could not quite bring down a clever chipped pass from Doyle.
The Blues were enjoying plenty of possession and the home support started to grow frustrated as the chances dried up.
They won a free-kick when Danny Rose was booked for illegally stopping a counter-attack, only for Pompey to immediately break up the field and threaten themselves.
And the visitors were agonisingly close to extending their advantage with a third goal just past the hour mark.
It was good work down the right from Smith to chip the ball into the centre, where Burgess rose highest to head against the crossbar.
There was then more frustration a few moments later when Baker swung in a free-kick that Evans glanced inches past the post.
Pompey were soaking up any Hatters pressure at the other and when Sheehan got a shot away on 70 minutes, Forde was there to make a comfortable save.
Cook made his first switch soon after, with Roberts departing to a rousing reception from the travelling fans as he made way for Naismith.
And Luton almost snatched a leveller on 82 minutes when Forde punched clear a corner and Sheehan’s follow-up had to be cleared from the line by Clarke.
But there was a big sigh of relief moments later when the Blues scored again to secure all three points.
It was a fine solo effort from NAISMITH, with the substitute bundling his way into space before steering a precise shot right into the bottom corner.
And Pompey saw out five minutes of stoppage-time to send the travelling army of almost 1,000 fans back home with smiles on their faces.
Luton (4-1-2-1-2): Walton; Justin (Mackail-Smith 85), Rea, Mullins, Sheehan (c); Lee; Gilliead (Cook 58), Mpanzu; McGeehan; Hylton, Vassell (Marriott 79)
Goals: Hylton 7
Booked: Sheehan, Lee
Subs not used: King, O’Donnell, Cuthbert, Smith
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, Doyle (c); Baker, Roberts (Naismith 74), Bennett (Whatmough 88); Smith (Hunt 90+1)
Goals: Smith 11, Evans 45+2, Naismith 84
Booked: Evans, Rose, Stevens, Hunt
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Linganzi, Lalkovic
Referee: David Coote