|Doncaster Rovers||3 – 1||Portsmouth|
Blues lose at league leaders
Pompey missed out on the chance to close in on the automatic promotion places with a 3-1 defeat at Doncaster.
Former Fratton loanee John Marquis gave the hosts an early lead, only for Kal Naismith to level late in the first half.
But the Blues failed to build on that after the break, with Tommy Rowe rocketing Rovers back ahead before Marquis wrapped things up.
Paul Cook stuck with the same side that beat Luton at Fratton Park on Bank Holiday Monday.
That meant an attacking midfield trio of Carl Baker, Naismith and Kyle Bennett were deployed behind lone frontman Michael Smith.
Pompey started poorly against the league leaders and looked particularly susceptible on the counter-attack.
And it came as no surprise when Doncaster broke the deadlock after just five minutes, with James Coppinger’s delivery flicked on by Matty Blair for Marquis to head home.
Rovers immediately set about trying to build on their lead and David Forde denied Conor Grant before another dangerous Coppinger cross had to be hooked clear by Michael Doyle.
But the Blues almost levelled with their first decent chance soon after, as keeper Marko Marosi only just managed to keep out Matt Clarke’s header from a Baker corner.
The visitors grew stronger as the half progressed, but Doncaster still looked threatening on the break and one ended with Niall Mason firing into the side netting.
Marquis was then inches away from extending their advantage, meeting Craig Alcock’s cross, but seeing his header hit the woodwork.
A couple of Naismith corners caused problems at the other end of the pitch, while Marosi did well to gobble up Enda Stevens’ low cross before Smith could pounce.
Pompey were starting to pile on some pressure, however, and they deservedly found themselves back on level terms just before the break.
Former Rovers winger Bennett – who was roundly booed by the home support throughout – intercepted the ball and threaded a neat pass to NAISMITH, who coolly slid the ball past Marosi.
Half Time: Doncaster 1 Pompey 1
Both sides had looked capable of adding more goals before the interval, but the second half took longer to provide any inspiration.
An Evans shot from long-range that forced Marosi down to his left was as close as either side came in the opening stages.
But Doncaster suddenly brought the game back to life by restoring their advantage on 58 minutes.
It was a fine effort from Rowe, who collected a pass from Coppinger and beat Evans before rifling a fierce shot into the roof of the net.
Cook soon responded by making his first substitution, with Milan Lalkovic given an opportunity to impress in place of Baker.
And Bennett then made way for Gary Roberts, as Pompey tried to add fresh attacking impetus into their side.
But it was Rovers who looked the more dangerous going forward and they extended their lead on 71 minutes.
It was Marquis who found the target once again after a cross from Rowe was deflected kindly into his path.
Cook made one final throw of the dice soon after, with Naismith making way so Conor Chaplin could partner Smith up front.
It was Lalkovic who almost reduced the deficit, however, meeting Evans’ excellent cross with a close-range header that Marosi dived across goal to keep out.
But the keeper almost cost his side moments later when he failed to hold a cross under pressure from Smith.
The loose ball fell to Chaplin, who did not have long to react, and his effort was hacked clear by a well-placed Alcock.
An injury to Marosi – which saw the keeper stretchered off – meant there were seven minutes of injury-time.
But that failed to provide the inspiration for an unlikely comeback as Doncaster saw out the final moments to increase their title hopes.
Doncaster (4-3-2-1): Marosi (Etheridge 86); Alcock, Baudry, Butler, Mason; Blair (Williams 55), Houghton, Grant; Coppinger (c) (Middleton 67), Rowe; Marquis
Goals: Marquis 5, 71, Rowe 58
Subs not used: Wright, Keegan, Beestin, May
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, Doyle (c); Baker (Lalkovic 62), Naismith (Chaplin 75), Bennett (Roberts 67); Smith
Goals: Naismith 41
Booked: Burgess, Evans, Doyle
Subs not used: O’Brien, Whatmough, Linganzi, Hunt
Referee: Jeremy Simpson
Attendance: 5,568 (669 Pompey fans)