Crawley Town 1
Pompey boosted their chances of a qualifying for the Checkatrade Trophy knockout stages with victory over Crawley at a sparsely-populated Fratton Park.
Matt Clarke opened the scoring with the type of goal you would not normally associate with a defender.
His stand-in back-line partner Oliver Hawkins then doubled the lead, only for Moussa Sanoh to pull one back after the break.
But Stuart O’Keefe added a third for the hosts to wrap the points up and move the Blues to the top of Southern Group A.
Kenny Jackett made six changes from the side that were beaten at home by Oldham at the weekend.
Gareth Evans returned to skipper the side at right-back, while Danny Rose and Adam May were recalled in midfield.
Curtis Main led the line and there were also starts in attacking roles for both Kal Naismith and Kyle Bennett.
Pompey’s defensive injury crisis meant that striker Hawkins had to continue partnering Clarke in the centre of defence.
It was a fairly quiet start to proceedings, with neither side managing to create any clear-cut openings.
Bennett had an effort blocked, while Rose’s diagonal pass was just too heavy for Main, allowing Red Devils keeper Yusuf Mersin to claim.
Main did go close on 12 minutes, though, collecting Naismith’s through ball and fizzing an angled drive just past the post.
Crawley then forced Luke McGee into action for the first time midway through the first half, with the keeper doing well to push behind Kaby Djalo’s fierce drive.
But it was the Blues who broke the deadlock on 30 minutes and it was an impressive goal from CLARKE.
He ran more than half the length of the pitch before feeding Main and was on hand to calmly convert when the striker’s shot was saved.
And his central defensive partner HAWKINS soon doubled the lead, slamming home the loose ball after Main’s header from a Naismith free-kick had been kept out by Mersin.
The visitors then missed an opportunity to reduce the deficit just before the break when Panutche Camara fired wide.
(2 – 0)
The Red Devils made a bright start to the second half, but a couple of half-chances failed to test McGee.
Ibrahim Meite then took a heavy touch from Sanoh’s dangerous low delivery to waste another decent opening.
And when Sanoh crossed dangerously for a second time, the ball was just out of reach for both Meite and Camara, as the visitors continued to threaten.
The impressive Sanoh had a shot of his own just before the hour mark, but McGee was equal to his powerful effort.
Jackett made a double switch soon after, withdrawing May and Rose for Brandon Haunstrup and Jamal Lowe.
But it was Bennett who had a great chance to wrap the game up when he took the ball past Mersin, only to fire over with the goal gaping.
And Crawley immediately went down the other end to reduce their deficit, with Sanoh racing onto Camara’s flick and sliding past McGee.
But Bennett soon made up for his miss by providing the assist for Pompey’s third goal of the evening on 71 minutes.
He jinked his way into the box and teed-up O’KEEFE to slot home and open his scoring account for the club.
Bennett might have added a gloss to the scoreline late on when he was left unmarked to meet Lowe’s cross, but sent his header wide.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): McGee; Evans (c), Hawkins, Clarke, Donohue; May (Haunstrup 62), Rose (Lowe 62); O’Keefe (Close 87), Bennett, Naismith; Main
Goals: Clarke 30, Hawkins 34, O’Keefe 71
Subs not used: Bass, Talbot, Kennedy, Chaplin
Crawley (4-2-3-1): Mersin; Tajbakhsh (Lewis 76), McNerney, Yorwerth, Djalo (Smith 87); Payne, Bulman (c); Camara (Boldewijn 76), Clifford, Sanoh; Meite
Goals: Sanoh 65
Subs not used: Morris, Evina, Connolly, Lelan
Referee: Tim Robinson