Portsmouth FC 2017/2018
WON WON LOST LOST LOST LOST WON WON WON LOST
Pompey brought their three-match losing league run to an end in dramatic fashion at Blackpool.
A dull first half failed to foreshadow what was to come after the break, with five goals arriving in a topsy-turvy 45 minutes.
Twice the Blues took the lead, first through skipper Brett Pitman and then when Ben Close opened his account.
But twice the Seasiders fought back to level, with Viv Solomon-Otabor and an Oliver Hawkins own-goal giving them hope.
It was Pompey who snatched the victory late on, though, when Pitman grabbed his second of the afternoon to complete a breathless encounter.
Kenny Jackett made four changes from the side that exited the FA Cup at Luton the previous week.
Kal Naismith, Gareth Evans, Danny Rose and Kyle Bennett all returned to the side, with Stuart O’Keefe and Nathan Thompson suspended, Matty Kennedy dropping to the bench and Brandon Haunstrup missing out.
Hawkins was once again used as a makeshift centre-half, with Matt Clarke taking on an unfamiliar left-back role.
Both sides emerged from the tunnel with poppy wreaths and had the flower embroidered into their shirts.
A bugler then paid the Last Post, as everyone inside the stadium paid tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Pompey started with plenty of energy and looked to keep the ball moving, but were unable to breach an organised Seasiders defence.
In fact, there were not many clear-cut openings at either end of the pitch during a first half that often failed to get out of third gear.
The best chance for the hosts came when Jay Spearing’s free-kick found Solomon-Otabor in space, only for the winger to smash his shot over the crossbar.
He also had another attempt deflected behind, while a quick Blues break led to Jamal Lowe’s effort being charged down.
Former Fratton loanee Ryan Allsop was enjoying a quiet afternoon between the sticks, although he would have been relieved when Lowe’s cross hit Will Aimson and ricocheted narrowly past the post.
A couple of corners also caused the hosts a few problems, while Close was not too far off target with a dragged shot from 25 yards.
Luke McGee, meanwhile, twice had to come charging from his line to win a race for the ball, although the home support thought he had handled outside his box on the first occasion.
There had been a distinct lack of excitement before the break, but the temperature rose – at least metaphorically – within seconds of the restart.
A Pompey corner caused havoc in the Seasiders box and Lowe’s shot was blocked, with Pitman unable to get to the loose ball before it was hacked to safety.
The busy Solomon-Otabor then burst down the left, cutting inside and along the edge of the box before hitting a low effort narrowly wide.
But it was the Blues who broke the deadlock on 52 minutes – much to the delight of the large travelling horde.
Close’s attempt took a deflection and although Allsop managed to adjust and parry the ball away, PITMAN was there to mop up.
A quick break from Bennett might have seen them double their advantage, only for Curtis Tilt to recover well and stop Pitman from getting a shot away.
The home support grew audibly frustrated as their side struggled to make any headway in their search for a leveller.
And their annoyance would have grown if Christian Burgess had been able to divert a Naismith corner on target.
But those who remained patient were rewarded on 73 minutes when Nathan Delfouneso combined well with substitute Dolly Menga down the right.
The latter – making his debut – sent in a dangerous low cross and Solomon-Otabor arrived at the far post to turn it home.
That might have deflated the visitors, but – backed by a vociferous following – they managed to retake the lead 10 minutes from time.
Pitman met Evans’ cross and Allsop did brilliantly to keep out his header, but when the ball was not properly cleared, CLOSE was there to fire in his first competitive goal for the club.
The action did not stop there, though, and Blackpool were soon level again, as a cross was sent into the visitors’ box and Hawkins inadvertently headed it into his own net.
But an in an incredible 12-minute spell then swung back in the Blues’ favour when they forged ahead for a third time.
Burgess rose to head a delivery back across the face of goal and PITMAN found space to nod past Allsop.
Blackpool tried their best to fight back once again, but the visitors saw out the closing stages to claim all three points.
Blackpool (4-2-3-1): Allsop; Turton, Aimson, Tilt, Daniel; Ryan (c), Spearing; Solomon-Otabor, Philliskirk (Menga 70), Cooke (Gnanduillet 87); Delfouneso
Goals: Solomon-Otabor 73, Hawkins 83 (og)
Subs not used: Williams, Mellor, Taylor, D’Almeida, Longstaff
Pompey (4-2-3-1): McGee; Evans, Hawkins, Burgess, Clarke; Close, Rose; Lowe, Bennett (Donohue 87), Naismith; Pitman (c)
Goals: Pitman 52, 86, Close 80
Subs not used: Bass, Talbot, May, Kennedy, Chaplin, Main
Referee: Jon Moss
Attendance: 5,032 (1,711 Pompey fans)