|Crawley Town||0 – 2||Portsmouth|
Blues move up to third
Pompey stormed into the top three with a comfortable victory at Crawley.
After a solid – if unspectacular – first half from the visitors, they took control following the interval.
Christian Burgess headed them into the lead almost immediately after Eoin Doyle had seen his penalty saved.
And Kyle Bennett made sure that the Blues would climb above Luton and Carlisle with a deflected second.
Paul Cook made two changes from the side beaten at home by Crewe at the weekend.
Danny Rose replaced the injured Amine Linganzi in midfield, while Gary Roberts dropped to the bench to make way for Carl Baker.
It was a fairly comfortable first half for the visitors, who controlled proceedings without creating too many clear-cut chances.
There was plenty of probing from Pompey who sent some dangerous balls into the box that Crawley had to deal with.
And they had the first shot on target on 22 minutes, although Danny Rose’s drilled shot forced no more than a regulation save from Glenn Morris.
A dangerous delivery from the left by the lively Bennett was then just out of reach for Baker at the far post.
David Forde was having a quiet evening at the other end of the pitch, although the Blues back-line did have to mop up a couple of Crawley breaks.
Rose then tested Morris once more on 32 minutes, but again the shot did not overly trouble Morris between the sticks.
The best chance arrived soon after, when Baker released Eoin Doyle and Morris had to spread himself to deny the on-loan striker.
Crawley enjoyed their best period just before the break, with Rhys Murphy bending a shot narrowly wide before Enzio Boldewijn’s stoppage-time header was held by Forde.
Half Time: Crawley 0 Pompey 0
The hosts were first to threaten after the restart, with James Collins electing to shoot from a tight angle and unable to keep the ball on target.
But it was the Blues who broke the deadlock on 54 minutes – although they certainly could have done it in an easier manner.
Enda Stevens did well to break into the box and draw a late tackle from Red Devils right-back Josh Lelan.
Referee Kevin Johnson pointed to the spot and Eoin Doyle stepped up to take it, but Pompey’s penalty woes continued as Morris guessed the right way to make the save.
The ball was hacked behind, but Kal Naismith swung the corner into the box and BURGESS headed home from close range.
Naismith fancied another, though, and after being unable to catch Morris out from long-range, he surged half the length of the pitch before seeing a shot blocked.
But he was forced back on 64 minutes, filling the left-back role when Stevens limped off injured to be replaced by Noel Hunt.
That did not mean Naismith had to stop providing an attacking threat, however, and one cross from the left was held up by Hunt before Eoin Doyle’s fierce drive was blocked.
Pompey were not content to sit on their slim advantage and their attacking impetus was rewarded on 71 minutes.
Hunt sent the ball through Lelan’s legs, with BENNETT picking it up and launching a shot that was deflected past Morris’ grasp.
Crawley responded with a double substitution and one of the newcomers almost reduced the deficit, with Forde doing well to deny Billy Clifford with his legs.
They had to be more adventurous and Collins rose to meet a corner from the left, with the ball flashing inches wide of the post.
But the fact that Red Devils keeper Morris was awarded the home side’s man-of-the-match award was telling.
And the 2,300 travelling fans were in celebratory mood as the Blues comfortably saw out the closing stages to secure a valuable victory.
Crawley (4-2-3-1): Morris; Lelan, Connolly, McNerney, Young; Smith (c), Payne (Henderson 72); Boldewijn (Bawling 76), Murphy, Cox (Clifford 72); Collins
Subs not used: Mersin, Blackman, Djalo
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens (Hunt 64); Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker, Naismith, Bennett (T.Davies 90); E.Doyle
Goals: Burgess 54, Bennett 71
Booked: Hunt, E.Doyle
Subs not used: O’Brien, Aborah, Lowe, Roberts, Chaplin
Referee: Kevin Johnson
Attendance: 5,350 (2,300 Pompey fans)