Pompey made a mockery of their poor Fratton form in 2018 with a resounding victory over Oxford.
Kal Naismith grabbed an early opener, although the visitors responded well and it looked as though there might be a nervy finale.
That all changed when Alex Mowatt saw his penalty saved and was promptly sent off for lashing out at Nathan Thompson.
There was only going to be one winner from that point and Brett Pitman twice capitalised on good work from Jamal Lowe to wrap things up.
There was a single change from the side that won away at snowy Oldham the previous week.
Thompson came straight back into the starting line-up after returning from a four-match ban, with Brandon Haunstrup dropping to the bench.
A fit-again Gareth Evans – who had missed the same number of games with a hamstring injury – had to be content with a place among the substitutes.
There were a couple of familiar faces in the visitors’ line-up, with former Pompey players Simon Eastwood and Wes Thomas both featuring.
The hosts made a bright start and the fans inside Fratton Park – as well as those watching on Sky Sports – had a goal to celebrate in just the fifth minute.
Connor Ronan sent a corner into the box and Matt Clarke nodded it back into the centre, where NAISMITH was waiting to hook home from close range.
He might have had a second after getting down well to meet another Ronan delivery with a diving header that flashed wide.
Oxford were all over the place and Ryan Ledson collected an early booking following a late challenge on the energetic Ronan.
Eastwood then grabbed Dion Donohue’s free-kick before Naismith could make a connection, while a cross from the Scottish forward had to be turned past his own post by Ashley Smith-Brown.
But United improved as the half progressed and James Henry turned sharply on the edge of the box before crashing a shot against the bar.
The Blues soon had a chance at the other end, with Lowe’s centre agonisingly out of reach for Pitman, as the skipper slid in at the far post.
Pitman was then brought down by Rob Dickie as he burst through on goal. The Fratton faithful were baying for a red card, but referee Charles Breakspear instead brandished a yellow.
It was Oxford who dominated as the interval approached, though, and Malachi Napa’s effort was diverted wide by Luke McGee’s fingertips.
Then, from the resulting corner, a well-placed Pitman had to hack Dickie’s goal-bound header from the line.
And the United defender should have done better just before the break, rising at the far post to meet a corner, only to send the ball wide from just a few yards out.
Oxford United 0
Oxford were still on top in the early stages of the second half, with Jack Whatmough doing well to deal with Todd Kane’s dangerous cross.
And the hosts made a change after just 51 minutes, with Evans making a welcome return to action in place of Ronan.
Pompey were struggling to keep hold of the ball and United were growing in confidence as they pushed forward, without forcing McGee into too much action.
And it looked as though the visitors would draw level just past the hour mark – only to miss a penalty and then be reduced to 10 men.
Clarke was penalised for a tug on Dickie inside the box, with Mowatt sending the spot-kick cannoning against the post.
The Oxford forward immediately clashed with Thompson, lashing out to send the Blues player tumbling to the turf.
That sparked a melee, involving plenty of pushing and shoving. When it all calmed down, Breakspear booked McGee for his reaction, before dismissing Mowatt.
It did not take long for the hosts to make the most of their numerical advantage, with the lead doubled on 69 minutes.
The delivery from Lowe on the right was superb and PITMAN was there to lash the ball into the roof of the net from a few yards out.
Pompey were, unsurprisingly, completely on top, with Evans seeing a shot blocked as home players started to fancy seeing their name on the scoresheet.
Instead it was the familiar figure of PITMAN who extended the advantage – with Lowe again playing a key role.
He raced onto a Thompson pass and rounded Eastwood with ease, only to be forced wide.
But the winger maintained his composure and squared for the Blues’ top scorer to stab into the net and complete an enoyable afternoon.
Pompey (4-1-4-1): McGee; Walkes, Whatmough, Clarke, Donohue; Thompson (May 87); Lowe, Close, Ronan (Evans 51), Naismith; Pitman (c)
Goals: Naismith 5, Pitman 69, 79
Booked: Thompson, Naismith, McGee
Subs not used: Bass, Burgess, Haunstrup, Kennedy, Chaplin
Oxford (4-1-2-1-2): Eastwood; Kane, Dickie, Mousinho (c), Smith-Brown (Ricardinho 77); Brannagan; Ledson, Mowatt; Henry (Mehmeti 77); Napa (Rothwell 66), Thomas
Sent off: Mowatt
Booked: Ledson, Dickie, Brannagan
Subs not used: Shearer, Martin, Ashby, Ruffels
Referee: Charles Breakspear
Attendance: 17,892 (1,050 away fans)
Pompey twice battled from behind to secure a 2-2 draw with Doncaster in an eventful contest at Fratton Park.
They recovered from a disastrous start that saw James Coppinger score and Anton Walkes grabbed a deserved equaliser.
The hosts dominated from that point on, only for John Marquis to leave them trailing once more after the break.
But Brett Pitman came off the bench to level and the Blues saw out a nervy conclusion that saw Kal Naismith go in goal following an injury to Stephen Henderson, before Christian Burgess was sent off.
Kenny Jackett made four changes from the side narrowly beaten at home by Shrewsbury the previous week.
New signings Henderson and Walkes were both handed debuts, with there were also starts for Matty Kennedy and Connor Ronan.
That meant Luke McGee, Jamal Lowe and Naismith all dropped to the bench, while Adam May was serving a suspension.
But Henderson’s first job was to pick the ball out of his own net, as – for the second time this season against Doncaster – Pompey made a terrible start.
Walkes blocked Alfie Beestin’s path to goal, but Coppinger picked up the loose ball and managed to force the ball home.
It might have got even worse for the hosts, as they struggled to keep hold of the ball in the opening stages.
The evergreen Coppinger was proving a nuisance and one shot was dealt with by Henderson, while another was deflected just past the post.
Rovers did have the ball in the net again on 16 minutes when former Fratton loanee Marquis stooped to convert Coppinger’s cross, but their celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.
Pompey suddenly found their feet, though, and proceeded to dominate the remainder of the first half.
Burgess was not quite able to take advantage when Ben Close’s free-kick was helped on, first by Matt Clarke and then Oli Hawkins.
But a leveller did arrive on 19 minutes and it was WALKES who was able to celebrate a goal on his Blues bow.
A corner was sent into the box by skipper Gareth Evans and that led to a scramble in the visitors’ box.
Clarke and Walkes both tried to stab home the loose ball, although it was the latter who got the vital touch before wheeling away to celebrate.
Pompey did not stop there, though, and a shot from Evans was deflected behind, while Tyler Garratt did well to beat Hawkins to Kennedy’s cross.
Ian Lawlor then made a stunning save to keep out Clarke’s header from point-blank range when the centre-back met Dion Donohue’s excellent corner.
There were plenty more dangerous deliveries into the Doncaster box – particularly from Kennedy – although the visitors were defending firm.
But there was late drama at the other end just before the break, as a late challenge from Donohue led to a melee.
Referee Graham Salisbury calmed things down, though, showing yellow cards to the initial perpetrator, as well as Burgess and Marquis.
Doncaster Rovers 1
It was still the hosts on top once the action restarted, although clear-cut opportunities were at a premium.
Hawkins met a low cross from Kennedy, only for a well-placed Andy Boyle to make a vital block in the Doncaster box.
Pompey almost took the lead just before the hour mark, though, as Ronan sent Close through on goal, only for Lawlor to tear from his line and make another fine save.
Jackett soon made his first change of the afternoon, as Hawkins was withdrawn for top scorer Pitman.
But the Blues then undid all their good work by leaving Marquis in acres of space to head home Coppinger’s corner and restore Rovers’ advantage.
The hosts tried to battle back, but some wayward crossing was undoing their progress into promising areas.
A double substitution was made to reinvigorate Pompey on 72 minutes, with Kennedy and Evans withdrawn for Naismith and Lowe.
Naismith almost levelled when he tried to sneak a long-range shot inside Lawlor’s near post, only for the keeper to get down and save.
But Pompey did find another equaliser from Donohue’s resulting corner, as PITMAN managed to bundle the ball over the line.
Delight turned to concern soon after, though, as Henderson went down off the ball and – clearly distraught – had to limp off.
Jackett had already made all three of his allowed changes, meaning Naismith had to don the gloves for the closing stages.
The challenge became even harder early in the seven minutes of stoppage-time, when Burgess handled and was shown a second booking to leave the Blues with nine men.
Naismith came to the rescue, though, making a key save with his feet to deny Ben Whiteman and ensure Pompey secured a point.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Walkes, Burgess, Clarke, Donohue; Thompson, Close; Evans (c) (Lowe 72), Ronan, Kennedy (Naismith 72); Hawkins (Pitman 59)
Goals: Walkes 19, Pitman 81
Sent off: Burgess (two yellow cards)
Subs not used: McGee, Deslandes, Widdrington, Chaplin
Doncaster (4-1-2-1-2): Lawlor; Blair, Anderson, Boyle, Garratt (McCullough 59); Houghton; Whiteman, Rowe; Coppinger (c) (Kongolo 73); Beestin (Kiwomya 59), Marquis
Goals: Coppinger 4, Marquis 63
Booked: Marquis, Anderson
Subs not used: Marosi, Alcock, Mason, May
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Attendance: 17,364 (366 away fans)
Kal Naismith capitalised on a defensive howler to ensure Pompey saw off Plymouth at Fratton Park.
He snatched the ball from goalkeeper Remi Matthews and prodded home midway through the first half.
It was a deserved victory for the Blues, even if there were a few nervy moments towards the end of the contest.
Kenny Jackett made three changes from the side that were beaten at Peterborough earlier in the week.
Conor Chaplin replaced Curtis Main up front, while full-backs Nathan Thompson and Brandon Haunstrup came in for Matty Kennedy and the suspended Christian Burgess.
Evans continued to wear the captain’s armband in Brett Pitman’s absence – rainbow coloured on this occasion to show the club’s support for LGBT inclusivity – but was pushed into a more advanced role.
There were plenty of familiar faces in the opposition line-up, with Sonny Bradley, Toumani Diagouraga and Jake Jervis all starting, while Nadir Ciftci was on the bench.
After a fairly uninspiring opening, it was the hosts who began to apply pressure as the first half progressed.
The first decent chance fell to Brandon Haunstrup after he was fed by Chaplin and the left-back’s fierce drive was just about palmed over by Matthews.
Matt Clarke – playing in a more familiar central role – then did well to burst forward and square the ball for Evans, whose shot was deflected behind.
Chaplin also had a snap-shot from long-range that was straight at Matthews, but fumbled nervously over by the stopper.
But the Blues were almost caught out at the other end when Yann Songo’o was left in space in the box to meet David Fox’s free-kick, only to guide his header wide.
Instead it was Pompey who broke the deadlock midway through the half – thanks to a huge error from Matthews.
The keeper came out of his area to try to collect Clarke’s long punt forward, but was tackled by the alert NAISMITH.
Matthews tried to tug him back, but the Blues forward kept his composure to poke the ball over the line.
Evans soon had a shot that swerved wide, but Plymouth began to pose some problems as the interval approached.
They were not really creating any scoring chances, although Luke McGee showed good timing to come off his line and dispossess Joel Grant.
Plymouth Argyle 0
There was an immediate chance for Pompey after the restart, but although Naismith’s shot had plenty of power, it was straight at Matthews.
And the keeper made amends for his earlier error with a stunning save to prevent Naismith from turning in Chaplin’s low cross.
Oliver Hawkins then had a shot deflected behind from the resulting corner, while Plymouth nervously dealt with another set-piece moments later.
But Jackett was forced into a switch just before the hour mark when Hawkins pulled up injured and had to limp off.
Kennedy was brought on to replace him, with Evans moving to right-back and Thompson switching to the centre.
Pompey gave away some sloppy free-kicks in the quest to protect their lead, as Argyle tried to get men forward.
They almost scored a second on 75 minutes, though, when Songo’o diverted Kennedy’s teasing delivery narrowly past his own post.
And there was another great opportunity when Chaplin stole possession and slipped Naismith through on goal.
Matthews came out of his box and the pair collided, with the ball rolling against the post before play was stopped so both players could receive treatment.
Naismith was initially cleared to continue, but soon had to depart and was replaced by Stuart O’Keefe.
There was a hint of nervousness creeping into Pompey’s performance as the seconds ticked down, but the visitors were unable to capitalise.
One throw did cause problems in the Blues back-line, although the danger passed when Diagouraga swiped at thin air.
The display of six additional minutes certainly caused some nerves among the Fratton faithful, but the hosts saw out the closing stages to secure the victory.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): McGee; Thompson, Hawkins (Kennedy 59), Clarke, Haunstrup; Close, Rose; Evans (c), Chaplin (Main 90+1), Lowe; Naismith (O’Keefe 83)
Goals: Naismith 24
Subs not used: Bass, Talbot, May, Bennett
Plymouth (4-1-4-1): Matthews; Sawyer (c), Songo’o, Bradley, Taylor-Sinclair; Fox; Carey (Lameiras 79), Sarcevic (Ainsworth 86), Diagouraga, Grant (Ciftci 71); Jervis
Booked: Sawyer, Diagouraga
Subs not used: Cooper, Miller, Wylde, Fletcher
Referee: Robert Madley
Attendance: 17,923 (1,870 away fans)
Checkatrade Trophy 1
Honours even in game….almost
Pompey began their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with an entertaining 3-3 draw against Fulham’s under-21 side at a sparsely-populated Fratton Park.
But it was the visitors who claimed a bonus point after triumphing 4-2 in the resulting penalty shoot-out.
Stephen Humphrys gave the Londoners an interval lead, while the goals rained in following the interval.
Jamal Lowe and Kal Naismith turned the match around before George Williams levelled from the spot.
But there was still time for Lowe to fire the Blues back into the lead, while Elijah Adebayo’s strike then ensured penalties.
Kenny Jackett made seven changes to the side that were beaten at Oxford in the league on Saturday.
First year scholar Joe Hancott – at the age of just 16 years and 161 days – was handed a debut at left-back.
The competition rules also allowed Lowe to feature, despite being in the middle of his three-match suspension.
Gareth Evans, Jack Whatmough, Adam May and Naismith were the only players who started at the Kassam Stadium to keep their place.
There were not too many inside Fratton Park to watch an entertaining first half that saw chances at both ends of the pitch.
A lovely passing move from the hosts ended with May drilling in a low shot that was well held by Cottagers keeper Magnus Norman.
Alex Bass then juggled a dangerous Jon Dagur Thorsteinsson free-kick that was whipped in from wide on the left.
Williams also saw an effort well blocked by Whatmough before Jerome Opku headed a corner straight at Bass.
The action quickly switched from one end of the pitch to the other and Curtis Main glanced a header wide from Ben Close’s cross.
But it was Fulham who broke the deadlock on 21 minutes, as Humphrys drilled an angled shot right into the bottom corner.
Bass stopped Thorsteinsson from doubling their lead moments later, getting down to his right to push the midfielder’s effort clear.
Pompey were soon on the hunt for an equaliser, however, and Close’s snap-shot was deflected inches past the post.
The hosts then broke quickly from a Cottagers corner and Main released Hancott, whose fierce strike was well saved by Norman.
Whatmough wasted a fantastic opportunity to score late in the first half when he was left free to meet May’s delivery, only to send the ball wide.
Fulham U21 1
Pompey had a great chance to draw level just after the interval when May slipped a pass through to Naismith in the box.
The Scottish forward elected to try to squeeze a shot inside the keeper’s near post, but Norman managed to divert the ball behind.
LOWE did find the net on 54 minutes, though, picking up Main’s neat back-heel and angling a shot into the net.
And the match was turned on its head moments later, as Evans whipped in a cross from wide on the right that NAISMITH fired home.
Pompey were not ahead for long, though, as Bass needlessly brought down Williams and referee Antony Coggins pointed to the spot.
It was Williams who stepped up to take the penalty and hammered it straight down the middle to make it all square.
But the goals kept coming and the Blues were back in front on 66 minutes when Evans’ attempt was deflected into LOWE’s path and he swivelled before firing an unstoppable shot past Norman.
Substitute Kyle Bennett almost gave the hosts a cushion, only to see his long-range effort rattle the crossbar.
And Fulham ensured there was more drama in a topsy-turvy encounter when Adebayo slammed home, despite furious Pompey appeals for offside.
That ensured both sides took one point, with a penalty shoot-out held to see who would claim the bonus one on offer.
Fulham took four in the new ‘ABBA’ format and scored them all, but while Conor Chaplin and Bennett both found the net, Norman saved from Naismith and Evans.
Pompey (4-3-3): Bass; Evans (c), Davies, Whatmough, Hancott; May, Baker (Bennett 60), Close (Talbot 76); Lowe, Main (Chaplin 68), Naismith
Goals: Lowe 54, 66, Naismith 57
Subs not used: McGee, Burgess, Haunstrup, Kabamba
Fulham U21 (4-4-2): Norman; Sessegnon, Davies (c), Opoku (Harris 76), Kavanagh; Humphrys, O’Riley, Kait (Kwietniewski 79), Thorsteinsson; Williams, Adebayo
Goals: Humphrys 21, Williams 62 (pen), Adebayo 82
Subs not used: Ashby-Hammond, Nabay, Andrason, Elstone, Pearce
Referee: Antony Coggins
Attendance: 1,520 (62 away fans)
Chaplin bags treble in Westleigh Park rout
Conor Chaplin hit a hat-trick as Pompey continued their prolific pre-season form with a 6-0 thrashing of Havant & Waterlooville.
The rout began with a Lee Molyneaux own-goal, while the striker then ran riot with a treble before the interval.
He also teed-up Kal Naismith to add to the advantage early in the second half, while Curits Main wrapped things up from the penalty spot.
Tareiq Holmes-Dennis made his first appearance in a Pompey shirt following his loan signing from Huddersfield earlier in the week.
The hosts named former Fratton midfielder Wes Fogden in their starting line-up, but Matt Tubbs missed out with an injury.
It was a hot and sunny afternoon at Westleigh Park, but that did not stop the first half from being played at a hectic pace.
And it was the visitors who unsurprisingly looked the more threatening side throughout the opening 45 minutes.
They had already gone close on a couple of occasions when Kyle Bennett fired against the crossbar following some fine build-up play between Chaplin and Holmes-Dennis.
The woodwork came to the Hawks’ rescue again soon after, with Bennett this time having a shot deflected against the post.
There was a blow for Kenny Jackett’s side in between those chances, however, as Matt Clarke limped off the pitch injured.
But the breakthrough did finally arrive – albeit in somewhat farcical fashion – on 26 minutes.
Naismith’s corner caused havoc in the box and the ball eventually ricocheted off the unfortunate Molyneaux and into the net.
That was the signal for the floodgates to open and Pompey doubled their advantage just a few moments later.
Holmes-Dennis swung a delightful cross into the area from wide on the left and CHAPLIN was left with a simple finish at the far post.
The Hawks then had their best chance of the half with a quick counter-attack, but Alex Bass surged from his line to brilliantly deny Alfie Rutherford.
Pompey were not quite so profligate and CHAPLIN bagged his second of the afternoon on 39 minutes, collecting a ball down the line and cutting inside before smashing home a shot.
And CHAPLIN completed his hat-trick in stoppage-time with a first time finish into the bottom corner after being teed-up by Naismith.
Havant & Waterlloville 0
Pompey did not sit on their lead at the start of the second half and Chaplin was once again involved in their fifth goal.
The diminutive striker sent a dangerous low ball into the box from wide on the left, leaving NAISMITH with a simple tap-in.
A flurry of substitutes soon disrupted the flow, however, with Chaplin among those taking a well-earned rest.
But it was one of the players who came on that managed to add a sixth goal for the Blues on 76 minutes.
MAIN barged his way into the box and drew a foul from Alfie Whittingham, then picked himself up to slam home from the spot.
The visitors continued to threaten and Nicke Kabamba was inches away from connecting with Drew Talbot’s cross.
Milan Lalkovic then embarked on a mazy run through the Hawks defence before being denied by a fine save from substitute keeper Alan Walker-Harris.
But Lee Bradbury’s Hawks managed to see the remaining moments out to limit the damage in front of a healthy Westleigh Park crowd.
Hawks (3-5-2): Young (Walker-Harris 72); Woodford, Molyneaux (Wakley 64), Harris; Tarbuck, Lewis (c) (Whittingham 64), Carter (Stock 64 (Yokota 79)), Fogden (Ridge 64), Williams; Prior (Odubade 46), Rutherford (Hayter 46)
Sub not used: Robinson
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Bass; Evans (c) (Talbot 72), Burgess (Whatmough 72), Clarke (Davies 16), Holmes-Dennis (Haunstrup 46); May (Roberts 76), Rose (Close 57); Baker (Lowe 57), Naismith (Kabamba 72), Bennett (Main 72); Chaplin (Lalkovic 57)
Goals: Molyneaux 26 (og), Chaplin 30, 39, 45+1, Naismith 47, Main 74 (pen)
Sub not used: Collins
Referee: Alex Blake
We are CHAMPIONS!
Pompey thrashed Cheltenham 6-1 to secure the League Two title on a memorable afternoon on the south coast.
They became only the fifth team to win all four divisions after both Plymouth and Doncaster failed to secure three points.
Daniel O’Shaughnessy’s own-goal opened the scoring at Fratton Park, but the lead was a slender one at the break.
It all changed in the second half, however, as Kyle Bennett, Jamal Lowe and Gareth Evans found the target – the latter from the penalty spot – while Kal Naismith bagged a brace.
Fans then flooded onto the pitch at full-time to begin a party that will likely last for quite a while.
Paul Cook stuck with the same side that won at Mansfield the previous week, meaning that it was Conor Chaplin who again led the line.
But it was a Robins player who inadvertently gave the hosts a welcome lead with just 13 minutes on the clock.
Enda Stevens – who collected The News/Sports Mail Player of the Season award before kick-off – delivered a low cross that O’Shaughnessy deflected into his own net.
Chaplin had a chance to double the advantage soon after, but his fierce drive was kept out by Scott Brown.
Cheltenham were not creating too much at the other end, although David Forde got down to his left to keep out Harry Pell’s effort.
The Blues were looking more threatening, meanwhile, and when a free-kick was played to Carl Baker, his curling shot was deflected inches past the post by the knee of Danny Wright.
The visitors grew stronger as the first half progressed and Forde made a comfortable save to deny Billy Waters.
Then, after the keeper did well to keep out Dan Holman’s strike, Danny Rowe curled the ball narrowly wide.
Bennett had a shot saved by Brown, while a stretching Chaplin could not quite reach Naismith’s centre.
But Cheltenham almost grabbed a leveller just before the interval, Dan Holman finding Rowe and the midfielder firing in a shot that was deflected narrowly over.
Cheltenham Town 0
There was also a great chance for the visitors moments after the restart, but Danny Wright could only head Kyle Storer’s cross wide from close range.
Holman then had a shot that was racing towards the net before Forde dived to his right to push the ball clear.
But the Blues almost had a second when Danny Rose unleashed a fierce volley that cannoned back off the underside of the crossbar.
Cook made a double switch just past the hour mark, with Baker and Chaplin making way for Lowe and Gary Roberts.
And Pompey soon doubled their advantage, as BENNETT fired in a shot that took a wicked deflection to leave Brown stranded.
That was the cue for the floodgates to open and, following a quick counter, Bennett slipped the ball through for NAISMITH to calmly slip home.
It was substitute LOWE who was next to get in on the act on 72 minutes when he found the bottom corner from a tight angle.
And when Roberts was tripped in the box by Liam Davis, referee Christopher Sarginson pointed to the spot, with EVANS stepping up to slam home the resulting penalty.
The fans were celebrating in the stands with news coming through that both Doncaster and Plymouth were being held.
Pompey had certainly done their job, although Cheltenham pulled a goal back through substitute James Dayton.
That failed to stop the hosts’ attacking charge, however, and Bennett’s strike was superbly saved by Brown.
NAISMITH did grab a sixth goal on 85 minutes, with Michael Doyle sending a ball over the top and Pompey’s top scorer calmly slotting into the net.
All the attention now was to what was happening at Grimsby and Hartlepool, with plenty of fingernails being chewed.
Fans ran onto the pitch in celebration at the final whistle, with news filtering through that Plymouth could only draw.
And when Doncaster’s match at Hartlepool finished in defeat, it was confirmed that Pompey were League Two champions.
We’re on our way.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose (Aborah 71), M.Doyle; Baker (Lowe 61), Naismith, Bennett; Chaplin (Roberts 61)
Goals: O’Shaughnessy 13 (og), Bennett 62, Naismith 66, 85, Lowe 72, Evans 75 (pen)
Subs not used: O’Brien, Whatmough, Linganzi , Lowe, Roberts, Kabamba
Cheltenham (4-4-2): Brown; Cranston (Barthram 66), O’Shaughnessy, Boyle, Davies; Pell (Dayton 54), Storer (c), Rowe, Waters; Wright, Holman (Munns 71)
Goals: Dayton 78
Subs not used: Kitscha, Winchester, Downes, Wootton
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Attendance: 17,956 (545 away fans)
Baker and Naismith on target.
Pompey ensured their promotion party did not fall flat with a 2-1 victory over Cambridge at Fratton Park.
Carl Baker fired them ahead before the break and Kal Naismith’s fine free-kick doubled the advantage in the second half.
An equally impressive strike from Luke Berry reduced the deficit, but the Blues saw out the closing stages to secure all three points.
Paul Cook made three changes from the side that won at Notts County to secure promotion on Easter Monday.
There were maiden starts for Nicke Kabamba and Stanley Aborah, with Gary Roberts and Amine Linganzi making way.
Matt Clarke also returned from injury to replace Christian Burgess at the heart of Pompey’s back-line.
There was a carnival atmosphere inside Fratton Park as the sides emerged from the tunnel to the tune of the Herman’s Hermits hit ‘I’m Into Something Good’.
And it was the hosts who looked more threatening in the early stages, with Naismith’s effort blocked before Baker drilled a low shot just past the post.
Enda Stevens then tried his luck after cutting inside from out wide, although his rising drive cleared the crossbar.
And Cambridge skipper Leon Legge managed to head clear a cross from the left-back before it could reach the waiting Kabamba.
Gareth Evans was next to have a pop and hit the ball cleanly enough from 25 yards, only for it to fly straight into the arms of Will Norris.
But the United keeper was beaten on 20 minutes, as Stevens got free down the left and cut the ball back for BAKER to side-foot home from inside the box.
That was the signal for the play-off chasing visitors to start showing some more ambition and try to chase an equaliser.
Medy Elito whipped in a free-kick from wide on the left, with David Forde was at his commanding best to punch clear.
But Cambridge almost drew level when the keeper failed to claim a cross on 35 minutes, as Michael Doyle initially cleared before Uche Ikpeazu’s effort was turned off the line by Jack Whatmough.
The danger was not over yet, however, and Liam O’Neil should have found the target after being picked out from the resulting corner.
And Forde did brilliantly to somehow claim a dangerous delivery by Piero Mingoia with just one hand in a crowded area.
But it was the Blues who almost snatched a goal to extend their advantage just moments before the break.
Naismith and Stevens combined well down the left and the latter’s centre was hooked back across goal by Baker, although just too high for Kabamba to divert on target at the far post.
Cambridge United 0
There was another great chance for the hosts following the restart as Norris spilled Kyle Bennett’s shot, only for Kabamba to slip before he could reach the loose ball.
It was only a brief respite for Cambridge, however, and Shaun Derry’s side did fall further behind on 51 minutes.
Aborah was brought down 25 yards from goal and top scorer NAISMITH stepped up to curl home a beauty of a free-kick.
The visitors needed some inspiration and quickly made all three of their substitutions, including introductions for former Blues players James Dunne and Adam McGurk.
And Cook made a couple of switches of his own, with Kabamba and Baker making way for Conor Chaplin and Monday’s goal hero Jamal Lowe.
That seemed to take the sting out of the game, although it was still Pompey playing with more attacking intent.
A dangerous low Stevens cross was turned into his own keeper’s arms by Legge, while a couple of fine passing moves were just lacking a final killer ball.
But Cambridge found a route back into the game on 80 minutes when Aborah conceded a free-kick that Berry superbly fired past Forde’s desperate grasp.
The same played had another sighter following a foul by Doyle soon after, although this time he smashed his shot straight into the wall.
A third free-kick from Berry in stoppage-time was then heading for the net, until Forde managed to push it to safety.
And United were unable to find an equaliser, meaning that Pompey still have slim hopes of catching leaders Doncaster.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Whatmough, Clarke, Stevens; Aborah, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Lowe 67), Naismith, Bennett (Roberts 72); Kabamba (Chaplin 63)
Goals: Baker 20, Naismith 51
Booked: Baker, Whatmough, Forde
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, T.Davies, Rose
Cambridge (4-1-4-1): Norris; Halliday, Legge (c), Taylor, Carroll; O’Neil (Dunk 57); Mingoia, Newton (Dunne 61), Berry, Elito; Ikpeazu (McGurk 63)
Goals: Berry 80
Subs not used: Gregory, Wharton, Maris, Lewis
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 18,165 (622 away fans)
Evans, Naismith and Lowe on target.
Pompey strengthened their grasp on automatic promotion with a 3-1 victory over Yeovil.
Gareth Evans opened the scoring from the spot, as the Blues finally managed to break their penalty curse.
But an unfortunate own-goal drew the Glovers level after the break and threatened to spoil the party.
Top scorer Kal Naismith restored the advantage, however, and Jamal Lowe came off the bench to net his first goal for the club.
Paul Cook made two changes from the side that won at Hartlepool the previous week.
Lowe dropped to the bench to make way for a fit-again Carl Baker, while Gary Roberts replaced the injured Noel Hunt.
That meant Naismith was employed as a makeshift striker – a role he performed so effectively in the second half at Victoria Park.
Pompey made a bright start in the south coast sunshine and Bevis Mugabi had to be alert to beat Roberts to Evans’ cross.
But it was Yeovil who should have forged ahead moments later, with an unmarked Tom Eaves sending Kevin Dawson’s cross over the bar.
It was generally the hosts looking more threatening, however, and a dangerous low Roberts centre had to be cleared behind by Alex Lacey.
Then, from the resulting corner, Matt Clarke rose highest to meet the ball, only for Liam Shephard to clear from the line.
But the Blues did break the deadlock on 15 minutes – and finally bring an end to their penalty hoodoo.
Roberts did well to nip in and steal the ball from the dithering Mugabi, drawing a clumsy challenge from the centre-back.
Referee Graham Horwood immediately pointed to the spot and EVANS coolly steered his shot into the bottom corner.
They kept pushing forward and Artur Krysiak denied Naismith before Roberts’ cross hit the hapless Mugabi and ricocheted against the inside of the post.
Pompey continued to send some dangerous deliveries into the box that caused the Glovers defence problems.
There was also one at the other end, however, and Mugabi should at least have turned Matty Dolan’s corner on target from just a few yards out.
Yeovil Town 0
Pompey were keen to build on their narrow advantage once the second half got underway, with Naismith and Kyle Bennett proving a nuisance down the left.
Roberts then found Naismith in the box and a glancing header from the hosts’ top scorer was superbly palmed clear by Krysiak.
Instead, the Glovers drew level in bizarre circumstances on 51 minutes. Francois Zoko, Clarke and Stevens were all competing for the ball and the latter two conspired to inadvertently lob it into their own net.
That was the signal for the Blues to camp out in their opponents’ half, with the visitors having to deal with several corners.
Evans and Bennett also had shots blocked, as Pompey – backed by a noisy crowd – tried to restore their advantage.
Stevens then tried to catch Krysiak out at his near post with a low drive, as the Glovers struggled to contain their hosts.
Cook made his first change on 67 minutes, as Conor Chaplin replaced Roberts to give the strikeforce a more conventional look.
But it was the stand-in who fired the Blues back into the lead just seconds later, as Stevens teed-up NAISMITH and Krysiak could not get a strong enough hand to the Scotsman’s shot.
Yeovil boss Darren Way quickly brought on Otis Khan and his effort flew narrowly over the bar, rippling the top of the net in the process.
Baker then made way for Lowe and within two minutes of his introduction, the January signing opened his account for the club.
It was a decent individual effort from LOWE, who bundled his way past a challenge before finding the net from the tightest of angles.
That ensured Pompey could see the game out relatively free of nerves and take another stride towards a place in League One.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Lowe 76), Roberts (Chaplin 67), Bennett; Naismith (Kabamba 90)
Goals: Evans 15 (pen), Naismith 68, Lowe 78
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Whatmough, Linganzi
Yeovil (3-4-3): Krysiak; Mugabi (Smith 57), Lacey, Butcher; Shephard, Dawson (c), Dolan, James; Goodship (Khan 70), Zoko, Eaves (Akpa Akpro 50)
Goals: Stevens 51 (og)
Subs not used: Maddison, Sowunmi, Lawless, Jones
Referee: Graham Horwood
Attendance: 17,564 (443 away fans)
Naismith and Roberts on target.
Pompey moved another step closer to promotion with a 2-0 victory at Hartlepool.
A goal in either half from Kal Naismith and Gary Roberts ensured the Blues registered a fifth win from their past six games.
There were chances at either end of the pitch in an entertaining contest in the north-east, with both sides striking the woodwork.
Paul Cook made three changes from the side that beat Newport on home soil the previous week.
Christian Burgess returned from a one-match to replace Tom Davies at the heart of defence.
And with the injured duo of Carl Baker (hamstring) and Eoin Doyle (groin) both missing, there were returns for Jamal Lowe and Noel Hunt.
There was a breathless start to proceedings, with the ball quickly switching from one end of the pitch to the other.
It was the visitors who were first to threaten with a Naismith corner that was not properly dealt with, forcing Joe Fryer to leave his line and punch clear.
But Hartlepool then broke quickly following another Pompey set-piece, only for Lewis Alessandra’s surging run to eventually break down.
The ball soon found its way out to Liam Donnelly on the right and his cross was glanced wide by Nathan Thomas.
And the action then switched to the opposite end, as Kyle Bennett saw his effort blocked before Naismith dived to meet Enda Stevens’ delivery and send the ball flying narrowly past the post.
But the Blues did break the deadlock on 17 minutes when Stevens found NAISMITH in acres of space to send a smart volley into the back of the net.
The advantage might have been doubled soon after, but a sliding Hunt could not quite reach Gareth Evans’ low cross.
Hunt then tried a snap-shot from the edge of the box, although the ball flew comfortably into Fryer’s arms.
It was the hosts who soon began to dominate possession as they searched for an equaliser without being able to test David Forde.
There were a few shots blocked by the Blues back-line, but Hartlepool were largely guilty of looking for the perfect final pass instead of trying their luck.
The display of one additional minute for stoppages seemed to signal an incident-free end to the first half.
But the players remained on the pitch for a lot longer, with Hunt landing awkwardly after challenging for the ball.
He was treated on the pitch before eventually being stretched down the tunnel and replaced by Roberts.
Hartlepool United 0
Naismith was now leading the line for Pompey, but it was still Hartlepool looking the most likely side to score.
And, shortly after Forde had commandingly punched clear a cross, they had their best chance yet to draw level.
It was a cleanly-struck effort from Thomas that curled around the keeper’s grasp and cannoned back off the post, with Rhys Oates’ follow-up blocked by Matt Clarke.
But Roberts then missed a great opportunity to double the Blues’ advantage, diving to meet Stevens’ cross, but sending the ball over from close range.
The substitute made up for that miss, however, by finding the target on the hour mark and sparking wild scenes of celebration in the away end.
Naismith was the provider, staying calm when his initial effort was cut out and unselfishly slipping a pass through to ROBERTS, who slammed the ball into the roof of the net from a few yards out.
And Naismith almost had another goal of his own soon after, surging forward and sending a low shot against the base of the post.
Conor Chaplin replaced Lowe for the closing stages, as Cook decided to reintroduce a more traditional striker.
There was even a late cameo for Nicke Kabamba, as Pompey saw out the final few moments with ease to secure the points.
Hartlepool (4-1-4-1): Fryer; Donnelly (Magnay 90+2), Walker, Harrison, Deverdics; Featherstone (c); Oates (Rodney 75), Woods, Alessandra, Thomas; Amond
Subs not used: Dudzinski, Bates, Hawkins, Richardson, Rooney
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Lowe (Chaplin 80), Naismith (Kabamba 90), Bennett; Hunt (Roberts 45+5)
Goals: Naismith 17, Roberts 60
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Whatmough, Linganzi
Referee: Mark Brown
Attendance: 4,500 (977 Pompey fans)
Bennett and Naismith on target at Fratton Park.
Pompey got their promotion charge back on track as they returned to winning ways against struggling Newport.
Kyle Bennett opened the scoring late in the first half before Kal Naismith headed in a second after the interval.
It appeared that the Blues were cruising towards three points, but Alex Samuel netted for the visitors to ensure a nervy finale.
Paul Cook – in his 100th match in charge – made two changes from the side beaten at Stevenage the previous week.
Bennett and Naismith had both recovered from injury to take their place in the starting 11, with Noel Hunt dropping to the bench and Christian Burgess serving a one-match ban.
There was a minute’s silence before kick-off in tribute to those affected by the recent attack in London.
Pompey soon started to dominate once the action got underway, but struggled to create too many clear-cut chances.
The best ones fell to Eoin Doyle, but twice he just failed to get on the end of teasing deliveries from Naismith.
And the on-loan Irishman was then unable to beat County keeper Joe Day from an acute angle after being slipped through by Carl Baker.
But the striker was forced off midway through the first half after picking up an injury and replaced by Conor Chaplin.
There had not been much for David Forde to worry about and when former Blues striker Ryan Bird cut the ball across the face of goal, Tom Davies and Michael Doyle combined to scramble it clear.
But it was still Pompey causing the most problems, even if Day was not exactly being over-worked between the sticks.
Bennett and Matt Clarke both had shots charged down, while a number of corners were comfortably dealt with.
The Blues did break the deadlock just before the break, however, and it was a goal that was extremely easy on the eye.
Baker intercepted the ball from Bird and slipped a superb pass through the Newport defence for BENNETT, who neatly slotted home.
Newport County 0
After seeing off some Newport pressure early in the second half, the hosts went in search of another goal.
Chaplin was never really going to trouble Day with an audacious attempt from wide on the left, while Baker’s effort rose over the crossbar.
Naismith then hit a cleanly-struck free-kick straight into the keeper’s arms, as the Blues started to take control.
They almost doubled their advantage on 58 minutes, but Chaplin – who wanted the pass played earlier – could not quite convert Gareth Evans’ low cross.
But Pompey did strengthen their lead just seconds later, as Bennett found Chaplin, who neatly chipped the ball up for an unmarked NAISMITH to head into the net.
Their attacking intent did not end there, though, and Naismith saw a corner deflected into the side netting, while his second attempt was just too high for Clarke at the far post.
It was not quite one-way traffic and Naismith eventually hacked the ball clear after a County corner caused some problems.
Bennett received hearty applause from the Fratton faithful when he made way for Jamal Lowe on 71 minutes.
But it was the visiting support almost cheering when Marlon Jackson sent the ball curling towards goal, only for Forde to make a fine save.
Newport did reduce their deficit moments later, though, with Samuel rising to convert Sean Rigg’s cross from the right.
And they come close to equalising on 78 minutes as the hosts started to get sloppy, with Forde coming off his line to deny Jackson.
County’s confidence had risen and Jack Whatmough replaced Naismith as Pompey tried to shore things up.
The nerves were starting to grow inside Fratton Park and Evans did well to take the ball off the foot of Samuel as he shaped to shoot.
But the Blues saw out the closing stages with relative ease to seal a valuable victory in the battle for promotion.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, T.Davies, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker, Bennett (Lowe 71), Naismith (Whatmough 83); E.Doyle (Chaplin 25)
Goals: Bennett 42, Naismith 59
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, Linganzi, Hunt
Newport (4-2-3-1): Day; Pipe, Jones (Randall 71), Demetriou, Butler; Labadie (c), Bennett; Samuel, Rigg, Owen-Evans (Myrie-Williams 46); Bird (Jackson 46)
Goals: Samuel 75
Booked: Rigg, Labadie, Myrie-Williams
Subs not used: Bittner, Barnum-Bobb, Nelson, Gordon
Referee: Tim Robinson
Attendance: 17,364 (322 away fans)
Blues ease to home victory.
Pompey brought their fine away form back to Fratton Park with a rout of Grimsby under the floodlights.
There was a touch of fortune about the first two goals, with Kyle Bennett and Danny Rose both benefiting from wicked deflections.
But it was more than luck that saw the Blues strengthen their promotion credentials, as they put their foot on the accelerator.
The points were secured with a couple more strikes either side of the interval, as first Carl Baker and then Kal Naismith got in on the fun.
Paul Cook stuck with the same side that cruised to victory against Colchester at the weekend.
And he was almost rewarded with an early goal, as Baker flashed a shot narrowly over the bar soon after kick-off.
But it was Grimsby who looked more dangerous in the opening stages and Akwasi Asante saw a shot deflected narrowly wide following an untimely slip by Matt Clarke.
They went even closer moments later, with Zak Mills’ fierce long-range drive cannoning against the post.
And David Forde was soon called into action to push another decent attempt by Asante over the crossbar.
But the Blues scored against the run of play on 12 minutes, as BENNETT tried his luck from the edge of the box and the ball took a huge deflection to loop over Mariners keeper James McKeown and into the net.
From that point on the hosts dominated and Eoin Doyle could not quite connect with Gareth Evans’ dangerous low delivery.
A back-pedalling Naismith then got on the end of another Evans cross and watched as his header flew inches past the post.
The advantage was doubled on 35 minutes, however, when Bennett dummied Evans’ pass and ROSE hit a shot that took another deflection to beat McKeown.
Pompey kept pouring forward and when Baker slipped a fine ball through to Naismith, the winger’s cut-back was diverted just behind the onrushing Eoin Doyle.
There was a blow for the Blues just before the break, though, as Bennett went down injured and had to be replaced by Gary Roberts.
But the mood soon picked up and there was a third goal in stoppage-time, with BAKER collecting Evans’ pass and beating McKeown at his near post with a ferocious finish.
Grimsby Town 0
And it got even better for the hosts just 30 seconds after the restart when McKeown failed to hold Baker’s drive and NAISMITH slotted home the loose ball.
Pompey’s players were full of confidence and lining up to shoot against a stunned opposition defence, but the next effort from Baker ended up high in the Fratton End.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, some of the intensity went out of their performance as the half progressed.
Evans hit a clean shot on target just past the hour mark, but this time the ball was safely held by McKeown.
Pompey were dealt another injury blow on 68 minutes when Naismith signalled to come off after hurting his hamstring, with Jamal Lowe replacing him.
That failed to dampen the hosts’ dominance, though, and McKeown dived to his left to beat away Baker’s 25-yard drive.
Lowe then whipped in a cross from the right that was just behind Eoin Doyle and the on-loan striker could only head wide.
There was a jovial feel inside the stadium, with the Fratton End asking for a song from each stand – who duly obliged.
And the Blues saw out the closing stages in complete comfort to secure a third successive victory, with a third successive clean sheet.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Rose, M.Doyle (c); Baker, Naismith (Lowe 68), Bennett (Roberts 45); E.Doyle (Chaplin 86)
Goals: Bennett 12, Rose 35, Baker 45+1, Naismith 46
Subs not used: O’Brien, T.Davies, Linganzi, Hunt
Grimsby (3-5-2): McKeown; Mills, Pearson (c), Collins; Davies, Jones (Disley 57), Maxwell, Osborne (Comley 57), Andrew; Vernon, Asante (Yussuf 81)
Subs not used: Boyce, Bolarinwa, Vose, Dyson
Referee: Mark Haywood
Attendance: 16,492 (527 away fans)
Naismith strike not enough for victory.
Pompey missed a chance to climb into the automatic promotion places after conceding a late equaliser against Morecambe.
It was the hosts showing all the ambition, although their dominance was receiving no reward as the Shrimps held firm.
But Kal Naismith came off the bench to break the deadlock after the interval and the points looked to have been secured.
Lee Molyneux spoiled the party, however, with a leveller to stop the Blues overhauling defeated Carlisle.
Paul Cook unsurprisingly stuck with the same side that beat their promotion rivals at the weekend.
And they immediately set about trying to attack their opponents, who were prepared to sit back and soak up the pressure.
The Blues were passing the ball around with style and were only let down by some wayward finishing.
But Morecambe were also indebted to their goalkeeper Barry Roche, who tipped over a Carl Baker shot before using his feet to deny Gary Roberts.
Roberts was dictating play in the middle of the park and played an exquisite pass through to Eoin Doyle, only for Alex Whitmore to come across and make a fine challenge.
There was not too much action at the other end of the pitch, although Christian Burgess headed off the line before referee Stephen Martin finally spotted his assistant flagging for a foul on David Forde.
It was soon the Blues back on the attack and when another fine Roberts pass released Gareth Evans, it took another Roche save to keep the scores level.
Kyle Bennett then sent a couple of long-range efforts narrowly off target, while Eoin Doyle headed over from a Baker cross.
But Morecambe almost forged ahead completely against the run of play on 32 minutes, with Forde doing brilliantly to stop Aaron Wildig from converting Paul Mullin’s cut-back.
Normality resumed for the rest of the half, but despite Pompey’s dominance, they couldn’t find a way through.
Paul Merson was introduced to the crowd at half-time ahead of his induction into the club’s Hall of Fame.
And Roberts was certainly trying to match the former Blues star in the creativity stakes, with a low cross just about grabbed by Roche before it could reach Eoin Doyle.
But the second half was lacking the excitement of the first and Cook tried to liven things up with a substitution on 56 minutes, replacing Baker with Conor Chaplin.
Bennett and Roberts combined well as the hosts tried to find a breakthrough, although the latter’s ball was not quite right for Eoin Doyle.
Cook’s second switch saw Naismith replace Bennett on the left – and it paid instant dividends.
NAISMITH controlled Michael Doyle’s pass with his first touch and then, with his second, steered the ball into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
The Blues continued to attack and Chaplin sent a snap-shot wide before Roberts saw his effort saved after being teed-up by Naismith.
But the game was drifting towards a conclusion, until Morecambe suddenly found themselves level on 83 minutes when the ball was worked across to Molyneux, who drove home a precise finish.
Pompey tried to hit back and the award of six additional minutes provided some hope that a winner could arrive.
But the Shrimps somehow survived a corner that ricocheted around their box to depart with a share of the spoils.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Linganzi (Rose 79), M.Doyle (c); Baker (Chaplin 56), Roberts, Bennett (Naismith 63); E.Doyle
Goals: Naismith 64
Subs not used: O’Brien, Whatmough, Lowe, Hunt
Morecambe (4-2-3-1): Roche; Wakefield (McGowan 72), Edwards, Whitmore, Molyneux; Fleming (Murphy 79), Rose (c); Turner (Conlan 55), Wildig, Ellison; Mullin
Goals: Molyneux 83
Subs not used: Nizic, Duckworth, Evans, Jordan
Referee: Stephen Martin
Attendance: 15,592 (71 away fans)