Loan : Portsmouth – Northampton Town
Loan : Portsmouth – Northampton Town
|Bryn MorrisBryn Morris has been loaned to Northampton for the remainder of the 2020/21 season.
The 24-year-old midfielder has made 18 appearances this term, most recently appearing in the Papa John's Trophy defeat at Peterborough.
Morris joined Pompey from Shrewsbury in January 2019, with his only goal arriving in the infamous 3-3 draw at Southend.
Northampton won the League Two play-offs last season and are currently sitting 20th in the third tier standings.
John Marquis continued his fine run of goalscoring form by breaking the deadlock late in the first half.
And the Blues survived a scare immediately after the interval to double their advantage through the same player.
Ronan Curtis – recalled to the side – then raced clear to curl home a third goal and end the match as a contest.
But there was still time for Marcus Harness to head home his seventh of the season in the closing stages.
Kenny Jackett made one change from the side that impressively dismantled Sunderland at the weekend.
Michael Jacobs injured his knee at the Stadium of Light, so Republic of Ireland international Curtis replaced him wide on the left.
The game began at a frantic pace, with the action constantly switching from one end of the pitch to the other.
But both sides were lacking that all-important killer pass, with attacking moves often breaking down in the final third.
Northampton should have broken the deadlock on 16 minutes after some great work by Ryan Watson.
But after skipping past a couple of challenges with graceful ease, the forward undid his good work by screwing horribly wide.
Pompey then had their first decent opportunity, breaking quickly through Andy Cannon, Harness and Curtis, with Marquis’ angled effort deflected behind.
Neither keeper was being given too much to keep them warm on a chilly south coast evening, though.
But when Jonathan Mitchell was called into action on 39 minutes, he could not prevent the hosts taking the lead.
The stopper was only able to parry Ryan Williams’ low curling effort straight out in front of him, with the ball hitting MARQUIS and taking a slight deflection off Cian Bolger on its way into the net.
And the advantage was almost doubled just a few moments later, with Marquis not getting enough on his shot after being played through by the dangerous Harness.
Pompey were definitely finishing the half on top and when Cannon tried to launch a break, he was pulled back by scruff of the neck by Bolger.
It was as blatant a foul as you could possible see, with referee Trevor Kettle brandishing his first yellow card of the evening.
Northampton Town 0
The second half was not even two minutes old when the Cobblers were handed an excellent chance to level.
A heavy touch from Sean Raggett let in Sam Hoskins and the visitors felt he was fouled by the defender.
But the ball ran free for Ricky Korboa and when his shot was beaten away by Craig MacGillivray, the follow-up from Watson had to be headed away by a well-placed Jack Whatmough.
And Pompey made them pay for their profligacy by scoring twice in quick succession to gain a commanding lead.
Callum Johnson got free down the right and picked out Curtis, whose header was finely saved by Mitchell, only for MARQUIS to bundle the ball over the line.
It soon got even better for the Blues, as CURTIS was given time to advance forward and bend a shot into the bottom corner.
The visitors tried to hit back and a free-kick from debutant Alan Sheehan was brilliantly repelled by an athletic MacGillivray stop.
Both sides looked capable of adding to the scoring, although the action did calm down a bit as the half progressed.
Pompey looked to shore things up, with Harness going out to the right and Williams tucking in behind Marquis.
And the lively Harness was next to go close, cutting in from the flank and dragging narrowly past the post.
But HARNESS did have the goal his performance deserved late on, stooping to nod into the net when Cannon lifted the ball into the centre from the by-line.
Sam Hoskins sent a shot dipping over the bar as Northampton sought a consolation, but the Blues were able to add a clean sheet to their fine attacking display.
Pompey (4-4-2): MacGillivray; Johnson, Whatmough, Raggett, Brown; Williams (Morris 90+2), Naylor (c), Cannon (Close 90), Curtis; Marquis, Harness
Goals: Marquis 39, 47, Curtis 50, Harness 83
Booked: Williams, Harness
Subs not used: Bass, Mnoga, Nicolaisen, Pring, Hiwula
Northampton (3-4-3): Mitchell; Bolger (c), Sheehan (Martin 78), Horsfall; Hoskins, Sowerby, Missilou (Rose 58), Harriman; Watson, Smith, Korboa (Chukwuemeka 66)
Subs not used: Arnold, Racic, Adams, Marshall
Referee: Trevor Kettle
They got off to a poor start and Michael Harriman soon put the League Two side into the lead at a chilly Fratton Park.
But Leon Maloney’s first senior goal levelled the tie before the break and a stunning Marcus Harness strike proved to be the winner.
Kenny Jackett made nine changes from the side that beat Altrincham to progress in the FA Cup at the weekend.
Anton Walkes – who moved to left-back – and Harness were the only players to keep their place in the starting line-up.
Brett Pitman skippered the team up front, with Gareth Evans and Maloney also returning to the forward line.
A fit-again Ross McCrorie featured alongside Andy Cannon in midfield, with James Bolton, Paul Downing and Sean Raggett in defence, and Alex Bass between the sticks.
The hosts looked rusty in the opening stages and Bass was forced to deny Matt Warburton in the opening seconds.
But Northampton did go ahead on 12 minutes, with Harriman left unmarked to convert Joe Martin’s cross from a few yards out.
Pompey did grow into the contest, though, and Evans drew a smart stop from Steve Arnold after collecting Harness’ pass and cutting onto his left foot.
Jordan Turnbull then did well to divert McCrorie’s drive behind following a threatening run from the Scotland under-21 skipper.
And when the same player was brought down on the edge of the box, Harness’ free-kick was just too high for Downing at the back post.
The equaliser did arrive on 39 minutes and it was a moment to remember for MALONEY, who bravely stooped to head home another Harness delivery and open his Pompey account.
A coming together between Martin and Bolton led to pushing and shoving by the South Stand touchline late in the first half.
Referee Will Finnie eventually managed to calm the pair down and showed both players a yellow card.
Northampton Town 1
There was an early chance for the Blues once the action restarted, with Pitman’s header clawed away by Arnold.
Warburton then tried his luck from long-range at the other end, but the ball flew straight into the arms of Bass.
The keeper made a much better save soon after, getting down to keep out Billy Waters’ firm strike after the substitute had been sent through on goal.
Both sides looked capable of taking the lead and Pitman went close with a couple of headers just a minute apart.
He probably should have done better with the first, sending the ball wide from close-range, but the second was a clever effort from further out that looped narrowly over.
Pompey were suddenly looking a real threat and it came as no surprise when they went ahead just past the hour mark.
It was a stunning volleyed finish from HARNESS that thundered into the net after an Evans cross was cleared into his path.
Jackett immediately made a double change, with Maloney and McCrorie making way for John Marquis and Brandon Haunstrup.
And the Blues almost increased their advantage moments later, with Arnold getting down to brilliantly save Pitman’s downwards header.
The skipper certainly deserved a goal for his all-round play and soon bent another shot around the post after being teed-up by the influential Harness.
The action started to wind down as the finish line neared, although a lashed effort from Bolton took a deflection and flew just past the post.
Arnold then kept his side in the contest with a superb save to deny Marquis from point-blank range after Haunstrup had slipped the ball across the box.
Injuries and substitutions meant there were six minutes of stoppage-time to negoatiate, but the Blues saw the game out with ease to secure their place in Thursday evening’s third round draw.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Bass; Bolton, Downing, Raggett, Walkes; Cannon (Close 86), McCrorie (Haunstrup 63); Harness, Evans, Maloney (Marquis 63); Pitman (c)
Goals: Maloney 39, Harness 62
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Burgess, Williams, Harrison
Northampton (3-5-1-1): Arnold; Hall-Johnson, Wharton, Turnbull; Harriman, McWilliams (Waters 51), Watson (c), Pollock, Martin (Williams 68); Warburton; Smith (Harding 68)
Goals: Harriman 12
Booked: Martin, Harriman
Subs not used: Cornell, Hughes, Ballinger, Kaja
Referee: Will Finnie
Attendance: 2,413 (96 away fans)
They started poorly, but moved through the gears after Chris Long had put the struggling visitors ahead.
Matty Kennedy and Oliver Hawkins both struck in the space of a few minutes just before the interval.
Hawkins added a second following the restart and it might have been a greater margin of victory without an impressive display from Matt Ingram between the sticks.
Kenny Jackett made three changes from the side that beat AFC Wimbledon on Boxing Day.
One of them was enforced, with Brandon Haunstrup suffering from a knock and being replaced at left-back by Dion Donohue.
Meanwhile, Jamal Lowe and Conor Chaplin both dropped to the bench to make way for Kennedy and Hawkins.
Pompey had a great chance to open the scoring early on when Brett Pitman slipped a pass through to Hawkins, but Ingram stuck out a foot to make the save.
But the hosts looked well below par for most of the first half, perhaps fatigued by the hectic festive schedule.
Northampton tried to make them pay and Luke McGee was forced to back-pedal when Sam Hoskins tried to lob him.
The keeper then got down quickly to his right to make the save when Matt Grimes had a snap-shot from 35 yards.
And a teasing Brendan Moloney delivery flew past both Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess, although Long was unable to make a connection at the far post.
Pompey were forced to make a substitution on 25 minutes when Danny Rose collected a bizarre injury.
A drop ball was called for after Nathan Thompson received treatment on the pitch and John-Joe O’Toole accidentally kicked the midfielder in the leg in the battle for possession.
He was switched for Adam May, leaving the hosts with an extremely youthful central midfield pairing.
The Cobblers then broke the deadlock when Close lost possession and O’Toole sent a through ball to Long, who coolly slotted the ball past McGee.
But that seemed to spark Pompey into life and they managed to score twice in four minutes to turn the match on its head.
It was a lovely finish from KENNEDY to level, with the winger cutting on to his right foot and drilling a low shot into the bottom corner.
And it was an even better effort from HAWKINS to give the Blues the lead, as the striker rose on the edge of the box to expertly steer a deep Burgess pass over Ingram and into the net.
Northampton Town 1
Gareth Evans had limped off injured just before the break and he was replaced by Lowe before the game restarted.
The hosts were not content with a narrow lead, though, and Kennedy curled a shot narrowly over at the start of the second half.
And Pompey did find themselves further ahead on 48 minutes, as Donohue sent a perfect cross to the far post, where HAWKINS showed plenty of desire to rise above the defence and head home.
It almost got even better after Pitman’s back-heel was blocked, but Close’s follow-up rattled the crossbar.
The Blues were rampant by this point and it was only a string of saves from the overworked Ingram that was limiting the damage.
He did well to keep out an angled Pitman drive before also getting down to save another Hawkins header.
The keeper was also at his best deny Kennedy, while Lowe should at least have found the target after being sent racing through on goal.
There was, unsurprisingly, a bit of a lull following such a frantic opening to the half, although it was still the hosts looking more likely to add to the scoring.
Burgess went close after racing into the box to meet Kennedy’s free-kick and head narrowly wide of the post.
There were to be no more goals, although Pompey had already done enough to secure the points and their place in the top six.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): McGee; Thompson, Burgess, Clark, Donohue; Close, Rose (May 29); Evans (Lowe 46), Pitman (c) (Chaplin 89), Kennedy; Hawkins
Goals: Kennedy 41, Hawkins 45, 48
Booked: Pitman, Kennedy
Subs not used: Bass, Casey, Bennett, Main
Northampton (4-1-2-1-2): Ingram; Moloney, Poole, Taylor, Buchanan (c); Grimes; Crooks, McGugan; O’Toole (Foley 59); Hoskins (Powell 64), Long (Richards 72)
Goals: Long 36
Subs not used: Cornell, Smith, McWilliams, Waters
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 18,539 (538 away fans)
A small crowd were not treated to a chance-laden encounter against Northampton, but it was always the hosts who looked more likely to progress.
Evans completed an attractive passing counter-attack to open the scoring a few minutes before the interval.
O’Keefe doubled their lead in the second half and only some impressive saves from David Cornell prevented the margin of victory being even greater.
Kenny Jackett made three changes from the side that beat Plymouth in the league the previous week.
Christian Burgess returned from suspension to replace the injured Oliver Hawkins in defence, while the sidelined Kal Naismith made way for Curtis Main up front.
The other switch saw loanee O’Keefe recalled in the centre of the pitch, with Ben Close, who was nursing a knock, missing out.
A sparse attendance ensured there was an eerie atmosphere inside Fratton Park when the game got underway.
And the action on the pitch did little to warm the spirits of those fans who decided to spurn Christmas shopping to watch the contest.
There were a couple of half chances for the hosts, with O’Keefe’s volleyed effort flying over, while an audacious long-range free-kick from Christian Burgess landed on the roof of the net.
Neither side looked particularly threatening in the opening stages, however, as the game drifted along.
Main headed a difficult chance wide after rising above two defenders to meet Nathan Thompson’s cross.
Evans then drilled a low shot narrowly past the post, while Cornell – who previously had a loan spell at Fratton Park – just about beat Conor Chaplin to a loose ball.
The tie finally got going on 35 minutes, when Danny Rose slipped a fine pass through to Evans, who was denied by Cornell’s save.
Northampton had offered little at the other end, although Burgess made a timely challenge to dispossess Chris Long in the box.
And it was the Blues who broke the deadlock just before the break, courtesy of a fine passing move up the pitch.
Brandon Haunstrup released Evans, who in turn found Chaplin before bursting into the box to receive the ball back.
Chaplin dinked a cross into the centre, and EVANS was there to head home his first goal of the season.
Northampton Town 0
The advantage was almost doubled early in the second half, as Haunstrup delivered a dangerous low cross that Ash Taylor had to turn over his own crossbar.
But it then took a superb save from Luke McGee to stop the Cobblers from levelling, with the keeper diving to his right to stop Taylor from converting Lewis McGugan’s corner.
Cornell made his own decent stop when Main inventively flicked Rose’s centre towards the net, although the linesman had raised his flag for offside.
The lead did increase just before the hour mark, however, as Thompson cut the ball back for O’KEEFE to neatly steer into the bottom corner.
A third might have followed when Thompson stole back possession, but Evans’ effort from out wide flashed past the post.
Jackett made his first switch on 69 minutes, with Drew Talbot given a chance to impress in place of Haunstrup at left-back.
Evans and Chaplin were off target with shots, as the Blues tried to wrap the tie up with plenty of time to spare.
Main then saw an attempt roll agonisingly wide following good work from Rose and Chaplin to tee him up.
And Cornell made a string of fine saves to limit the damage late on, denying Main, Evans and Chaplin in quick succession.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): McGee; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Haunstrup (Talbot 69); O’Keefe, Rose; Evans (c), Chaplin, Lowe (Kennedy 88); Main
Goals: Evans 41, O’Keefe 58
Subs not used: Bass, Casey, May, Bennett, Lethbridge
Northampton (4-4-2): Cornell; Moloney, Barnett, Taylor, Buchanan; Hoskins (Bowditch 63), Poole (Waters 78), McGugan, Crooks; Richards (c), Long (Foley 46)
Subs not used: Coddington, Smith, McGivern, Kasim
Referee: Tom Nield
Attendance: 1,780 (128 away fans)
The visitors were well below-par in the first half and trailed to a Chris Long strike and Matt Clarke’s unfortunate own-goal.
But they dominated after the break and Matty Kennedy deservedly pulled one back, with several more chances to level the game soon following.
A healthy travelling support were not able to celebrate a leveller, however, and Long netted again for the hosts to wrap up victory for the Cobblers.
Kenny Jackett made one enforced change from the side that won at AFC Wimbledon three days earlier.
Oliver Hawkins suffered a nasty head wound in that fixture and was replaced up front by Conor Chaplin.
A mixture of driving rain and strong winds made conditions difficult for both sets of players throughout the contest.
Pompey carved out a couple of half-chances in the early stages before Kennedy curled a 20-yard effort narrowly over the bar.
But it was the hosts who almost broke the deadlock on 15 minutes, with Matt Grimes’ free-kick causing confusion between Luke McGee and Clarke before eventually swinging out of play.
It was only a brief respite for the Blues, however, as the Cobblers did forge ahead just a few moments later.
Shaun McWilliams slipped a fine pass through to Long and although McGee came off his line to narrow the angle, the striker neatly slotted home.
Unfortunately, McWilliams’ evening was soon cut short, as he went down injured and had to be stretchered from the pitch.
That did not stop the Cobblers’ charge, though, and some poor defending allowed them to double their advantage on 32 minutes.
Grimes delivered a free-kick from wide on the right and no Pompey player was able to get it clear, with the helpless Clarke only able to turn the ball into his own net at the far post.
It seemed to stun the Blues into action and they had a few opportunities to reduce the deficit before the interval.
Northampton almost provided a helping hand when Ash Taylor diverted Jamal Lowe’s cross against his own post.
Stuart O’Keefe then tried a long-range effort deep into stoppage-time that Matt Ingram did well to tip over the bar.
Northampton Town 2
Pompey had been poor before the break, but whatever Jackett told them during the interval seemed to do the trick.
They came roaring out of the blocks and soon reduced the deficit when O’Keefe teed-up KENNEDY for a fine finish into the bottom corner.
Adam May then had an effort deflected over before Lowe arrived at the far post to head Damien McCrory’s cross just past the post.
The Blues kept pouring forward and Brett Pitman received the ball inside the box, only for some decent Cobblers defending to prevent him getting a shot away.
Lowe then had another excellent opportunity to draw the visitors level, as there was time for him to bring Kennedy’s cross under control before a wild shot that flew wide.
Jackett made his first switch of the evening just before the hour mark, as May made way for Ben Close in midfield.
Lowe seemed to be involved in everything that was happening and soon after being booked for a foul on Daniel Powell, his low centre was deflected into the arms of a grateful Ingram.
It was pretty much one-way traffic and when McCrory’s free-kick was only partially cleared, Kennedy sent the ball back into the box, where it was turned wide by Chaplin.
But rising hopes were dashed on 70 minutes when Northampton scored against the run of play to strengthen their advantage.
There was some good work on the right by Brendan Moloney and Crooks, with the latter’s cross flicked on by Alex Revell for Long to lash home his second of the night.
Pompey, to their credit, kept trying to get the ball into their opponents’ box, but the Cobblers were holding firm at the back.
They forged a decent opening late on, however, when McCrory whipped a fine free-kick into the box, where Christian Burgess’ header was kept out by Ingram.
And the keeper made an even better stop on 87 minutes, flinging himself to the right to palm clear O’Keefe’s cleanly-struck attempt and ensure there was no late drama.
Northampton (4-4-2): Ingram; Moloney, Taylor, Pierre, Buchanan (c); Crooks, McWilliams (Kasim 29), Grimes, Smith (Powell 56); Revell (Richards 78), Long
Goals: Long 18, 70, Clarke 32 (og)
Subs not used: Cornell, Barnett, Poole, Waters
Pompey (4-2-3-1): McGee; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, McCrory; May (Close 57), O’Keefe; Lowe, Pitman (c), Kennedy; Chaplin
Goals: Kennedy 49
Booked: Thompson, Clarke, Lowe
Subs not used: Bass, Talbot, Donohue, Bennett, Naismith, Main
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 5,855 (1,153 Pompey fans)
Loan : Portsmouth – Northampton Town
|Striker moves to League One side.
Michael Smith has joined Northampton loan for the rest of the season.
The 25-year-old striker has scored 10 goals in 37 appearances since arriving at Fratton Park in February 2016.
He netted a hat-trick in August’s EFL Trophy defeat at Yeovil and also struck this season in league games against Cheltenham, Luton and Stevenage.
Northampton won the League Two title last term and currently sit 16th in the third tier standings table ahead of a trip to Walsall on Saturday.
|Midfielder pens Blues deal.
Pompey have agreed a deal to sign midfielder Danny Rose on a two-year contract.
The 28-year-old – who won the League Two title with Northampton last term – will officially become a Blues player on July 1.
Rose joined Northampton back in February and scored once in 15 appearances as the Cobblers cruised to the title.
The former Manchester United trainee previously appeared for Newport, Fleetwood and Oxford, playing more than 100 times for the latter in three separate spells.
Pompey will host Plymouth in the first leg of the play-offs on Thursday evening after losing 2-1 to Northampton.
The champions took the lead through Jack Whatmough’s unfortunate own-goal in the opening stages.
Kieron Freeman then received his marching orders for a late challenge, only for a Kal Naismith stunner to draw the hosts level.
A series of attacking substitutions were made as the Blues searched for a winner, but instead James Collins secured all three points for the Cobblers.
Paul Cook made five changes from the side that won at Hartlepool the previous week.
Whatmough was handed his first start for more than a year in the centre of defence, with fellow academy graduates Brandon Haunstrup and Ben Close also featuring.
Ben Davies returned and skippered the side in place of Michael Doyle, while Adam McGurk came in up front.
Meanwhile, former Pompey players Ricky Holmes and John Marquis led the line for the visitors, who were afforded a guard of honour as they entered the pitch.
There were a plethora of awards handed out before kick-off, with Ben Davies picking up six from various supporters’ groups.
But it was Doyle who was named The News/Sports Mail Player of the Season – and the reaction from the fans indicated that it was deserved recognition.
Both sets of supporters then paid their respects to all the Blues fans who have sadly passed away over the past year with a minute’s applause.
Once the action got underway at a warm and sunny – and packed – Fratton Park, it was the visitors who looked more threatening.
Whatmough had to deal with a couple of dangerous crosses as a new-look Pompey side struggled for fluency.
But they were not too far away from opening the scoring on 12 minutes, with Adam McGurk flinging himself at Naismith’s cross and not quite making a clean connection.
Almost immediately, however, they found themselves behind as Whatmough inadvertently sliced Nicky Adams’ cross into his own net.
Pompey were not really playing with a recognised striker, as Gary Roberts occupied a ‘false number nine’ role, flanked by Naismith and McGurk.
They did start to create more as the half progressed, though, with McGurk curling a shot over and Naismith steering narrowly wide.
But Northampton still looked dangerous themselves and Marquis might have done better than firing wildly over after being picked out by Holmes.
Pompey should have been level on 33 minutes following a good move that started with a poor clearance from Cobblers keeper Adam Smith.
Roberts picked the ball up and it soon found its way, via Freeman, to Davies down the right flank.
The full-back sent in a low cross, but Smith redeemed himself by somehow denying Naismith from point-blank range.
Roberts then collected a lovely pass over the top from Close and spotted Smith off his line, although he could not quite chip the ball over the back-pedalling keeper.
Both sides picked up a booking before the break, with Davies and Lawson D’Ath penalised for fouls on Holmes and Haunstrup respectively.
Northampton Town 1
Pompey’s hopes of getting anything from the game were dealt a massive blow just after the restart when they were reduced to 10 men.
Freeman slid in to try to win the ball and although he did not really catch John-Joe O’Toole, referee Mark Brown decided it was dangerous.
He immediately brandished a red card to rule the on-loan Sheffield United utility man out of the play-offs.
But the hosts found themselves level just seconds later – thanks to a strike right out of the top drawer.
There did not look much on when NAISMITH advanced goalwards, but he hit a stunning, swerving 35-yard strike that arrowed into the net.
Cook was forced to make his first substitution on the hour mark, as Close limped off to be replaced by Adam May.
Haunstrup then had the ball in the back of the net, but Brown had already blown his whistle for a foul on Smith by McGurk.
Northampton soon enjoyed a period of pressure, with Marquis denied by Brian Murphy before Alfie Potter fired into the side netting.
Cook made an attacking switch on 69 minutes, as Conor Wilkinson replaced Whatmough for his debut.
That resulted in a defensive reshuffle which saw Gareth Evans drop to right-back and Davies move into the centre.
And Naismith was soon employed at left-back when Haunstrup made way for Ben Tollitt on 77 minutes.
Pompey now had an abundance of attack-minded players on the pitch, but the visitors soon made their numerical advantage count to retake the lead.
Cobblers skipper David Buchanan swung the ball into the box and Collins got a faint touch to turn it home.
Naismith tried to draw the Blues level with another attempt from long-range, but this time Smith dived across goal to make the save.
And Pompey were unable to find a late leveller as the visitors secured victory to cap a memorable campaign.
But plenty of fans still stayed behind to salute the Blues as they returned to the pitch after the final whistle for a lap of appreciation.
Pompey (4-3-3): Murphy; Davies (c), Whatmough (Wilkinson 69), Barton, Haunstrup (Tollitt 77); Freeman, Close (May 60), Evans; McGurk, Roberts, Naismith
Goals: Naismith 48
Sent off: Freeman
Booked: Davies, McGurk, Evans
Subs not used: Jones, Stevens, Doyle, Oxlade-Chamberlain
Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Lelan, Diamond, Prosser, Buchanan (c); D’Ath (Hoskins 80), O’Toole, Rose, Adams (Potter 62); Marquis (Collins 67), Holmes
Goals: Whatmough 13 (og), Collins 81
Subs not used: Clarke, Cresswell, Taylor, Byrom
Referee: Mark Brown
Attendance: 18,746 (2,807 away fans)
Conor Chaplin came off the bench to get the crucial late goal and give the 900-plus visiting fans the perfect present.
That came after Gareth Evans had headed home to cancel out Ryan Cresswell’s opener before the break.
Paul Cook made one change from the side that convincingly beat Hartlepool the previous week.
Christian Burgess injured his ankle ligaments in that game, so Matt Clarke replaced him at the heart of defence.
It was the side at the summit who made the brighter start and Clarke did well to clear Joel Byrom’s dangerous ball into the box.
But the visitors soon settled and came close to breaking the deadlock on 10 minutes, with Caolan Lavery’s low cross just out of reach for the onrushing Evans.
And Evans had another decent opportunity moments later, only to swipe at thin air after Marc McNulty had done brilliantly to tee him up.
The Blues received a let-off at the other end when Adam Webster’s poor touch sent Marc Richards through on goal, but Brian Murphy came to the defender’s rescue with a vital block.
It was only a brief reprieve, however, as from the resulting corner, Byrom’s cross was firmly headed home at the far post by Cresswell.
That left Pompey shell-shocked for a while, but they soon settled back into their patient passing play.
Lavery headed wide from a Ben Davies cross before McNulty’s low cross had to be cut out by Cresswell.
Then after Adam Smith came racing from his box to beat Lavery to the ball, McNulty was unable to catch the Cobblers keeper out from almost halfway.
But the Blues were level on 32 minutes – and it was the impressive McNulty who created it.
The forward did brilliantly to shake off a couple of challenges and stand up a fine cross that EVANS expertly headed into the top corner.
Northampton came close to extending their advantage soon after when a corner led to an almighty scramble in the box.
Cresswell inadvertently did Pompey’s job for them by clearing a shot off the line and Clarke eventually got the ball to safety.
But it was the visitors who finished the half on the ascendency and Smith did well to parry clear Lavery’s angled drive following good work from Kyle Bennett.
Then, in stoppage-time, Smith was again called into action to stop McNulty from converting Davies’ cross.
Northampton Town 1
Pompey tried to continue where they had left off at the start of the second half and were looking to use the strong gusts to their advantage.
There were a couple of half-chances, although Lavery was offside when he tried to collect Bennett’s through ball
Zander Diamond then recovered quickly after his slip had threatened to send the lively McNulty away.
Bennett had two efforts blocked from the edge of the box in quick succession as the Blues continued to push for another goal.
They had another opening just past the hour mark when, with McNulty in an offside position, Lavery chased down his own pass and was only just beaten to the ball by Smith.
The keeper then made sure he got his body behind Evans’ fierce 30-yard drive following a surging run from the Pompey winger.
Northampton need to make a change to halt the one-way traffic and introduced former Blues midfielder Ricky Holmes.
It was the Blues who came close to forging ahead on 70 minutes, though, when after a poor Davies corner was partially cleared, Danny Hollands’ effort was deflected inches past the post.
Smith was still having to be alert between the sticks for the hosts and he was again quickly off his line to deny McNulty following good work from Michael Doyle and Lavery.
Evans was next to go close, but could only fire wide when Bennett’s cross came in at an awkward height.
It was Bennett who made way when Cook decided to make his first change and introduce Ben Tollitt on 76 minutes.
Despite struggling to make much of an attacking impact in the second half, the hosts then almost retook the lead.
Brendan Moloney’s effort was deflected behind and from the resulting corner, Diamond headed over from just a couple of yards out.
The tireless McNulty was then withdrawn for the final 10 minutes, with Adam McGurk given a chance to impress.
It was Northampton who were now looking dangerous, however, and the imposing Cresswell headed a corner against the crossbar.
Cook’s final throw of the dice saw Chaplin come on for Lavery – and it proved to be a masterstroke.
Fellow substitute Tollitt was the creator, bursting down the right and angling in a shot that was too hot for Smith to handle.
The ball fell kindly for CHAPLIN, who had the simple task of sliding in from a couple of yards out, sending the travelling fans wild with delight.
It was not quite game over, though, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin almost got an immediate equaliser with a header that left the crossbar shaking.
But the Blues saw out the final few minutes to leave themselves on the brink of the automatic promotion places.
Northampton (4-2-3-1): Smith; Moloney, Diamond (Hoskins 89), Cresswell, Buchanan; O’Toole, Byrom; D’Ath, Potter (Holmes 65), Adams (Calvert-Lewin 57); Richards (c)
Goals: Cresswell 17
Booked: O’Toole, D’Ath, Cresswell
Subs not used: Clarke, Lelan, McDonald, Taylor
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Murphy; Davies, Webster, Clarke, Stevens; Hollands, Doyle (c); Evans, McNulty (McGurk 80), Bennett (Tollitt 76); Lavery (Chaplin 85)
Goals: Evans 32, Chaplin 86
Booked: McNulty, McGurk
Subs not used: Bass, Haunstrup, Barton, Close
Referee: Fred Graham
Attendance: 5,859 (938 Pompey fans)