PORTSMOUTH REAL CHAL­LENGERS

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO -

ON THIS form Pom­pey look nailed on to sus­tain a strong pro­mo­tion chal­lenge.

Af­ter a nervy start they took con­trol of mid­field, with Adam Bar­ton in par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive form, and al­ways looked capa- It’s im­por­tant that play­ers not in the team con­tinue to train hard be­cause for­tunes can change in a heart­beat.

“We played well here af­ter a dif­fi­cult open­ing five min­utes.

“It’s great to have gone top of the ta­ble be­cause that is where we want to be and what we are all work­ing to­wards.

“I thought Adam Bar­ton and Danny Hol­lands both had ex­cel­lent games in mid­field and we were in con­trol for a lot of the match.”

Portsmouth went in front on 29 min­utes when Rovers failed to pick up Gareth Evans as he moved onto Kyle Ben­nett’s cross from the right and beat Lee Ni­cholls with an ex­cel­lent down­ward header from 12 yards to sent the trav­el­ling sup­port wild. ble of cre­at­ing chances against a Rovers side, still com­ing to terms with League Two football af­ter win­ning pro­mo­tion.

Jer­maine Easter claimed Rovers’ 47th-minute equaliser, but may have a job hang­ing onto it. The ex­pe­ri­enced striker hit a rocket shot at the near post when latch­ing onto Dan Lead­bit­ter’s cross, but the ball can­noned off the bar and hit goal­keeper Aaron McCarey on the back be­fore cross­ing the line.

It may even­tu­ally go down as an own goal.What­ever the case, it wasn’t enough to stop home boss Dar­rell Clarke crit­i­cis­ing his team’s per­for­mance as he watched on to see Stock­ley con­vert Davies’ cross to seal all three points for the new League Two lead­ers.

Clarke said: “We were not good enough on the ball and if that hap­pens the bet­ter teams like

The hosts lacked noth­ing in ef­fort, but were un­able to match Portsmouth’s smooth dis­tri­bu­tion of the ball and dis­played a soft cen­tre for the two goals.

Dar­rell Clarke’s half­time sub­sti­tu­tions and Portsmouth will pun­ish you.

“We started well, but by half-time I wasn’t at all happy be­cause they were con­trol­ling things.

“I made a cou­ple of sub­sti­tu­tions, which seemed to work well, but af­ter equal­is­ing we were again guilty of giv­ing the ball away too of­ten.

“We are on a poor run and have to dig in to get re­sults from the two away games com­ing up.

“It’s good to have Dan Lead­bit­ter and Mark McChrys­tal back in the squad af­ter in­juries.

“But I am dis­ap­pointed with the way we played and the two goals we con­ceded, which were through sim­i­lar de­fen­sive er­rors.”

Portsmouth should have been ahead be­fore Evans broke the dead­lock.

And on 20 min­utes Conor Chap­lin some­how con­trived to head wide of an un­guarded net from a Ben­nett change to a 4-4-2 for­ma­tion gave the visi­tors more to think about, but even af­ter the home side’s equaliser there was no great pres­sure on Aaron McCarey’s goal and once Stock­ley struck the re­sult was set­tled. cross as the visi­tors con­tin­ued to press, only to be let down when it came to stick­ing the ball in the Bristol Rovers net.

Rovers’ best first-half ef­fort fol­lowed a spell of pres­sure on 36 min­utes, which ended with McCarey mak­ing a fine save from Easter’s volley.

For most of the match it was the visi­tors’ slick pass­ing and move­ment which caught the eye, while Rovers im­proved af­ter the break with­out do­ing enough to earn a point as Portsmouth sent their fans home happy.

FIRST BLOOD: Portsmouth celebrate their opener while, right, Bristol Rovers’ Stu­art Sin­clair gets a shot away STAR MAN ADAM BARTO

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