DIRE POMPEY HIT THE BOOS
PORTSMOUTH fans booed their players off the pitch after a hapless performance in front of goal allowed Hartlepool to earn a comfortable point at Fratton Park.
Minutes earlier it had been laughter mixed with boos coming from their mouths. They could not believe it when over the public speakers it was announced that one of the Portsmouth sponsors had decided striker Michael Smith was their ‘man of the match’.
Had it been a neutral judge Smith, whose striking lacked crispness, would not have got a look-in after fluffing the chances that fell to him or finding himself frustrated by a brilliant performance from goalkeeper Trevor Carson.
Hartlepool manager Craig Hignett said: “We battled and dug in and our goalkeeper had a magnificent game.
“The clean sheet was massive for us after last week when we let in five at home. No one switched off for a second. Everyone put a massive shift in.
“The character of the team shone through more than the ability we have got and they frustrated Portsmouth’s players and their fans.”
Smith’s total incompetence in the first half showed up when he missed two good headed chances and when put clear of the visiting defence he deliberated too long over his shot and was brilliantly tackled by defender Jake Carroll, who had chased back after him.
Portsmouth dominated the action in the middle of the field while Hartlepool’s only attempt before the break was a shot from hard-working midfielder Josh Laurent which sailed way over the bar.
Portsmouth manager Paul Cook had started the game with the same XI for the fourth match running but they only managed to find a cutting edge after an hour when he introduced Kai Naismith and Conor Chaplin off the bench. The latter could have done without miskicking when clear in front of goal but even then Carson may well have had an answer had he connected properly.
He reacted brilliantly to block a late close-range header from Smith and stuck out a hand when Michael Doyle’s fierce low volley looked goalbound.
Cook was defiant when it was suggested his team had let down the 17,000 fans who chose to watch the action rather than do their Christmas shopping.
“I felt the performance was decent enough,” said Cook.
“Hartlepool worked their socks off out there but we did plenty enough to win the game.
“We played really well. Could the lads have done any more to win? I don’t think they could.
“We’re disappointed because the top three seem to be getting away from us. But no one wins the league or promotion in December, January or February. We have still got 25 games to go and the
lads are doing OK.”
HANDS UP: Trevor Carson HEADS UP: Portsmouth’s Michael Smith goes close with a header