PITMAN’S STILL A TOP HIT­MAN

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Gra­ham Ot­way

NEW Portsmouth man­ager Kenny Jack­ett made it clear in the build-up to the sea­son-opener at Frat­ton Park that he is ur­gently look­ing to sign a mid­fielder who can dom­i­nate games.

And dur­ing a goal­less first half, with Rochdale down to ten men af­ter the thor­oughly de­served 20th-minute red card shown to de­fender Keith Keane, there was no ev­i­dence to sug­gest he should call off the search.

Rochdale were never go­ing to be easy op­po­nents for the newly-pro­moted League Two cham­pi­ons, hav­ing fin­ished in the top ten of Leauge One in each of the last three sea­sons.

But there were so many short­com­ings on both sides that nei­ther goal­keeper had to stretch a sin­gle mus­cle to make a save in the first 45 min­utes.

Nor any sug­ges­tion that Rochdale would wither af­ter Keane’s dis­missal for a tackle from be­hind on Conor Chap­lin as the Pom­pey striker raced through the vis­i­tors’ de­fence.

How­ever, a few sec­onds of foot­balling class from Brett Pitman, on his de­but for Portsmouth af­ter sign­ing from Ip­swich, less than a minute af­ter the restart saw the game turn into a tense and in­ci­dent­filled en­counter.

Made the new Portsmouth cap­tain by Jack­ett, Pitman picked up a pass and rode three des­per­ate tack­les be­fore plant­ing a low shot un­der­neath the div­ing Josh Lit­tle.

Pom­pey might have had a sec­ond in the 67th minute when Kyle Ben­nett shot high and wide with only Lit­tle to beat, but ref­eree Lee Probert en­sured the match would end on a knife egde.

Nine min­utes from time, he showed his red card for a sec­ond time to Portsmouh sub­sti­tute Ja­mal Lowe af­ter he smashed his boot into the right shin of Jamie Allen as he at­tempted to clear a corner.

But Rochdale’s hopes were not helped by the fact that man­ager Keith Hill had al­ready used all three of his subs and the sight of Allen limp­ing off in agony meant the vis­i­tors were go­ing to end the match with nine men.

They did press for­ward but that left a huge gap at the back for Pitman to steer a header home in the first minute of in­jury time.

Hill said: “In gen­eral terms, I was happy with our per­for­mance and Lee Probert gave a fine per­for­mance and I told him it as he walked off the pitch. He got all the key de­ci­sions right.”

And Jack­ett was equally gen­er­ous to Probert over Lowe’s dis­missal, say­ing: “I was a long way from it but Lee made the de­ci­sion quickly and see­ing the dam­age to Jamie Allen’s sock, it was clearly a high tackle, even if it wasn’t de­lib­er­ate – and Lee was closer to it.

“I played against Brett when he was at Bournemouth and get­ting two goals in his first game will take all the pre­sea­son pres­sure off him.

“I was also de­lighted with keep­ing a clean sheet and the win. It was only the first game but we got the three points.”

PIC­TURES: PSI/Dan Youngs

AT THE DOU­BLE: Brett Pitman cel­e­brates his goal. Inset: Keith Keane is sent off for a pro­fes­sional foul

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