Pompey Punishment For Moore's Men
Portsmouth underlined their promotion ambitions with a powerful performance at Fratton Park as below-par Pools were thumped 4-0 on the South Coast on Saturday.
Ronnie Moore had one just the one change to his starting line-up for the trip to face Paul Cook’s high-flyers as Rakish Bingham came back in to the attack in place of Mikael Mandron.
However, Pompey scored twice in both halves to clinch a third successive home win to move up to fourth place in the League Two table.
It was a cagey opening to the game, with the swirling winds making it difficult for both sets of players to judge their passes and chances on goal were few and far between.
Pools were the first to carve out an opportunity on goal when Christian Burgess took a heavy touch on the halfway line and had his pocket picked by Bingham who then drove beyond the Pompey centre-back but could only prod his effort wide as the home side’s defence chased back.
At the other end, Marc McNulty was causing a few problems by finding space between midfield and defence and one such occasion dropped a shoulder to move inside but then fired his shot straight at Trevor Carson.
Full-back Ben Davies slammed an effort wide of the front post from a free-kick just outside the box but there were signs of frustration creeping around the terraces as the hosts struggled to penetrate.
While Pompey were enjoying most of the possession, Pools looked comfortable and were a threat on the break; Rhys Oates used his pace to drive in to the box but his low shot was blocked by Burgess.
The dangerous Kyle Bennett was once again being utilised on the left wing, giving him the opportunity to come inside and cause problems; one such manoeuvre opened up a shooting chance but he slammed it wide of the near post.
After negotiating the first half hour with very little to concern them, a Pompey goal then came out of nothing as a harshly-awarded free-kick against Scott Fenwick was quickly taken and worked up to McNulty. He turned it round the corner for Caolan Lavery who immediately spun inside and curled an exquisite shot in to the top right-hand corner of the net.
It was a little tough on Pools but it was to get worse just five minutes later; Davies was pushing on from right-back as much as possible and he found a yard to whip a cross in to the front post where the stretching Adam Jackson only succeeded in diverting the ball past Carson in to his own net.
Bizarrely, Pools could even have scored another own goal not too long after when opposite full-back Endo Stevens delivered an equally teasing cross and this time Matthew Bates attempted header clear spun back towards the net – thankfully straight in to the hands of the alert Carson.
Ronnie Moore’s men could have snatched a vital goal back just before the break when Fenwick steam-rollered his way through on the edge of the box but his powerfully-struck left foot volley was brilliantly pawed away by keeper Brian Murphy.
Roared on by another bumper crowd, the hosts opened Pools up again in the early part of the second half but, after McNulty had wriggled between defenders in the box, Gareth Evans drove the ball just wide.
At the other end Pools came agonisingly close to pulling a goal back when Jake Carroll’s free-kick from the right of the box picked out Bates but he couldn’t get enough on his flicked header and it bounced just the wrong side of the far post.
However, on the hour mark it was effectively game over. Michael Doyle showed great vision to switch the ball for Stevens on the left and his low cross picked out McNulty danced around a couple of challenges before prodding at goal where Carson made a point-blank block only for Evans to ram home the rebound for 3-0.
McNulty turned provider again not long after when he turned on Burgess’ ball out of defence to set Lavery away down the right but his powerful effort was deflected in to the side netting at the front post.
Nicky Featherstone had a great chance to reduce the arrears after he traded passes with substitute Mikael Mandron to wriggle his way in on goal but he delayed his shot for an instant and that allowed Stevens to get in an important block.
Right on ninety minutes Portsmouth underlined their superiority with a fourth goal as McNulty ran between the Pools defence, took a perfect first touch and then slipped the ball beyond the exposed Carson.
It could even have got worse in injury time had substitute Ben Tollitt hit the target from ten yards instead of blazing over, while McNulty could have had another but slipped as he struck his effort and it was held by Carson.
Full Time: Portsmouth 4 Pools 0
Booked: Bingham (59), Mandron (83)
Att: 15,610 (145 Pools)
Portsmouth: Murphy, Stevens, Webster, Burgess (Clarke 85), Davies, Hollands, Doyle, Evans, Lavery (McGurk 80), Bennett (Tollitt 75), McNulty.
Subs Not Used: Chaplin, Close, Bass, Haunstrup.
Pools: Carson, Duckworth, Bates, Jackson, Carroll, Featherstone, Gray, Magnay (Walker 75), Oates, Bingham, Fenwick (Mandron 75).
Subs Not Used: Bartlett, Harrison, Woods, Richards, Smith.