Charlton Athletic 2-1 Portsmouth
PORTSMOUTH suffered their first league defeat in seven games at promotion rivals Charlton on Saturday night, seeing the gap between themselves and the top two extend to eight points with just ten games remaining.
Kenny Jackett’s men came into the game looking to build on their thumping win over Bradford, but found a Charlton side still harbouring automatic promotion hopes of their own.
In truth Pompey were very much second-best, but they had chances at the end to rescue a point: Jamal Lowe and substitute Brett Pitman both having shots blocked in injury time.
Charlton went ahead through the impressive Joe Aribo but Pompey hit back just before the interval, Ronan Curtis marking his call-up to the Republic of Ireland squad with an excellent header.
Pompey had a goal disallowed in the second half – Curtis ruled offside when Lowe fired home – before defensive frailties allowed Lyle Taylor to grab the winner.
To add to their woes Barnsley had extended the gap between Portsmouth and the top two with a win over Accrington Stanley, hopes of automatic promotion now fading fast.
In truth Lee Bowyer’s side were well worth the win, Portsmouth devoid of ideas and a shadow of the side that put five past Bradford last weekend. It seemed the rare midweek off did Jackett’s men no favours.
Jackett kept the same team, Omar Bogle still not fully fit after returning to training following a hamstring injury so Oli Hawkins retained his place in the starting XI. January loan signing James Vaughan was still awaiting his first start and had to be content with a place on the bench along with Pitman.
Bowyer was in the stands for the televised clash, serving the second of a three-game ban for verbally abusing referee Chris Kavanagh in the Addicks’ 2-1 win at AFC Wimbledon last month.
It was an open start to the game with chances at both ends: Dillon Phillips doing well to claim a Matt Clarke header from Gareth Evans’ free-kick before Clarke produced a crucial tackle at the other end to deny Jonny Williams.
There were early warning signs for Pompey and they should have been one down in the 20thminute only to be saved by a bizarre block.
The dangerous Williams played an excellent one-two with Aribo, breaking into the box from the left and squaring for Josh Cullen. His shot had the beating of Craig MacGillivray but rebounded off the back of Vetokele – a real let-off for Jackett’s men.
Pompey were under the cosh with the main problem being their inability to retain possession. Charlton weren’t allowing Portsmouth any time on the ball with the Addicks clearly aware this was a game they had to win to keep alive their slim hopes of automatic promotion.
A stoppage in play following an injury to Krystian Bielik gave Jackett the chance to get some instructions out to his players but it was Charlton that took full advantage of the break.
With around five minutes of the half remaining Cullen’s ball in from the left found Aribo, and he was allowed too much space to turn and shoot past MacGillivray.
Pompey were looking very much second best but showed they still possessed plenty of fighting spirt to level, very much against the run of play just before the interval – Curtis powering a header home from a Lee Brown corner.
To go in level at the interval was a bonus for Jackett but to go 2-1 down within five minutes of the restart was a real kick in the proverbials.
Pompey thought they had taken the lead only for Lowe’s effort to be ruled out for offside against Curtis, with Evans injuring himself when clattering into the hoardings.
While Evans was receiving treatment, Charlton went up the other end and scored a legitimate goal – Lyle Taylor taking full advantage of some sloppy defending to score from Aribo’s ball in.
With Pompey struggling to create any clear-cut chances Jackett threw on Vaughan and Dion Donohue for the last half hour – Ben Close and Hawkins making way.
A moment of inspiration was needed but unfortunately it came from MacGillivray – the Pompey No.1 saving well from Patrick Bauer in the 69th minute. Four minutes later and Evans spurned their best chance of the second half after he was played in down the left by Donohue, firing horribly over from a tight angle.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Phillips; Dijksteel, Bauer, Sarr, Purrington; Bielik (Reeves 46mins), Cullen, Aribo, Williams (Fosu 59); Vetokele (Pratley 84). Taylor. Subs (not used): Maxwell (gk), Solly, Lapslie, Parker.
Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close (Donohue 61mins); Lowe, Evans (Pitman 76), Curtis; Hawkins (Vaughan 61). Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Walkes, Haunstrup, Solomon-Otabor.
Referee: Roger East