Luton 3-2 Pompey
Pompey saw their hopes of moving back to the top of League One at leaders Luton dashed as referee Simon Hooper made two questionable second half decisions that cost them dearly in a five-goal thriller.
Kenny Jackett’s side fell to their third successive league defeat but after an awful opening half display, the introduction of new signing Omar Bogle at the break galvanised Portsmouth and they seemed on course to claim at least a point.
Just after the break Ronan Curtis levelled James Collins’ opener but Jack Whatmough was penalised after a coming together with Luton’s Kazenga LuaLua in the box with referee Hooper pointing to the spot. Collins converted but then Bogle scored on his debut after good work from Jamal Lowe before another debatable decision by Hooper gave Luton a free kick on the edge of the box in the 86th minute that substitute George Moncur fired home for the winner.
Jacket brought Lowe back into the side after suspension and Bryn Morris was handed his debut following his move from Shrewsbury earlier in the month. They were the two changes made from the FA draw with QPR on Saturday, Louis Dennis and Dion Donohue dropping to the bench where they were joined by new striker Bogle.
It may have been only two changes but Pompey spent the opening 45 minutes playing like an XI that had only just met each other. Comprehensively outplayed on a pitch made wet by persistent snow, they were lucky to go into the break only one down.
They couldn’t cope with Luton’s movement with LuaLua and Pelly Mpanzu dragging the Pompey midfield and defence all around the Kenilworth Road pitch.
It was more thanks to Craig MacGillivray being in the right place at the right time and the Hatters’ poor finishing that they didn’t score more in the first half, with only Collins’ strike in the 39th minute separating the two sides.
LuaLua should have given the home side the lead two minutes before the opener but when he stole in front of a static Portsmouth defence but MacGillivray was able to block his effort. Pompey weren’t so fortunate soon after as LuaLua twisted and turned on the edge of the box before sliding Collins in, the striker firing past slotting home from eight yards.
Jackett had seen enough by the break and new signing Bogle and Donohue were sent on at the start of the second half with Brett Pitman and Gareth Evans making way.
Pompey clearly had the intention of making Luton pay for their profligacy in front of goal and within a minute they had their first real effort on goal, James Shea forced to turn Donohue’s effort wide.
With Bogle causing problems from the minute he came Pompey grabbed a goal that never seemed likely in the opening half – Curtis reaching double figures for the season with a low finish from eight yards after good work from Bogle and Lowe in the box.
Pompey seemed in control of the game for large periods of the second half but they were facing a Luton side unbeaten in 16 league games and they home side regained the lead from the penalty spot with 15 minutes left – Whatmough adjudged to have fouled LuaLua and Collins converting for his second of the game.
Pompey showed their fighting spirit and were level a couple of minutes later as Bogle was on hand to bundle home at the far post after Lowe had caused problems in the Luton box.
But the hopes of a hard earned point were dashed late on as Anton Walkes was adjudged to have fouled Moncur on the edge of the box, Moncur sending the free kick past MacGillivray into the far corner.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Walkes, Whatmough, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Morris; Lowe, Evans (Donohue 46mins), Curtis; Pitman (Bogle 46). Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Burgess, Haunstrup. May, Dennis.
Luton (4-4-2): Shea; Stacey, Pearson, Bradley, Justin; McCormack, Mpanzu, Shinnie (Sheehan, 88mins), Berry (Potts, 73); Collins, LuaLua (Moncur, 80). Subs (not used): Isted (gk), Jones, Read, Tomlinson.
Referee: Simon Hooper
* Pompey and QPR have been charged by the Football Association for failing to control their players following the second half 22-player melee in the FA Cup clash at Fratton Park on Saturday, initiated after Ronan Curtis clashed with Josh Scowan. The two clubs have until Friday evening to respond to the charge while the replay, following Saturday’s 1-1 draw, is at Loftus Road on February 5. If Pompey can win in west London, they’ll have a home tie against Watford in the fifth round.