Portsmouth 2-3 Peterborough United
PORTSMOUTH saw their chances of a top-two finish end at Fratton Park on Tuesday night as they slipped to a disappointing defeat to play-off chasing Peterborough.
Darren Ferguson’s side showed they wanted the three points just as much as Pompey, and after Kenny Jackett’s side pulled back a two-goal deficit, Peterborough grabbed a winner in the 75th minute.
The killer goal arrived just seconds after Pompey spurned a golden chance to take the lead – Brett Pitman breaking forward and with just the keeper to beat choosing to pass to substitute Viv Solomon-Otabor who was offside before he put the ball into an empty net.
With Pompey players still wondering how they weren’t ahead, Ivan Toney skipped clear in the box before firing past Craig MacGillivray for his second of the game.
The result means Pompey must now face the lottery of the play-offs, and Kenny Jackett will need to work hard to pick up his players after the disappointment of missing out on the top-two.
The problem for Portsmouth was that they were facing a side still eyeing the play-offs, and needing a win to keep their promotion hopes alive.
After dominating the early exchanges Pompey discovered just how dangerous Posh were, and particularly the league’s assist king, Marcus Maddison.
The visitors’ game plan was clear – soak up the pressure and hit Jackett’s side on the break. The ten wins on their travels in the league before Tuesday night was evidence of the success of the system they used so when Josh Knight picked up the ball in his own half and looked for Maddison the danger signs were already there.
A long raking ball found Maddison down the right and he all too easily beat Lee Brown before cutting the ball back towards the penalty spot. Lee Tomlin may be carrying a pound or two too many, but he knows what position to take in the box and his finish was measured and accurate, beating MacGillivray low to his right.
It could have been two three minutes later with an almost carbon copy move – Jason Naismith this time getting past Ronan Curtis before crossing for Toney whose finish was not in the Tomlin category, MacGillivray easily holding his weak effort.
The second, however, did arrive just inside the half hour. This time it came from a Maddison corner and while Pompey’s defence played watch the ball Toney attacked it to head into the roof of MacGillivray’s net.
The response to both goals was a little too hesitant and a little too slow, as though the weekend exertions on Wearside had sapped a little of the players’ energy.
It was clear they needed a foothold in the game before half-time and they needed help in getting one, it arrived courtesy of deflected effort from Close in the 38th minute.
A break down the left saw Brown and Curtis link up before Curtis crossed for Pitman whose mishit effort landed at the feet of Close. His shot appeared to be going nowhere before it ballooned off a Posh defender and into the net.
Going into the interval with just a one-goal deficit would have been a boost for Pompey and Jacket replaced the ineffective James Vaughan with Oli Hawkins.
Pompey had 45 minutes to turn the game around and keep alive hopes of a top-two finish.
They started the second period well and were deservedly level within 15 minutes. A Brown free kick towards Hawkins produced mayhem in the box and he laid the ball off for Burgess to score his first league goal of the season.
Pompey pressed for a third and Close and Jamal Lowe saw shots blocked before long-range efforts from Close and substitute Solomon-Otabor were wide of the target. A frenetic five-minute spell around the 70-minute mark effectively ended Pompey’s automatic promotion hopes.
A Maddison free-kick was headed off the bar before the same player hit another more central effort off the wall with Portsmouth breaking at speed.
Pitman and Solomon-Otabor were clear and as Pitman bore down on Aaron Chapman he passed to his colleague who had somehow not checked his run – the assistant referee flagging for offside.
Posh then broke up the other end and Toney delivered the killer blow to break the Pompey fans’ hearts – for now that is!
Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close; Lowe, Pitman, Curtis (Solomon-Otabor 53mins); Vaughan (Hawkins 46). Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Walkes, Morris, Evans, Bogle.
Peterborough United (4-2-3-1): Chapman; Naismith, White, Tafazolli, Lafferty; Woodyard, Knight; Maddison, Toney, Ward (Dembele 65mins); Tomlin. Subs (not used): O’Malley (gk), Bennett, Denton, Stevens, Burrows.
Referee: Dean Whitestone