QPR 2 Pompey 0
Pompey’s hopes of a home FA Cup fifth round clash against Premier League Watford evaporated in west London as QPR brushed aside Kenny Jackett’s men in the fourth round replay at Loftus Road.
It was QPR boss Steve McClaren’s first win over Portsmouth at the eighth attempt, and in truth Pompey deserved little as they struggled to create any real openings until very late on against the Championship side.
It was two second half set-piece goals that did for Pompey, Nahki Wells and Matt Smith the beneficiaries of Luke Freeman’s excellent crosses.
Matt Clarke almost grabbed a late consolation but his effort was deflected over, and the result may be a blessing in disguise as Jackett looks to get the promotion push back on track, and the focus now turns to the trip to Plymouth at the weekend.
The bad news didn’t stop with the result, however, as it was confirmed that Jack Whatmough will undergo a knee operation and misses the rest of the season.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, following the recent poor league run that has seen Pompey drop out of the automatic promotion places, Jackett had no intention of fielding his first-choice side with the league his priority.
There were five changes from the starting XI that stopped the rot to an extent with a 1-1 draw against Doncaster Rovers at the weekend, several forced on the Pompey boss with Omar Bogle among those falling foul of the FA rule that prevents players from being involved in cup replays if they weren’t at the club for the first game.
Christian Burgess started in defence after many Pompey supporters showed their support for the central defender after he was singled out for blame for the Rovers goal on Saturday. Also in was Oli Hawkins as the lone striker, Portsmouth switching to a 4-1-4-1 formation, skipper Tom Naylor patrolling in front of the back four.
Pompey were given an early indication of the threat coming down the home side’s right with Darnell Furlong directing an early cross to the head of Smith, the striker unable to direct his effort on target.
It was Furlong again causing consternation in the Pompey defence shortly after the quarter hour mark, with Scott MacGillivray relieved to see Burgess clear the danger.
After being thankful for the defenders in front of him, MacGillivray was thankful to the crossbar that denied Furlong the opener in the 35th minute, his header from Freeman’s cross hitting the woodwork.
That was one of the few real chances in the opening half that was high on effort but low on quality – a sum total of no shots on target by either side, and Pompey registering just one effort at the home side’s goal in the opening 45 minutes.
Early after the restart QPR could have been reduced to ten men with Josh Scowen’s challenge on Ben Close verging on the reckless, the Rangers midfielder earning a yellow when it could easily have been red.
The vocal away following, making up around a quarter of the 13,000 crowd, had little to cheer in attack but Matt Clarke’s defensive challenge to deny Wells as he was about to shoot, just before the hour mark, was almost as good as a goal.
The main threat for Pompey was in the shape of Jamal Lowe who had the Rangers defenders back-pedalling regularly as he looked to mark his 100th appearance in a Pompey shirt with a goal.
However, Pompey looked shaky at the back at set pieces and it was a corner that saw QPR take the lead in the 70th minute, Freeman’s ball in causing mayhem in defence and Wells reaping the benefits from close range.
Jackett threw Brett Pitman on with 15 minutes left in place of Ben Close as he looked to get back into the game by playing two up front but it was QPR who put the tie to bed soon after with a second goal – again from a set play. Freeman’s delivery after a foul by Burgess on Massimo Luongo found Smith at the back post and his header was too good for MacGillivray.
QPR (4-4-2): Lumley; Furlong, Hall, Lynch, Bidwell; Freeman, Luongo, Scowen; Osayi-Samuel (Eze 72mins); Smith (Hemed 90), Wells (Manning 81). Subs (not used): Ingram (gk), Kakay, Leistner, Wszolek.
Pompey (4-1-4-1): MacGillivray; Walkes, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor; Lowe, May (Morris 59mins), Close (Pitman 74), Dennis (Evans 60); Hawkins. Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Haunstrup, Thompson.
Referee: David Coote.