By Gerry Prewett.
After securing the first win of the season at Wycombe on Saturday, Bristol Rovers face a testing home fixture against a Portsmouth team who are on fire. Pompey have won all three of their opening games and there is sure to be a very warm welcome for Gas hero Lee Brown when he steps out onto the Memorial Stadium pitch in an away shirt for the first time.
On Saturday Gareth Evans should have given Pompey a 25th-minute lead when the home side were awarded a penalty, but he saw his effort saved by Jonathan Mitchell. Evans made amends for that miss when he beat Mitchell to open the scoring in the 48th minute after a number of wasted opportunities.
Pompey were gifted their second of the game through an own goal when Jamal Lowe's cross was deflected in by Rob Dickie. Lowe then got on the scoresheet himself in the 65th minute after he made the most of a goalmouth scramble to flick his shot over the head of the Oxford goalkeeper.
Portsmouth defender Jack Whatmough gave his side a late scare when he sliced Tony McMahon's cross into his own net to make it 3-1. However, Lowe wrapped things up in stoppage time with the best goal of the game, the forward curling his shot in from 25 yards out as Oxford were left still searching for their first point of the season.
Pompey Boss Kenny Jackett speaking after the game said, “Out of the three homes games it was by far the best performance and it gives us all some heart and positiveness for the season ahead. That's something you always want to do early in the season.”
“We had some big chances in the first half. We were on top but couldn't find the final pass or score the clear cut chances I had. I did feel, though, if we kept playing like that they would come, and that proved the case. We had a number of chances - more than any game so far - so I'm really pleased.”
“I was pleased with the play going forward and I was pleased we scored four goals. The boys should gain confidence from that.”
“We haven't got it too right in terms of formation, personnel and balance of the team so far. The one thing we did do right in the Luton game was out back four goal narrow against the diamond and defended fantastically well. The other thing we did well in that game was we had one real piece of quality finishing from Lowe.”
“Whatever you say quality finishing is a big part of the game and can make the difference. We got that right and not a lot of other aspects, similarly against Wimbledon. But on this occasion we produced our best home performance which matched up slightly with the Blackpool game. I did think overall we deserved to win and was pleased.”
“A 100 per cent record is nice and winning three out of three. But there has to be some balance to it as well. Overall it was our best performance, but there's things to improve on as well.”
Looking at the history of all games between the clubs, in total there have been 41, with Pompey dominating, with 22 victories to Rovers 11. Only 4 of those wins have come away from Fratton however.
The very first clash between the team was an FA Cup tie at Eastville on 13 January 1912. John Jones and Lional Louch goals for Portsmouth and a Hughes goal for Rovers sent the South coast team through to the second round.
The first League game was on 12 February 1921 when Portsmouth won their home game 1-0 with Frank Stringfellow scoring for Pompey, one week later the teams fought out a 2-2 draw at Eastville. Stringfellow and David Watson scoring for the away team and Sid Leigh and Wally Bird scoring for the Pirates.
Rovers best ever victory and the biggest between the two clubs took place on 13 November 1982. Goals by David Williams, Ian Holloway, Timmy Parkin, Aiden McCaffery and Archie Stephens for Rovers and a single response by Mike Tait provided an emphatic 5-1 home win
Rovers have lost 5 of the last 6 games between the clubs and prior to last season’s win the last victory had been on 21 December 2013 when Ollie Clarke (40 mins) and David Clarkson (77 mins) saw Rovers secure a 2-0 win.
Last season on News Year’s Day this year Rovers ended a four-match winless run. Billy Bodin had an early shot saved for Rovers and fired wide from one of their better opportunities after 38 minutes, while at the other end Jamal Lowe had a shot deflected for a corner and goalkeeper Adam Smith denied Brett Pitman.
Portsmouth took a 64th-minute lead when Hawkins directed a header past Smith from an Adam May cross. The visitors looked in charge until Sinclair poached an 84th-minute equaliser, pouncing to net the rebound after Pompey goalkeeper Luke McGee had failed to hold on to a Bodin effort.
In the last minute of normal time Liam Sercombe netted with a low shot from 25 yards through a crowded penalty area after a free-kick had been played into the midfielder's path.
Ben Thompson, spoke of his loan from Millwall, “It’s been in the offing for a good few weeks. Last season in January I was going to come here but it didn’t work out. There were talks of a move in January but nothing was ever finalised.”
“I stayed at Millwall and I don’t think it was the right time for the club to maybe let me go out on loan. Second time around, it has finally all worked out. All the stress is out of the way, I’m here, I’m playing and I just can’t wait to keep going.”
“Hopefully I’ll play in all of the games and get three points every week! It’s a good opportunity for me to come down here, play football, get some minutes under my belt and enjoy my football again because I wasn't really at Millwall.”