NOTTS COUNTY REPORT
Attendance: 6,917 (2,162 Pompey fans)
Pompey's unbeaten away record was finally ended on Saturday, by a testing Notts County side that on the day could have easily left with no points.
Paul Cook claims his Pompey side have played worse this season but won. Yet Halloween's performance wasn't enough for Pompey to come away with a point or snatch the best away record in the country.
The loss is only Pompey's 2nd of the season, but it may come at a good time for the Blues, who in truth have been below par in recent weeks. As Adam McGurk has said since the game, it could be the kick up the bum Pompey need in order to find their form again.
Both sets of fans deserve praise for their excellent observation of a minute's silence before the game, and following that, a good atmosphere throughout the clash.
It began an open game, in usual Pompey away fashion. Adam Webster had the first of Pompey's early chances, failing to head Davies' corner on target.
Ricardo Moniz started ex-Pompey striker Izale McLeod at Meadow Lane. The 31-year-old who bagged 11 goals in 21 games for the Blues wasn't a Fratton favourite in the slightest however, and it showed with the reception he received. Yet he nearly silenced the away support - slotting home - but he was ruled out for offside a good 5 seconds before shooting, and was greeted by many jeers.
Both sides continued to press in the early stages- Gareth Evans - back in the side after a 3 match suspension - testing former Manchester United 'keeper Roy Carroll. McLeod and then Graham Burke testing Brian Murphy in the Pompey goal.
As a result, the first goal didn't take long - Caolan Lavery opening the scoring and his Pompey account 20 minutes in.
Lavery connected to Enda Stevens' cross, after clever play between the left-back and Kyle Bennett. Lavery turned away celebrating his first Pompey goal in front of the travelling 2,000.
The lead lasted less than five minutes however, with a cracking Burke strike beating Brian Murphy. Pompey failed to clear to safety, and Burke chested a high ball, before volleying into the top corner and levelling for the hosts.
1-1 and game on. Pompey went looking to restore their lead, both Evans and centre-back Adam Webster going close. Webbo struck the inside of the post after surging forward 40 yards, going agonisingly close.
The half didn't peter out like usual- shots continued to come in and Lavery nearly grabbed a second, but to see his header cleared off the line from a corner.
After the interval, Cookie's men went in search of a goal to put them back ahead, with both Bennett, McGurk and Lavery seeing shots blocked.
Bennett also had claims for a penalty, screaming he had been tripped in the box. Nothing given and Evans saw his rebound shot deflected into the side netting of Carroll's goal.
The Magpies then began to have their say, surprising Pompey with a prolonged period of pressure that usually the visitors would maintain.
Brian Murphy had to be alive to prevent any corners and crosses threatening too much as the hosts began to look the more likely to grab a winner.
And that they did with just less than 15 minutes remaining. Alan Sheehan's 40 yard free kick was played in, not touching a soul as it bounced all the way through to the back of the net - cue shock to Pompey and jubilation for Meadow Lane.
Matt Tubbs, Pompey's final sub, was on immediately as the Blues seeked now at least a point as opposed to three.
The Magpies back line however were having none of it and prevented everything Pompey could throw at them before being rewarded with the final whistle and a fifth home win of the season.
So with the defeat, gaffer Cookie said this:
'We should have done better for both goals.
'There`s a pattern developing.
'The goal against Stevenage - a throw-in.
'Then there is the free-kick given away, I`d prefer to stop it at source.
'When people put the ball into the box like that. A lot of people at this level, it`s the best way they are going to score.
'We have to be better at defending that.It`s a free-kick so you can gauge the problem.
'We either shouldn`t have conceded the free-kick, we should have headed it away or the keeper should have saved it.
'It`s a multiple choice question and I`d probably tick all three boxes.
'If we want to be promoted we need to win more games. But I have a belief we`ll do it.
'I`d like to think there`s a long way to go yet.
'We`ve been away to one of the favourites to get promoted and performed.
Coming home from Nottingham with nothing to show for their efforts means Pompey drop a place to third in the league. Oxford take their place in second, Michael Appleton's now two points ahead.
Plymouth also have extended the gap at the top to five points, whilst County have moved up a place to 15th with a solid home win.
However I can be sure in saying it probably won't be a defender- the Blues with an inconsistent performance, that if on top of their game could have prevented both goals. Brian Murphy also included in that group, with may arguing he was at just as much fault for the goals.
However I think praise can be received by Lavery, after grabbing his first goal.
What we've seen in the games at Fratton is that he brings both pace and energy to the table, as well as that bit of higher league flair. So plaudits to him.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
POMPEY PLAY UP!