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Portsmouth 0 v 1 Ipswich Town
SkyBet League Two
Tuesday, 14th February 2012 Kick-off 19:45
Portsmouth 0-1 Town
Portsmouth 0-1 Town
Tuesday, 14th Feb 2012 21:45

Michael Chopra’s 13th minute goal saw the Blues to three wins on the trot for the first time this season as they left Portsmouth with a 1-0 victory. Town started strongly and were deservedly up at the break and had plenty of chances to add to their lead in both halves.

Carlos Edwards was named as Town skipper for the first time with Paul Jewell making the one expected change, Damien Delaney replacing the injured Ibrahima Sonko at the centre of the defence, the Irishman lining up to the left of Tommy Smith. Pompey were unchanged from the side which drew 1-1 at Blackpool on Saturday.

Michael Chopra forced a corner in the opening minute which the home side were unable to clear, Daryl Murphy having the ball taken away from him just as he appeared to have an opportunity to stab goalwards.

The home fans made their frustrations with their club’s continuing problems clear in song in the early stages but on the field it was Town presenting the greater threat. On six Andy Drury sent across a freekick from the left and Damien Delaney’s looping header bounced to safety off the top of the bar.

Pompey keeper Stephen Henderson, one of Town’s three Portsmouth targets in January, was almost left red-faced in the eighth minute when a Jay Emmanuel-Thomas 35-yarder squirmed from his grasp and through his legs, but fortunately without enough power to make its way across the line.

The Irish U21 international continued to be the busier of the two keepers, Chopra hitting a low strike to his right on nine, which he gathered more cleanly. A minute later, Martin lashed a freekick from wide on the left towards goal, Henderson pushing it over but with referee Darren Deadman failing to spot the touch.

Deadman, who prior to the match had shown 146 yellow cards and 11 red in 33 matches, issued his first caution of the evening in the 13th minute after Tal Ben Haim had upended Martin.

From the resultant freekick, the Blues went in front. Aaron Cresswell’s ball into the box fell to Emmanuel-Thomas, who took it past a defender before hitting a shot which deflected to Murphy, who headed off the post. As has increasingly been the case of late, Chopra was first to react, the Blues striker stabbing the ball home for his 11th goal of the season and his fourth in three games.

Town fully deserved the lead on the balance of the first quarter of an hour with the relatively early goal having quietened down the home support.

Chopra seized on an error by Ben Haim on the Blues left in the 23rd minute and hit a shot against Ricardo Rocha when he ought to have played the ball across to Martin.

But Pompey were gradually coming into the game more and they seriously threatened for the first time on 25 when some hesitancy in the Town defence led to Edwards diverting the ball into the path of Marko Futacs, who hit a shot which deflected over off Tommy Smith.

Referee Deadman issued his 148th yellow card of the season to Luke Hyam on the half hour for a foul on Rocha, although the Blues midfielder had appeared to win the ball. A very minor bout of handbags broke out between Emmanuel-Thomas and Greg Halford before play restarted. Card number 149 followed soon after when Emmanuel-Thomas tripped Halford while grounded as Pompey were about to take a subsequent freekick.

Futacs shot low to Arran Lee-Barrett’s right on 36 with the game having become rather disjointed and with neither team particularly threatening until Drury lashed just wide from 25 yards after a spell of Town possession.

Drury forced Henderson into a save down to his right in the 42nd minute after another well-constructed Town move, the former Luton man receiving the ball from Martin on the edge of the box after the former Manchester United man had held off Ben Haim as he ran in from the left.

Pompey skipper Liam Lawrence limped off in the 44th minute, Dave Kitson replacing the former Sunderland man.

The Blues were continuing to look the more likely scorers, Chopra diverting a Cresswell ball in from the left across the face of goal as the half moved towards injury time.

Town were good for their lead at the break having started very brightly with Chopra grabbing a goal which was well-deserved at that stage.

Pompey came into it more in a phase in the middle of the half when Futacs had his side’s one real chance, but it was the Blues who had ended the period the stronger.

The home side started the second half brightly, with their fans back in full voice, but without creating a chance. Halford soon got his name in referee Deadman’s book - taking the referee’s tally of yellow cards to the 150 mark - for a foul on Martin as the Blues broke. Number 151 followed moments later for an innocuous foul by Delaney on Kitson.

Portsmouth were generally on top but chances were rare at either end, although Futacs shot wide on 61.

The Blues came close two minutes later after Smith flicked on a Drury corner to the far post. Chopra tried to add the final touch ahead of Henderson, the ball deflecting out but past Murphy as he ran to get on to the rebound.

At the other end, with the game suddenly opening up, Kelvin Etuhu crossed from the right to Kitson, who scuffed wide when he ought to have done better.

Town should have been 2-0 up in the 65th minute when Martin sent Murphy away on the left, the Irishman running in and cutting it back to the Blues’ number 11, who blazed over.

Andy Drury had another great chance to add to Town’s lead two minutes later when he was found in the area by a superb Emmanuel-Thomas pass but the midfielder, who had made a similarly clever run, shot into the sidenetting.

Portsmouth had the ball in the net in the 72nd minute when Halford’s long throw from the left appeared to beat everybody before nestling in the net, which referee Deadman rightly signalled as a goalkick rather than a goal. However, Portsmouth's players appealed that the ball had struck Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on the way through.

Town again went close to their second three minutes later when Martin hit a low shot off the inside of the post and to a Pompey defender. The Blues really should have been home and hosed by now.

Not long after, Murphy turned on a Delaney header from a corner, which was blocked, then the Blues swapped Jason Scotland for Chopra and Portsmouth switched Benjani for Etuhu.

Scotland soon found his way into referee Deadman’s book (152) following a scuffle as Portsmouth prepared to take a freekick on the edge of the Town area after a foul by Delaney on Halford, which Futacs crashed into the wall. The 153rd booking of Mr Deadman’s season followed after Rocha fouled Scotland with the game becoming increasingly fractious.

As the match moved into its final five minutes, Martin shot wide for Town, then Ben Haim lashed across the face of the Blues goal.

With a minute left on the clock, Martin went wide from distance with Town breaking when he would have been better to take the ball on further.

In injury time, Emmanuel-Thomas crossed just too far in front of Murphy with the goal at his mercy.

The Blues saw out the final minutes with relatively few scares and referee Deadman’s whistle signalled another well-warranted three points.

In truth the victory, which continued Town's remarkable record of not being beaten at Fratton Park since 1966, ought to have been by a more comfortable with Paul Jewell’s men having plenty of opportunities to seal it against a Portsmouth side which only rarely threatened Lee-Barrett’s goal.

Town: Lee-Barrett, Edwards (C), Delaney, Smith, Cresswell, Drury, Hyam, Martin, Emmanuel-Thomas, Murphy, Chopra (Scotland 80). Unused: McCarthy, Ainsley, Leadbitter, Bullard.

Portsmouth: Henderson, Halford (Webster 90), Pearce, Rocha, Ben Haim, Ward, Lawrence (Kitson 44), Mullins, Etuhu (Benjani 80), Huseklepp, Futacs. Unused: Ashdown, Mokoena. Referee: Darren Deadman (Cheshunt). Att: 14,330.

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