Roy Kelly’s match analysis: Portsmouth 4 Hartlepool United 0

Michael Duckworth attempts to cut out a cross from Marc McNulty in Saturday's League Two match at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Duckworth attempts to cut out a cross from Marc McNulty in Saturday's League Two match at Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Sometimes, just sometimes, you have to hold up your hands and say you’ve been beaten by the better side.

This is one such occasion.

It looks a drubbing and, to all intents and purposes, it was.

Portsmouth had the better players and were the superior team, two goals in each half taking them three points closer to League Two’s automatic promotion places.

Ronnie Moore was unhappy with the way his side conceded their goals and you would expect that.

You’d be pretty miffed if he emerged from a four-goal defeat grinning like a Cheshire cat when he undertook his post-match media duties.

This reporter, the world’s worst left-back, did not share Moore’s self-destruct line.

For me, only the second and third goals were bad ones – the first resulted from some great skill and an even better finish and the fourth came right at the end when the match was over.

Losing 4-0, or anything to nil, is not pleasant but, and it’s a big but, this was not a four-goal spanking to a Dagenham, Yeovil or York.

This came at the hands and feet of a very good Pompey side who were better in every department.

However, you also need to look beyond the scoreline.

In terms of possession, Pompey ‘won’ only 51 per cent to 49, while in shots on target it was only 5-3 to the hosts.

Pools had their moments at 0-0 and 2-0. The best chance of the match admittedly came at 3-0, but it was theirs too.

Recalled Rakish Bingham, Scott Fenwick, Matthew Bates and Nicky Featherstone all had opportunities.

There was enough to admire from Pools who, against lesser opposition could have gained something from the afternoon.

Pools simply have to learn what lessons they can from Saturday, but, ultimately draw a line under it and move on.

There can be no hangovers, no moping, none of that – if they do they are ripe for the taking by Salford.

No, Pools must be positive and they must be on the front foot.

This reporter has seen Pools play worse this season, much worse, and win.

At times, Pools moved the ball around nicely at Fratton Park and they had three extremely good chances, not to mention some decent set-pieces.

Moore’s side must carry this into the second-round replay but, hopefully, add a finish to their finesse.

You would love to see Bingham find a finish. Preferred up front to Mikael Mandron, the pacy striker had the first opportunity of the afternoon.

Taking advantage of an 11th-minute mistake by ex-Pools defender Christian Burgess, Bingham hared towards goal but a heavy touch in the box affectedhim and he ended up poking his attempt wide of the goalie’s left-hand stick.

Pools were under pressure with Kyle Bennett and Enda Stevens running riot down the left, but Trevor Carson’s goal was not unduly threatened.

The keeper collected from Marc McNulty’s shot from outside the area, Ben Davies went wide with a 25-yard free-kick, while Bennett was off-target from edge of box after a great touch and turn.

But Bennett was involved as Portsmouth went in front on 33 minutes. He combined with McNulty who found Caolan Lavery, whose curling shot from outside the box beat Carson and went into the keeper’s left corner.

Pompey doubled their lead within four minutes.

Jackson gave the ball away and his luck was definitely out when Davies swungf over a cross from the corner flag.

The young defender instinctively stuck out his leg only to put the ball past Carson from inside the six-yard box.

Pools fought back and went agonisingly close to pulling one back when Scott Fenwick engineered a left-foot piledrive from edge of box which looked destined for the top corner until Brian Murphy flung himself high to his left.

After the break, Pools, thankfully, altered their formation to reduce the threat of Stevens and Bennett down the left.

The guys in luminous green were looking brighter going forward, playing some good passing moves.

They even had a great opening in the 53rd minute when Jake Carroll sent over a perfect free-kick, with the unmarked Matthew Bates just unable to connect.

Pools were made to pay as Portsmouth made it 3-0 on 61 minutes very much against the run of play.

But it has to be said Pools did not help themselves. Home skipper Michael Doyle‘s six-mile pass out to the left made it all the way to Stevens.

The left-back teed up McNulty who weaved his way through the defence, only for Carson to deny him with a superb save. But Pools failed to clear and Gareth Evans hammered a 15-yard shot into the Irishman’s bottom left corner.

The contest, if it wasn’t already, was now over but Pools kept pushing forward with Nicky Featherstone prompting the side,

Sub Mandron put himself about and he almost got on the end of a 78th-minute Rhys Oates cross from the left but Murphy held on.

But Mandron was involved in an even better chance seven minutes from time. He linked with up Featherstone who displayed neat footwork to get into the box but dithered too long and was crowded out by three defenders.

And to rub salt in the wounds, Pools conceded a fourth in the last minute.

Stevens, who else, threaded through a great ball for McNulty who finished neatly from 15 yards.

The Scot had deserved his goal though it was harsh on Pools.