Unlucky Hatters see their Pompey drought continue

James Collins goes for goal against Portsmouth
James Collins goes for goal against Portsmouth

League One: Portsmouth 1 Luton Town 0

Luton Town's long and miserable run at Fratton Park continued this afternoon, but those in attendance, both home and away, will be scratching their heads at to just how that was the case.

The visitors, who went into the match without a win on the south coast since 1975, a run spanning eight games, failing to score on their last four visits as well, left with that sequence extended to nine, although they won't come much closer to ending it.

Apart from one moment where they switched off on 16 minutes to allow Jamal Lowe to net what was the only goal of the game, Nathan Jones' side were easily the better team, cruelly denied by the woodwork on two separate occasions.

Jones stuck with the side that beat Notts County 2-0 last weekend, meaning two of his summer signings were handed debuts, Matty Pearson partnering Alan Sheehan in the centre of defence, while Jorge Grant started as well.

There were few chances early on, Harry Cornick flashing a header across goal from Sheehan's free kick near the corner flag.

However, the Hatters then fell behind on 16 minutes, as after Sheehan slipped, Ronan Curtis got the better of Pearson to reach the byline where his ball back couldn't be cut out by Alan McCormack allowing Lowe to easily beat Stech from close range.

Luton almost fashioned an equaliser with a brilliant move started by James Justin, with Elliot Lee poking to Grant and his cross looked odds on for James Collins to score, only to see Nathan Thompson throw himself in the way to head over the bar.

Collins then had another two chances in quick succession, as he could only head Dan Potts' excellent cross high in to the air for Craig MacGillivray to easily catch.

His next opportunity was even better, but with Cornick in room and screaming for the ball, maybe mindful of his earlier miss, opted to go for goal, dragging disappointingly wide.

Just after the half hour, Luton were inches away, the ball breaking to Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu on the edge of the area, his shot scraping the post, with the majority of away fans thinking their side were level.

They were up again moments later when Sheehan curled in a delicious free kick which beat everyone only to hit the inside of the post before bouncing out.

McCormack's long range volley took a nick flying straight through to MacGillivray, as Luton could consider themselves unlucky not to be on level terms, or even in front at the break.

Jones' side didn't alter their passing style after the break, making an excellent start, Collins unleashing an ambitious attempt that flew over.

With the away side in almost total control, the Pompey fans were getting increasingly and vocally irate, watching their side being clearly outplayed.

Justin got away on the right a few times, picked out by McCormack, but couldn't find a white shirt in the box, while Mpanzu was closed down just as he went to shoot.

Town's luck was well and truly out though as Lee won the ball back high up and fed Collins who curled his shot against the underside of the bar as you got the sinking feeling it just wouldn't go in for the visitors.

Lee, who picked up some lovely positions, was then Town's creator again, slipping Cornick clean through, who on the angle tried to beat MacGillivray at his near post, the keeper beating his shot away, when it was crying out for a shot across goal.

It appeared Luton's best chance had come and gone, as Pompey then started to weather the storm for the final 20 minutes, Thompson taking aim from range, only to injure himself in the process, replaced by Christian Burgess.

Mpanzu burst on the outside but his delivery was kicked away by the keeper while he then dinked over for Grant, who just couldn't stretch enough.

Late on, Sheehan's free kick was punched away by MacGillivray who hadn't left his station by the post, as Jones even threw Sonny Bradley upfront in stoppage time, but there was little he could do as the hosts dug in to secure victory.

After scoring 94 goals on their way to promotion last term, one thing Jones and his side will have learned is that League One defences won't be breached quite as easily, with the fact Pompey centre half Matt Clarke named star man speaking volumes.

Although beaten, there are bucket-loads of positives to take out of this for the visitors, as with the hosts one of the favourites in this division, they showed they are more than capable of competing, desperately unlucky to leave without a point, and to be honest, all three.

Pompey: Craig MacGillivray, Anton Walkes (Ben Close 60), Lee Brown, Matt Clarke, Tom Naylor, Brett Pitman (C Oli Hawkins 46), Jamal Lowe, Ronan Curtis, Jack Whatmough, Nathan Thompson (Christian Burgess 71) Brandon Haunstrup.

Subs not used: Luke McGee, Dion Donohue, Conor Chaplin, Gareth Evans.

Hatters: Marek Stech, James Justin (Sonny Bradley 90), Dan Potts, Alan Sheehan, Matty Pearson, Alan McCormack (Jake Jervis 87), Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jorge Grant, Elliot Lee, James Collins, Harry Cornick (Andrew Shinnie 77).

Subs not used: James Shea, Jack Stacey, Glen Rea, Luke Gambin.

Booked: Brown 37, Potts 45, McCormack 56, Justin 70, Curtis 87, Sheehan 90.

Referee: Gavin Ward.

Attendance: 19,018 (2,392 Luton).