Bird brace secures another home victory
Ryan Bird scored twice as Pompey made it a hat-trick of home victories by beating Exeter 3-2 at a windy Fratton Park.
It was Ricky Holmes who netted first just before the break, with an effort that owed a lot to the conditions.
Bird then added a couple of second half headers to cap a memorable two matches for the striker.
Danny Coles and John O’Flynn both scored late on to ensure a nervy end, but the Blues held on to claim all three points.
Guy Whittingham made three changes from the side that drew at Torquay the previous week.
Bird was rewarded for his equalising goal at Plainmoor with a first league start up front.
Simon Ferry and Sonny Bradley also returned to the side with Johnny Ertl and Shaun Cooper dropping to the bench, where they were joined by a fit-again David Connolly.
Before the match a bugler played the Last Post, while there was a minute’s silence in memory of all those who have lost their life in conflict.
Pompey had a great opportunity to break the deadlock after just four minutes when Jed Wallace’s low cross made its way through a host of bodies.
The ball eventually arrived at Bird’s feet at the far post, but it seemed to take the striker by surprise and he was unable to make a decent connection.
Patrick Agyemang then cut inside from the left, but could only drill a shot straight into the arms of Grecians keeper Artur Krysiak.
The Blues were looking bright in the opening stages and Yassin Moutaouakil sent a dangerous ball into the box that was just out of reach of both Agyemang and Bird.
Wallace was next to spark something on 18 minutes, bursting past Craig Woodman and delivering a low cross that ricocheted around the Exeter area before being cleared.
The visitors finally created their first opening moments later, but Trevor Carson was equal to Liam Sercombe’s fierce drive.
He could do nothing about Matt Grimes’ swerving shot from distance on 22 minutes, although the crossbar came to Pompey’s rescue on that occasion.
The Blues were soon back on the attack, however, and Agyemang saw his effort blocked at point-blank range following a neat cut-back from Holmes.
But Exeter were looking dangerous themselves and Carson did well to deny Gow before tearing off his line to punch clear a corner.
It was Pompey who opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time, though, thanks to a freak effort from HOLMES.
The winger sent a cross into the box from wide on the left, only to see the wind take the ball over Krysiak and into the net.
Half Time: Pompey 1 Exeter 0
Pompey carried on from where they left off at the start of the second and Holmes saw his shot blocked after meeting Moutaouakil’s pass.
The French full-back sent another dangerous cross into the box on 49 minutes – and this time it resulted in a goal.
It was BIRD who met the ball at the far post and his header bounced into the turf, over Krysian and into the net – with Agyemang sportingly declining to force it over the line.
The Blues continued to push forward and Racon was next to have a crack, although his shot flew straight into Krysiak’s arms.
Exeter had not given up, however, and almost capped a bright spell by reducing the deficit on 67 minutes.
In fact, it took a super stop from Carson to deny Arron Davies at close range before the ball was hacked to safety.
But the Blues looked to have made sure of victory on 71 minutes when Andy Barcham – who had only just come on as a substitute – delivered a fine cross that BIRD dispatched with a bullet header.
There was to be no clean sheet, however, as Carson allowed Coles’ header to slip through his grasp after the Grecians skipper had met Davies’ corner.
And Exeter began to sense a comeback was on the cars when substitute O’Flynn was left unmarked to convert a cross at the far post.
But Pompey were able to see out a nervy final few minutes and secure their third successive home triumph.
Pompey (4-4-2): Carson; Moutaouakil, N’Gala, Bradley, Devera; Wallace (Barcham 69), Racon, Ferry (c) (Ertl 72), Holmes; Agyemang (Connolly 76), Bird
Goals: Holmes 45, Bird 49, 71
Subs not used: Smith, Cooper, East, Padovani
Exeter (3-5-2): Krysiak; Bennett, Coles (c), Moore-Taylor (O’Flynn 73); Davies, Grimes, Doherty (Gill 75), Sercombe, Woodman; Parkin, Gow (Nichols 83)
Goals: Coles 75, O’Flynn 84
Subs not used: Pym, Tillson, Wheeler, Keohane
Referee: Oliver Langford
Attendance: 16,168 (1,304 away fans)