N'Gala heads early winner at Fratton Park
Bondz N’Gala continued his Fratton scoring spree as Pompey beat managerless Bury to record back-to-back home victories.
The centre-back headed home early on, adding to the brace he scored against Rochdale a fortnight earlier.
It was by no means a vintage display from the Blues, but they held on to stretch their unbeaten run to four matches.
Guy Whittingham made one enforced change from the side that drew at Plymouth last Saturday.
With Trevor Carson not allowed to feature against his parent club, Phil Smith came in for his fifth appearance between the sticks.
And the keeper immediately displayed some good handling to keep hold of Shaun Harrad’s early header.
The action soon switched to the other end of the pitch and John Marquis connected with Ricky Holmes’ cross to send a header against the underside of the crossbar, although the striker was in an offside position.
Jed Wallace then beat William Edjenguele down the right and sent in a dangerous low ball that Nathan Cameron had to clear over his own crossbar.
But the Blues did break the deadlock on four minutes when N’GALA met a Holmes corner and guided home a perfectly-placed header.
Both sides were playing with an attacking mindset and Smith did well to punch clear a Tom Soares corner from a packed penalty box moments later.
Bury were perhaps unfortunate not to win a penalty on 18 minutes when Yassin Moutaouakil slid in on Soares in the box, but the visitors surprisingly declined to appeal.
Joe Devera then made a sliding tackle that was timed to perfection in order to steal the ball from Danny Hylton inside the Blues box.
The Shakers did ask referee Carl Berry for a spot-kick midway through the first half, but N’Gala appeared to win the ball cleanly from Hylton and the official agreed.
He did foul the loan striker soon after, however, picking up a yellow card for a late challenge that left caretaker boss Ronnie Jepson ranting on the sidelines.
Soares then had a great opportunity to level the scores after receiving the ball in acres of space inside the box, but could only blaze a shot high over the bar.
Marquis also had a chance at the other end, although he could only divert Moutaouakil’s cross straight into the arms of Bury keeper Brian Jensen.
Half Time: Pompey 1 Bury 0
The visitors started the second half brightly and caused Pompey problems with a couple of set-piece crosses.
And it took a super stop from Smith to prevent them from levelling on 55 minutes. The keeper showed great reflexes to get down to his left and push clear Harrad’s diving header.
Pompey were looking nervy at the back and Hylton was next to go close with a fierce drive that called Smith into action once again.
Whittingham tried to freshen things up on 71 minutes, taking off Marquis and bringing on Ryan Bird – recently recalled from a loan spell at Havant & Waterlooville.
But the Blues had not created much since the restart and Sonny Bradley was unable to steer a Holmes’ cross on target.
Bury were not creating much at the other end, however, and Jordan Mustoe’s free-kick flew harmlessly wide on 82 minutes.
Whittingham made his final two substitutions moments later, with Gavin Mahon and Andy Barcham replacing Thery Racon and Patrick Agyemang.
Bradley then breathed of sigh of relief after miscontrolling a simple pass and watching Anton Forrester drag his shot wide.
But it was Pompey who almost snatched a second goal late on when Wallace stole possession, played a one-two with Holmes and lifted a shot against the post.
It did not matter, though, as the Blues saw out four minutes of stoppage-time to claim all three points.
Pompey (4-4-2): Smith; Moutaouakil, N’Gala, Bradley, Devera; Wallace, Ertl (c), Racon (Mahon 82), Holmes; Agyemang (Barcham 82), Marquis (Bird 71)
Goals: N’Gala 4
Booked: N’Gala, Holmes, Marquis, Racon
Subs not used: Sullivan, Cooper, Whatmough, Padovani
Bury (4-4-2): Jensen; Berry, Cameron, Edjenguele, Mustoe; Sedgwick, Miller (Mayor 78), Procter (c), Soares; Harrad (Forrester 78), Hylton
Subs not used: Charles-Cook, Hinds, Holden, Rooney, Walker
Referee: Carl Berry
Attendance: 15,434 (497 away fans)