POMPEY 3 DAG & RED
The Paul Cook era at Pompey began in spectacular fashion as three second half goals secured a comfortable victory over Dagenham.
A packed crowd saw the Blues dominate the first half without managing to open the scoring.
But that all changed after the interval when Gareth Evans headed home the opener to get the Fratton party started.
And Kyle Bennett then took over with a couple of fine strikes to ensure the home fans left the ground in buoyant mood.
Cook handed debuts to nine players, with Nigel Atanagana and Matt Tubbs the only starters to have ended last season at Fratton Park.
There were a couple of familiar faces in the opposition line-up, however, with former Pompey loanees Josh Passley and Nyron Nosworthy in the Dagenham side.
Before kick-off both sets of supporters heartily took part in a minute’s applause in memory of PST chairman Ken Malley, who sadly passed away earlier in the summer.
When the game got underway in glorious sunshine it was the hosts who immediately looked the more threatening.
A lovely chipped pass from Gary Roberts had to be cleared behind by Matt Richards, while Christian Burgess headed wide from the resulting corner.
Nosworthy then did well to intercept Tubbs’ centre following a quick break up the pitch by Bennett.
Another incisive pass from Bennett was just out of reach for Tubbs on 11 minutes, while Roberts saw his effort deflected behind moments later.
Pompey were doing all the pressing and Bennett was next to go close after being fed by skipper Michael Doyle, but saw his shot curl narrowly over.
And it took a superb save from Mark Cousins to keep the scores level on 19 minutes, with the Daggers keeper flinging out a hand to stop Tubbs’ fierce drive flying into the bottom corner.
The game started to quieten down after that frantic opening and there was a bizarre moment midway through the half when referee Carl Boyeson allowed the players a break for drinks.
Pompey started to move through the gears again afterwards and a Roberts free-kick was headed clear before Nosworthy was forced to turn a dangerous low Bennett cross behind for a corner.
The visitors finally had an opening on 36 minutes when the ball bounced around the Blues box before being hacked to safety by Atangana.
But the action was soon back up the other end of the pitch and Evans dragged a shot inches past the post.
Half Time: Pompey 0 Dagenham & Redbridge 0
Both sides had long-range sighters at the start of the second half, with first Bennett and then Jodi Jones narrowly missing the target.
But the Blues did break the deadlock on 51 minutes when Bennett’s corner found EVANS at the far post and he headed back into the opposite corner.
Dagenham came close to hitting back immediately, with Ashley Hemmings’ drive deflected into the side netting by Ben Davies.
At the other end, Burgess was proving an aerial threat from set-pieces and twice he headed behind after meeting corners from Bennett and Roberts.
But it was BENNETT who doubled the advantage on 62 minutes, collecting Enda Stevens’ throw, cutting inside from the left and smashing an emphatic finish off the underside of the bar.
Pompey were forced into a change on 68 minutes when the impressive Atangana limped off and was replaced by Danny Hollands.
Tubbs almost added a third goal seconds later when he met Roberts’ cross with a looping header that was clawed away by Cousins.
Instead it was BENNETT who strengthened the lead on 74 minutes with another stunning strike from 25 yards after collecting the ball from Roberts.
That was the winger’s last involvement, however, as he soon made way for Jayden Stockley in the Blues attack, receiving a standing ovation as he left the pitch.
Pompey kept pushing forward in search of more goals, with Roberts and Burgess both coming close in the final few minutes.
But the Blues – and their supporters – seemed more than satisfied with their three-goal haul when the final whistle blew.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Murphy; Davies, Burgess, Clarke, Stevens; Atangana (Hollands 68), Doyle (c); Evans, Roberts, Bennett (Stockley 76); Tubbs (Chaplin 84)
Goals: Evans 51, Bennett 62, 74
Subs not used: Jones, Webster, Haunstrup, McGurk
Dag & Red (4-4-2): Cousins; Passley, Partridge, Nosworthy, Widdowson; Jones, Boucaud (c), Richards, Hemmings; McClure (Ferdinand 46), Cureton
Subs not used: O’Brien, Connors, Hamalainen, Chambers, Doidge
Referee: Carl Boyeson
Attendance: 16,948 (279 away fans)