POMPEY 2 CAMBRIDGE 1
Pompey ensured their promotion party did not fall flat with a 2-1 victory over Cambridge at Fratton Park.
Carl Baker fired them ahead before the break and Kal Naismith’s fine free-kick doubled the advantage in the second half.
An equally impressive strike from Luke Berry reduced the deficit, but the Blues saw out the closing stages to secure all three points.
Paul Cook made three changes from the side that won at Notts County to secure promotion on Easter Monday.
There were maiden starts for Nicke Kabamba and Stanley Aborah, with Gary Roberts and Amine Linganzi making way.
Matt Clarke also returned from injury to replace Christian Burgess at the heart of Pompey’s back-line.
There was a carnival atmosphere inside Fratton Park as the sides emerged from the tunnel to the tune of the Herman’s Hermits hit ‘I’m Into Something Good’.
And it was the hosts who looked more threatening in the early stages, with Naismith’s effort blocked before Baker drilled a low shot just past the post.
Enda Stevens then tried his luck after cutting inside from out wide, although his rising drive cleared the crossbar.
And Cambridge skipper Leon Legge managed to head clear a cross from the left-back before it could reach the waiting Kabamba.
Gareth Evans was next to have a pop and hit the ball cleanly enough from 25 yards, only for it to fly straight into the arms of Will Norris.
But the United keeper was beaten on 20 minutes, as Stevens got free down the left and cut the ball back for BAKER to side-foot home from inside the box.
That was the signal for the play-off chasing visitors to start showing some more ambition and try to chase an equaliser.
Medy Elito whipped in a free-kick from wide on the left, with David Forde was at his commanding best to punch clear.
But Cambridge almost drew level when the keeper failed to claim a cross on 35 minutes, as Michael Doyle initially cleared before Uche Ikpeazu’s effort was turned off the line by Jack Whatmough.
The danger was not over yet, however, and Liam O’Neil should have found the target after being picked out from the resulting corner.
And Forde did brilliantly to somehow claim a dangerous delivery by Piero Mingoia with just one hand in a crowded area.
But it was the Blues who almost snatched a goal to extend their advantage just moments before the break.
Naismith and Stevens combined well down the left and the latter’s centre was hooked back across goal by Baker, although just too high for Kabamba to divert on target at the far post.
Half Time: Pompey 1 Cambridge 0
There was another great chance for the hosts following the restart as Norris spilled Kyle Bennett’s shot, only for Kabamba to slip before he could reach the loose ball.
It was only a brief respite for Cambridge, however, and Shaun Derry’s side did fall further behind on 51 minutes.
Aborah was brought down 25 yards from goal and top scorer NAISMITH stepped up to curl home a beauty of a free-kick.
The visitors needed some inspiration and quickly made all three of their substitutions, including introductions for former Blues players James Dunne and Adam McGurk.
And Cook made a couple of switches of his own, with Kabamba and Baker making way for Conor Chaplin and Monday’s goal hero Jamal Lowe.
That seemed to take the sting out of the game, although it was still Pompey playing with more attacking intent.
A dangerous low Stevens cross was turned into his own keeper’s arms by Legge, while a couple of fine passing moves were just lacking a final killer ball.
But Cambridge found a route back into the game on 80 minutes when Aborah conceded a free-kick that Berry superbly fired past Forde’s desperate grasp.
The same played had another sighter following a foul by Doyle soon after, although this time he smashed his shot straight into the wall.
A third free-kick from Berry in stoppage-time was then heading for the net, until Forde managed to push it to safety.
And United were unable to find an equaliser, meaning that Pompey still have slim hopes of catching leaders Doncaster.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Evans, Whatmough, Clarke, Stevens; Aborah, M.Doyle (c); Baker (Lowe 67), Naismith, Bennett (Roberts 72); Kabamba (Chaplin 63)
Goals: Baker 20, Naismith 51
Booked: Baker, Whatmough, Forde
Subs not used: O’Brien, Talbot, T.Davies, Rose
Cambridge (4-1-4-1): Norris; Halliday, Legge (c), Taylor, Carroll; O’Neil (Dunk 57); Mingoia, Newton (Dunne 61), Berry, Elito; Ikpeazu (McGurk 63)
Goals: Berry 80
Subs not used: Gregory, Wharton, Maris, Lewis
Referee: Gavin Ward
Attendance: 18,165 (622 away fans)