Rochdale 3 Pompey 0

Bondz N'Gala leaps above the Rochdale defence to power a header goalwards at Spotland last night
Bondz N'Gala leaps above the Rochdale defence to power a header goalwards at Spotland last night

Sammy Moore, remember the name – particularly if Pompey remain in League Two.

Those members of Pompey’s board present at Spotland last night were shaking their heads as they reflected on another demoralising defeat.

A third loss in a row – the latest a 3-0 humbling by league leaders Rochdale – and yet more pressure heaped on increasingly under-fire boss Richie Barker.

Then came the news from Sixfields which could yet prove decisive in this relegation battle to remain in the Football League.

Second-from-bottom Northampton initially appeared to be heading to a 2-1 victory over 10-man AFC Wimbledon to put them level on points with the Blues, who are directly above them in the table.

But Moore swooped in the 90th minute to level and put a whole new complexion on the battle for survival – for this round of games anyway.

Suddenly Pompey are two points above the drop zone with seven matches to play – and not joint-second last in the 
standings with goals scored keeping them above the trap door.

While Barker’s men cannot score themselves, thankfully Moore can net crucial goals to offer an unexpected boost.

Regardless, more questions are being asked of the presence of Barker in the Blues hot seat, with six matches without a win and many, many fans’ faith in him in tatters.

Of course it could have been different had Bondz N’Gala’s header not been cleared off the line in the eighth minute.

Matt Lund, though, broke the deadlock on 15 minutes and Barker’s men managed to keep it 1-0 to half-time.

However, poor defending helped the hosts to two goals in three minutes after the restart – through Ian Henderson and Peter Vincenti – and it was damage limitation for the visitors for the remainder of the fixture.

Then the Dons’ Moore struck late in Northampton to provide an unexpected relegation pick-me-up.

Barker made four changes to the side who lost to York, employing the 4-2-3-1 system.

Joe Devera received the nod ahead of Sonny Bradley to replace the suspended Ben Chorley at the heart of the defence, with the captaincy handed over to Toumani Diagouraga.

Both Jake Jervis and Ryan Taylor were dropped to the bench in favour of Patrick Agyemang serving as the lone striker in the starting line-up.

That meant recalls for Ricky Holmes and Wes Fogden in midfield, with Rhys McCabe the final player to drop out of the team from Saturday.

Injury once again ruled out Romain Padovani, Andy Barcham, Danny East, Tom Craddock and Marcos Painter.

Johnny Ertl found himself recalled to the bench. But for the second match running there was no room for Thery Racon in the match-day 18.

Once the match kicked off, it took the Blues just 57 seconds to have their first attempt on goal.

Holmes delivered a cross from the corner and in the ensuing scramble Agyemang created room for himself before firing in a low left-foot shot which keeper Josh Lillis dealt with comfortably.

Rochdale responded immediately with a flowing move down the left – Matt Done whipping in a cross and Jamie Allen meeting it with a glancing header.

Fortunately for the visitors, the ball bounced just wide of the far post with Trevor Carson beaten.

Next Agyemang combined well with Fogden to break the offside trap and win a corner.

Again, it was delivered by Holmes – and N’Gala thought he had scored with a header until a foot was snaked out to divert it off the line.

Play continued and Devera put a follow-up header at the far post over the bar when he should have done better.

But on 15 minutes the hosts took the lead after Daniel Alfie’s tackle on Henderson went for a corner.

When the delivery came in, Devera was beaten at the far post in the air, with the ball headed back across goal for Lund to net from close range.

Pompey’s position could have worsened in the 26th minute when Jack Whatmough was caught in possession just in front of the penalty area.

The visitors got lucky, however, with Allen’s through ball intended for George Donnelly marginally overhit and Carson was able to gather.

Moments later, a superb move from the home side resulted in the ball being laid back into the path of Vincenti, whose powerful first-time drive was blocked by the legs of Carson.

In the 37th minute, N’Gala committed a foul. And from Henderson’s resulting free-kick – struck towards the near post – Lund prodded wide.

Alfei was really struggling to cut out crosses from the hosts’ left and when Done whipped the latest in, Vincenti glanced a header just wide of the far post.

There were no substitutions made at the break but within two minutes of the restart Donnelly should have extended Rochdale’s lead when he fired into the side-netting following a blistering counter-attack.

Then Lund narrowly missed with a far-post header after a pinpoint cross was delivered from the right-hand side. On 58 minutes, Fogden surged forward and drove in a shot from outside the box which Lillis comfortably gathered – but from his goal-kick it was 2-0.

N’Gala missed his long ball down the middle and Henderson capitalised by firing in an effort which was parried by Carson but still found its way into the net.

Pompey’s response saw Agyemang powerfully meet a Jed Wallace free-kick but he headed it straight at keeper Lillis. Matters worsened minutes later when a cross was swung in from the left and Vincenti beat both N’Gala and Devera in the air at the far post to head home.

It was damage limitation time and a tremendous touch from Whatmough at the far post nicked the ball away from Henderson, who was closing in to make it four.

As full-time approach, Fogden missed a glorious chance to reduce the deficit – his miss met with howls of derision from the Spotland faithful.

Moments later the full-time whistle sounded and Pompey once again looked nervously over their shoulder at the prospect of non-league football next season.