A FINE improvised finish from Mike Fondop and an absolutely spectacular driven free-kick from Joe Powell secured a deserved 2-1 victory for Burton Albion at Portsmouth this afternoon.
The Brewers netted just either side of half-time to take a brilliant three points and remain unbeaten under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink away from home. Pompey did score late on through Charlie Daniels' looped header but Albion held firm to take a thoroughly merited three points away from home.
Manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink named two changes to the side that beat Swindon Town five days prior at the Pirelli Stadium, with Fondop returning to the starting XI in a straight swap with Kane Hemmings up front.
The other change saw Powell making his first start since the 1-0 defeat to Ipswich Town back in mid-January, replacing the injured Jonny Smith.
The first real chance of the game came after just six minutes as former Brewer Marcus Harness took a short corner and cut back while heading into the box. His attempted low cross took a big deflection off the head of Sean Clare and almost wrong-footed Ben Garratt in goal, but went wide, into the side-netting.
Once again Albion were finding Tom Hamer’s long throws a potent weapon, and one such delivery into the box caused issues on 12 minutes as it was only half-cleared by the Pompey defence.
Michael Bostwick powered a header back into the box and Fondop did well to flick it on towards goal under pressure, but could not change the trajectory of the ball to any great extent and Craig MacGillivray was able to collect.
Ronan Curtis was a danger for Pompey throughout and he almost got onto the end of one good cross from the right-wing, but captain John Brayford stuck with Curtis and did enough to put him off, Curtis missing the ball entirely at the back post.
Moments later the ball fell for Ryan Williams in the box, but he scuffed his shot somewhat and it bobbled through to Garratt.
Albion threatened themselves sporadically while maintaining strong shape and organisation at the back - Brayford and Hayden Carter both went for a header at goal from another long Hamer throw but MacGillivray was equal to the effort, while Clare drilled one from 30 yards that the keeper saw wide.
Tom Naylor, another ex-Brewer, had a good chance with three minutes to go until the break as he sent a curled left-footed effort wide of the far post from inside the box, but it would be Albion, just shy of added time at the end of the first half, who would break the deadlock.
Hamer sent another good throw into the box and it landed at Carter’s mercy, with his powerful volley from close range saved brilliantly by MacGillivray.
But Portsmouth could not clear their lines and after Brayford headed it at goal, FONDOP - who had been brought down and was on his back as the ball came above him - brilliantly reacted to put the loose ball in with an improvised overhead kick from a prone position.
HALF-TIME: PORTSMOUTH 0-1 BURTON ALBION
Getting a goal just on the stoke of half-time is always important but getting one just after the restart is similarly important - and this afternoon the Brewers got both.
Albion won a free-kick some 35 yards from goal, with Clare and Powell both stood over it. It looked like an opportunity to put a cross in to just about anyone in Fratton Park - anyone other than POWELL himself.
The young midfielder let Clare lay the ball off for him and stepped up, sending a stunning, knuckleball effort, straight as an arrow and quicker than the keeper, nestling in the far corner for what must be a favourite for Goal of the Season.
Curtis continued to be a threat and had a real chance to pull one back as the ball fell kindly into the box for him, but he turned it over the bar from close range.
Albion could have made absolutely certain of the three points with four minutes of regular time to play as Lucas Akins won possession well on the edge of the box to go one-on-one with MacGillivray, only for the keeper to make a fine save.
Pompey did get one back as a fortuitous deflection took a cross away from Albion's defenders and onto the head of DANIELS, who powered a good header past Garratt, but the Brewers held firm from there to extend our unbeaten run away from home.
FULL-TIME: PORTSMOUTH 1-2 BURTON ALBION
GOALS: Daniels 88 (Portsmouth). Fondop 45, Powell 47 (Brewers).
PORTSMOUTH: MacGillivray, Johnson (Bolton 73), Whatmough, Raggett (Nicolaisen 53), Brown (Daniels 26), Naylor © (White 73), Close, Harness, Cannon (Byers 53), Williams, Curtis. Subs not used: Ward, Stanley.
BREWERS: Garratt, Brayford ©, Edwards, Bostwick, Powell (Rowe 67), Akins, Carter, Clare, Fondop (Hemmings 67), Hamer, Mancienne. Subs not used: O’Hara, Earl, Broom, O’Toole, Taylor.
YELLOW CARDS: Clare 40 (Brewers).