By Jon Harries
How I wish I was there Saturday. Old school ground, cracking atmosphere and more importantly 3 points against a promotion rival. The game started as expected with Portsmouth dominating possession and creating chances, Ronan Curtis shooting when the cross was the better option, Connor Ogilvie heading over unmarked from a corner but nothing to trouble debutant Jamie Cumming.
Then with the Dons first real attack the opening goal. Reeco Hackett with the misplaced pass pounced on by O’Riley who split the Portsmouth defence to play through Mo Eisa who one on one coolly slotted into the bottom corner which makes me feel that Mo is starting to get into the flow of things after a period of frustration.
Cumming then made a routine save from Curtis and Harness fired narrowly wide as Portsmouth tried to even things up, but the goal seemed to settle down the away side more and the Dons looked comfortable. Pinball followed in the Portsmouth box which led to several chances not taken but fear not the decisive moment was just around the corner.
Ethan Robson played a ball down the line. Eisa’s control got away from him, but the long-range pass back ran kindly for Twine who shrugged off his marker before taking a shot, the ball broke to Theo Corbeanu who hit a sensational volley in off the underside of the bar. They always look better when that happens and led to absolute limbs in the away end, so, 2-0 up at HT being ruthless.
The second half had the same pattern with Pompey dominating possession and finally breaking through on the hour, George Hirst finishing smartly after good work down the right. After that though it was back and forth, first Cumming producing a stunning save from a header, then Bazuna making a double save to deny Twine and Boateng followed by Parrott jinking through the defence and seeing a shot deflected wide. 6 minutes of added time safely negotiated, and the Dons solidified their playoff spot with results going favourably on Saturday.
Our opponents this weekend Doncaster have struggled all season and haven’t really had a run of form to ease the growing pressure. One win in their last 9 and it really isn’t pretty reading for anyone at the Eco Power Stadium right now and they come into this game on the back of a 3-1 away defeat at the hands of Cambridge Utd on Tuesday night.
A 3-1 loss looks comfortable for Cambridge but in truth Doncaster could and probably should have been leading at half time, hitting the post and bar on two separate occasions, and playing like a side not at the bottom of L1. They were hit by a sucker punch when Jack Lenkester led a quick breakaway setting up Harvey Knibbs for the opening goal which quickly became 2- 0 in the second half, Harrison Dunk converting a powerful header. Doncaster had some hope when Joe Dodoo tapped in from close range though in their desperation for a point, Cambridge broke late on, Sam Smith returning the favour and making any hope of survival for Doncaster that much harder.
Goalkeeper Louis Jones is one of several youth academy players that’s been drafted in due to injuries and Covid. Kyle Knoyle is a solid enough RB; Tommy “Dizzy” Rowe has played in every position possible throughout the season. John Bostock provides experience in a youthful midfield of Matt Smith, Aidan Barlow, and latest recruit on loan from Norwich Josh Martin. Having had his loan cut short from MK Dons, the Canaries wasted no time finding a club where increased game time will be more realistic in the second half of the season. Up top Joe Dodoo, Omar Bogle, and another recent recruit to the Donny ranks, MK Dons Legend Kieran Agard, whose short-term contract expired at Plymouth in January and given the right service could provide the ammunition towards an unlikely escape from what looks like certain relegation.
The Player in Focus this week is Ethan Galbraith a shining light in a disappointing season, but a goal and 3 assists might not seem all that brilliant, in context to Doncaster’s season so far. The Man Utd loanee can play either as a number 10 or a DM able to do both effectively. With Martin’s inclusion it will be interesting to see which point of the diamond he fits into on Saturday. Able to pick a pass, doesn’t shirk a challenge and can dictate play.
Predicted Line-up * written before Saturday, so who knows !!!
Watson – Baldwin – O’Hora – Lewington – Harvie
Coventry – McEachran
Corbeanu – Twine
To lose Ethan Robson and Peter Kioso is a big blow but we must respect the parent clubs’ decisions going forward, also it doesn’t help with O’Riley being sold for an undisclosed £1.5m to Celtic as I am writing this, but don’t forget we have “Super” Liam Sweeting who undoubtedly has a contingency plan already in place already proving that with the loan signing of Conor Coventry Tuesday lunchtime and Connor Wickham late on Friday. I’m predicting a 3-0 win. Confidence is high in the camp and even with what’s happened this week I expect us to push forward. Eisa x 2 and Parrott coming on to score.