Pompey 3 Stevenage 2

Miles Storey lashes home his goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Miles Storey lashes home his goal. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gone was the much-maligned wing-back system, discarded were six of the side which slumped to defeat against Bury.

Even the suit was sacrificed by Andy Awford in favour of a touchline tracksuit.

And making a welcome return was a win.

Yes, for only the second time in 10 league games Pompey had a victory – netting three goals in the process.

To cap it all off, Joe Devera bagged the winner against Stevenage with a left-foot snapshot from outside the box.

A night of surprises then at Fratton Park but rich reward for Awford who had left no stone unturned in pursuit of a catalyst to yield a triumph.

Admittedly, the outcome appeared unlikely when Boro took the lead on 23 minutes after a lacklustre opening to the fixture.

Dean Wells crashed home a corner to stun Fratton and 
spark more chuntering at the prospect of yet another winless occasion.

Pompey’s response was superb.

Jed Wallace’s left-foot finish levelled matters on 34 minutes as the hosts dominated the remainder of the first-half.

Then there was the prospect of Miles Storey being the match-winner – finishing off Danny Hollands’ sublime pass to announce his return to the starting line-up.

That was until Devera stunned the Fratton faithful by weakly heading back to Jones and allowing Chris Beardsley to intercept and bag a gift of an equaliser.

Yet the villain turned hero – and an unlikely one at that – when on 79 minutes he rifled home what proved to be the decisive goal.

Pompey had their win, the 4-4-2 system introduced got off to a glorious start and suddenly the fans have a team who are capable and look able to score goals.

Only five of the side which lost at Gigg Lane on Saturday were retained for the visit of Boro to a cold Fratton Park.

An alteration of system was accompanied by a widespread change in personnel across the pitch.

Fit-again Paul Robinson returned to a defence which reverted to a flat-back four.

Dan Butler, Johnny Ertl and Alex Wynter all dropped out of the side.

Nicky Shorey earned a recall at left-back, while Devera moved along to right-back to allow Robinson to partner Ben Chorley in the centre.

In midfield, James Dunne was back following suspension.

He replaced Nigel Atangana, with Ricky Holmes starting on the left flank following his Gigg Lane outing as a second-half substitute.

In attack, Ryan Taylor and Michael Drennan were both left out – the latter failing to even make the match-day 18.

That meant a recall for Storey and Craig Westcarr, with the former not named in the squad at Bury at the weekend after falling off the radar of late.

Despite Jack Whatmough returning to training on Monday, there was no room on a strong-looking bench – with Ben Close and Nick Awford also missing out following their Bury presence.

When the match got under way it began as a low-key affair, lacklustre and devoid of any excitement for a small crowd.

But on 14 minutes, Shorey’s attacking throw from the left came off the back of Ronnie Henry’s head and looped towards goal where Chris Day took it under the crossbar.

It would have been a spectacular own goal and represented the first attempt on target from either side, even if it was friendly fire.

In the 20th minute, Holmes delivered a superb cross from the left which Hollands failed to get a clean enough contact on with his head.

The ball also eluded Storey and Westcarr.

The deadlock was broken on 23 minutes, though, when Wells crashed the ball through a crowded six-yard box.

The move was instigated by Dean Parrett, whose left-wing corner picked out Darius Charles at the far post and his header was crashed home by the Boro central defender.

Moments later, Chris Whelpdale whipped in a cross from the right which was well taken on the chest inside the penalty area by Charlie Lee, only for Robinson to pop up and clear in the nick of time.

Slowly Pompey began to piece together their game, although on the half-hour mark Westcarr’s corner was cleared only so far as Shorey and his ambitious shot ballooned way over the bar. On 34 minutes, Henry was booked for handball and from the resulting free-kick the ball fell to Wallace at the far post and his vicious half-volley was beaten out by the keeper at his near post.

From the corner the equaliser arrived as Wallace pounced to drill in a left-foot shot which took a deflection on its way to entering the net.

In the Blues’ next attack, Wallace cleverly lobbed the ball over the top of the Stevenage defence as Hollands charged through.

Keeper Day slipped before taking the ball under pressure from the midfielder amid Pompey appeals for handling outside the area.

But referee Mick Russell was not interested.

The hosts were dominating and Westcarr came agonisingly close to giving them the lead with a shot from the left which rolled just past the far post.

When the match resumed after the interval, Wallace sent a right-foot shot whistling past the post in a bright, early attack from the Blues.

They breathed a sigh of relief on 55 minutes, though, when Whelpdale’s thunderous 25-yarder crashed against the inside of the left-hand post and bounced to safety.

To add to Boro’s misery, just two minutes later Awford’s side took the lead.

Hollands clipped a sublime pass over to the right flank and Storey controlled before unleashing a right-foot drive past Day and into the far 
corner.

At the other end, Lee drilled in a shot from the left channel of the box which Paul Jones finger-tipped around the post.

Stevenage had their equaliser on 74 minutes when Beardsley latched on to Devera’s weak header to Jones and rounded the keeper before slotting home.

The goals didn’t stop there, however.

Hollands’ long throw on 79 minutes was partially cleared and fell to Devera outside the box and he lashed a left-foot shot past the startled Day.

A total of five minutes of stoppage-time were indicated by the fourth official – not that Stevenage were coming back from Devera’s strike – and Pompey had their win.