Football: Rovers short on answers

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The Independent Online
Bristol Rovers. . .1

Portsmouth. . . . .2

THE uneven patch of scrub called Twerton Park, Bristol Rovers' home from home, ought to be a great leveller. Sadly for Rovers, while high-flying visitors like Portsmouth sink to their level, they themselves managed to locate a level even lower, and the result is there for all to see in the home defeats column: 11, and plummeting.

Rovers must now win most of their remaining seven fixtures to keep alive even the faintest glimmer of staying up. On yesterday's evidence, they haven't got a prayer: Portsmouth were not about to join Leicester City, the previous visitors, who became the only side this season not to score here.

For their part, Portsmouth will take satisfaction from the three-point gap that this win has opened up between them and third-placed West Ham, who play today.

The pitch never allowed the game to be more than a scrap, but Portsmouth made their superiority count where it mattered. In Paul Walsh, who nudged and darted with all his usual effervescence, they had comfortably the best player on either side. His delightful flick-on set up Bjorn Kristensen for the first goal. They also had Guy Whittingham, the country's leading scorer, who was only really prominent twice. The first time he pounced on Alan Beasley's parry of Walsh's close range shot and saw it blocked; the second time, from the rebound, he scored his 44th overall and 39th in the league this season. It was an untidy finish finish to a well-fashioned goal involving Kristensen and Alan McLoughlin, but at this stage no one is worrying about tidiness.

Rovers had little in reply, bar some canny approach work by Marcus Stewart, who wall-passed with John Taylor in the 69th minute to score what turned out to be a meaningless goal.

Bristol Rovers: A Beasley; I Alexander (P Hardyman, 58 min), A Tillson, S Yates, B Clark, T Pounder (C Saunders, 58 min), J Channing, A Reece, J Taylor, M Stewart, G Waddock.

Manager: J Ward.

Portsmouth: A Knight; A Awford, G Butters, A McLoughlin (W Aspinall, 71 min), K Symons, R Daniel, W Neill, M Chamberlain, P Walsh (G Lawrence, 84 min), G Whittingham, B Kristensen. Manager: J Smith.

Referee: B Hill (Market Harborough).

Goals: Kristensen 0-1 (33 min), Whittingham 0-2 (52 min), Stewart 1-2 (69 min).