Mark Cooper couldn’t make a winning start to his tenure as Notts County boss, as promotion chasing Portsmouth ran out 4-0 winners at Fratton Park.
Cooper made three changes to the Notts team which lost 4-1 at home to Exeter, bringing in Haydn Hollis, Stanley Aborah and Rob Milsom with Thierry Audel, Blair Adams and Jason Banton all dropping out of the 18.
The home side felt they should have had a penalty just three minutes in, Ben Davies going down under the challenge of Haydn Hollis, the referee unimpressed with the vocal appeals.
The crowd were on their feet again two minutes later, Stanley Aborah with a strong challenge on Michael Smith, the central midfielder receiving a yellow card much to the annoyance of the home fans
In a lively opening 10 minutes, Izale McLeod had the best chance for Notts, Paul Jones rushing from his goal to deny Rob Milsom, the balling falling to the striker 30 yards out but he could only find the stand behind the goal with his volley.
Gary Roberts tested Scott Loach just after the half hour mark, the winger cutting inside to the edge of the area, driving straight down the centre of the goal into the ‘keepers arms.
With five minutes to go until half time, Rob Milsom became the second Notts player to get his name into the book, catching Ben Davies after the full back had cleared the ball.
On the stroke of half time the home side took the lead, Enda Stevens worked the ball to Kyle Bennett on the left wing. The wideman got the wrong side of Elliott Hewitt, driving into the box before slipping it under the advancing Loach.
As the half entered stoppage time, Danny Hollands was cautioned for a late challenge on Stanley Aborah in the middle of the park.
The match had threatened to boil over at a number of points, with both sides tackling strong in the middle of the park. Curtis Thompson became the fourth player in the book, after a heavy challenge on Michael Doyle.
Within five minutes of the restart Bennett netted his second. Gary Roberts’ reverse ball sent the winger clear, the number 23 showing good composure before sending it past Loach from just inside the area.
It was Roberts who almost made it three in the 54th minute, beating the offside trap before trying to lob Loach, the ball falling onto the roof of the net.
On the hour mark Mark Cooper reacted with a double change. Stanley Aborah and Andrew Boyce made way, with Graham Burke and Wes Atkinson coming on in their place. Elliott Hewitt switched into central defence with Atkinson heading to the right wing.
Jon Stead, who continued to captain the side in Roy Carroll’s absence, almost halved the deficit for the visitors. Jones in the Pompey net spilt a cross to the striker, but he couldn’t convert his header from close range, Jones pouncing on the loose ball.
Liam Noble almost found Stead free in the box soon after, Matt Clarke just recovering in time, as Notts stepped up the pressure with more possession.
However, it was the home side who came closest to scoring again. Michael Smith twisting and turning in the box, firing towards the bottom corner only to see Alan Smith with a fine sliding block to deny the striker.
Stead was fouled by Enda Stevens on the corner of the penalty area, Liam Noble’s swinging ball was met at the back post by Hewitt, but he could only find the side netting.
Alan Smith picked up a yellow card for a cynical foul on Michael Smith on halfway, as the striker had looked to break.
Before the free kick could be taken Notts made their final change with Adam Campbell replacing the just cautioned Smith.
With eight minutes left on the clock the three points were sealed. A quick free kick on the left was played to Enda Stevens who crossed to Christian Burgess who headed past Loach and into the bottom corner.
Roberts stung the palms of Loach as the home side looked to add a fourth, Smith getting to the loose ball and sending it across the face of goal but Hollis was able to clear.
Izale McLeod almost created a chance to grab a consolation for Notts, turning quickly away from Davies before driving towards goal but Stevens got back well to thwart the striker.
It was the striker who became the fifth County player to get his name taken by the referee as the game entered four minutes of stoppage time.
It was from that foul that Portsmouth added a fourth, substitute Marc McNulty found himself unmarked in the box and looped a header over Loach and into the top corner, sealing all three points for the home side.
Att: 16, 670 (485 Away)
Team: Loach, Smith (Campbell 75'), Hollis, Milsom, Thompson, Noble, Hewitt, Boyce (Atkinson 58'), Stead, Aborah (Burke 58'), McLeod
Unused Subs: Pilkington, Murray, Sharpe, Edwards