Fleetwood Town 1 Portsmouth 2: Second-half goals send Joey Barton’s players out of the FA Cup
Joey Barton’s players blew their chance to reach the fourth round for the first time after Pompey notched two poorly-defended goals in a five-minute spell during the second half.
Town sub Conor McAleny did fire home a deflected shot in stoppage time but it proved too little, too late.
Paddy Madden was guilty of missing a couple of opportunities but any outcome other than an away victory would have been very harsh on an impressive Pompey outfit.
Barton had named the same starting XI from the New Year’s Day game against Sunderland.
The only injury absentee was keeper Billy Crellin, replaced on the bench by Matt Gilks.
Once the action started, it was Pompey who went close to a third-minute opener.
Darting free down the left flank, Marcus Harness floated in a cross for James Bolton, only for his header to drop inches wide of the far post.
It was an early scare for the home side but they soon settled down and were playing with a good, positive momentum.
Despite that, Pompey went close again in the 17th minute.
Andy Cannon, pouncing on a poor attempt at a clearing header from Harry Souttar, sent in a 20-yard half-volley which whistled just off target.
Harness provided quite a few headaches for the home defence as he turned inside Souttar and forced Alex Cairns into a smart stop.
Town’s first chance came after 33 minutes when Ched Evans teed up Madden, whose shot was well saved by Alex Bass.
Five minutes before the break, with the hosts now on top, Souttar headed Paul Coutts’ corner just over.
After a goalless first half, it was Town who threatened first in the second period as Madden collected a ball forward from Souttar before seeing a half-volley narrowly clear the crossbar.
Danny Andrew then charged into the Pompey box before seeing an effort deflected off target.
With the match proving a cagey affair, there were some weary legs out on the pitch as Barton looked on, seeking inspiration from somewhere.
However, it was Pompey who broke the deadlock midway through the half as Bolton bundled home Ronan Curtis’ corner from close range.
Five minutes later it was 2-0 in similar fashion as John Marquis forced the ball home following Christian Burgess’ header back into the danger zone.
McAleny then halved Town’s deficit with time running out but that was as good it got for the home side.
Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Coyle, Eastham (McAleny 83), Souttar, Burns, Dempsey, Coutts (Sowerby 72), Morris, Andrew, Evans, Madden (Saunders 81). Subs not used: Gilks, Biggins, Hill, Garner.
Portsmouth: Bass, Bolton, Burgess, Raggett, Seddon (Close 81), Walkes, Naylor, Harness, Cannon, Curtis, Marquis. Subs not used: MacGillivray, Downing, Pitman, Hawkins, Harrison, Evans.
Referee: Marc Edwards.