MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray was delighted with victory in a charged atmosphere at Fratton Park.
Many of the 16,770 strong crowd staged a sit-in protest at the end of the game about the way that their club has been run, but three more Championship points were on Mowbray’s mind.
“I think any win is a pleasing win in this league,” he said.
“Every game is tough and in the end it was more of an attritional game. There wasn’t much football played for an hour or so.
“I haven’t seen them back but they are two penalties that you might say are contentious, whether it was a tug and whether it was a handball I don’t know.
“We wish Portsmouth well in their plight on and off the pitch for the remainder of the season.
“The intensity of the day was always going to make it difficult for us, they have an amazing set of supporters and the atmosphere they generate is first class.”
Pommpey boss Michael Appleton, though, was left bemoaning referee Trevor Kettle’s decision to award Boro a controversial penalty after goals from Barry Robson, Matthew Bates and Marvin Emnes boosted Boro’s promotion hopes.
Greg Halford converted a Portsmouth penalty after Lukas Jutkiewicz handled to make it 2-1, and Boro had Australian Rhys Williams sent off in stoppage time for a second bookable offence.
But it was Kettle’s decision to penalise Ricardo Rocha for an apparent tug at a Middlesbrough corner that incensed Appleton.
“They don’t get given up and down the country at any level, never mind at this level,” he said. “He’s probably the only one in the stadium that’s seen it.
“I’ve seen it again. The lad’s actually pulling Ricardo to the ground. Ricardo’s reacted to it but their players don’t even appeal for a penalty.”
David Norris, making his first start since January, had the first chance of the game as he just failed to get a crucial touch on George Thorne’s long-range shot after 15 minutes.
Stephen Henderson had to be alert to parry away Robson’s low free-kick after 27 minutes, and five minutes later Scott Allan fired a set-piece inches wide at the other end after Boro skipper Bates brought down Thorne.
Three minutes before half-time Stephen Henderson showed why he merited inclusion in the latest Republic of Ireland squad with a tremendous save to tip Bailey’s well-executed volley round the post.
Middlesbrough took the lead 10 minutes after the break, with Robson rolling in the spot-kick
Moments later Faris Haroun was lucky to stay on the pitch after two late challenges in as many minutes, although Kettle only produced a yellow card for the first.
Pompey’s frustrations were growing and it got worse just after the hour-mark when Bailey headed a Robson free-kick back across goal and Bates bundled the ball in.
Five minutes later Pompey were awarded a lifeline when Jutkiewicz handled Rocha’s 30-yard drive, Greg Halford stepping up to convert the penalty.
With 20 minutes left substitute Dave Kitson wasted a golden opportunity to equalise, firing wide from 12 yards when in space and with only Jason Steele to beat.
And that proved costly as Wolves loanee Adam Hammill burst clear down the left and, although his shot was well stopped by Henderson, Emnes was able to fire home the rebound.
Late in stoppage time Boro’s Williams was sent off for a second booking, having already seen yellow for bringing down Joel Ward.
Portsmouth: Henderson, Halford, Rocha, Pearce, Ben-Haim, Ward, Mullins, Thorne (Varney 65), Allan, Norris, Futacs (Kitson 65). Subs Not Used: Ashdown, Mokoena, Webster. Booked: Ben-Haim, Halford, Rocha, Ward, Norris. Goals: Halford 66 pen.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Bates, Hines, Bennett, Haroun (Emnes 59), Robson, Rhys Williams, Bailey, Hammill (Arca 88), Jutkiewicz (Main 72). Subs Not Used: Ogbeche, McMahon. Sent Off: Rhys Williams (90). Booked: Bates, Rhys Williams, Haroun, Robson, Main. Goals: Robson 56 pen, Bates 63, Emnes 83.
Att: 16,770 Ref: Trevor Kettle (Rutland).