A goal by Louis Thompson at his old club wasn't enough to prevent Stevenage going down to defeat to League One leaders Portsmouth.

The Pompey old boy had scored with a header on 26 minutes but goals either side of that from Paddy Lane and Colby Bishop gave the home side a 2-1 win.

There were red cards in a feisty ending to the clash but Stevenage were good value for a point after three subs at half-time changed the entire contest.

They can take positives from the game though.

Steve Evans had pulled a fast one prior to the aborted game against Cambridge United, naming exactly the same starting XI and exactly the same bench that had beaten Northampton Town on Boxing Day.

And he stuck to his guns by doing the same at Fratton Park. 

It meant Terence Vancooten and Harvey White were missing from the 18 for the second game running, or third if you like.

It had been confirmed by the boss after Boxing Day that Vancooten was not injured setting some to starting second guessing the reason.

The game started though with the same formation that saw off the Cobblers and there was a positive start for the visitors with a free-kick chucked into the box that caused a few problems.

However, a string of fouls began to get Portsmouth up the field as well as bringing a booking for old boy Thompson.

A minute later his old cub were ahead.

They had already gone close when Alex Robertson had an unmarked header tipped over the top by Taye Ashby-Hammond when they managed to engineer an overlap on the right side of the area.

It was pushed to Lane who in fairness shanked it, but it still had enough on it to bounce across the face of goal and into the far corner.

They should have made it 2-0 as well when Abu Kamara got clear but excellent defending by Dan Butler did enough to put him off and he pulled his effort wide.

But Stevenage still had chances and Jordan Roberts forced Will Norris into a good save, his volley heading under the crossbar until the keeper tipped it over.

It was from almost the exact same spot that Boro found an equaliser.

Jamie Reid stood a ball up from the right hand side but it needed someone attacking it to turn it into a good delivery.

Thompson did just that and he guided his header with a bit of power to the left of the keeper.

At that stage they were deservedly level but Portsmouth were able to get back in front just at a point where you felt the crowd was turning on them.

It was another one that perhaps Stevenage could have defended better as it wasn't the greatest of balls in from the left but Bishop was able to get there ahead of Dan Sweeney.

And from then, the home side had the majority of the ball even if they didn't test Ashby-Hammond at all.

Dan Sweeney had picked up a booking in that spell so it was perhaps no surprise to see him replaced by Nathan Thompson at half-time, but three subs in total did raise an eyebrow.

Ben Thompson and Jake Forster-Caskey also came on with Finley Burns and Elliott List going off, the visitors also switching to a back five with Nick Freeman as the right wing-back and Luther James-Wildin tucking inside.

Marlon Pack fired two early chances wide for the hosts but the changes did have an impact on the momentum with Stevenage getting back on the front foot.

A cross from Freeman almost brought a glorious chance but it ended up hitting Roberts on the back.

Had he worked out where the ball was quicker than he did, it would have been the equaliser. Lane snuffed out the danger there.

Another sub arrived before the hour marked, not that surprising perhaps considering Louis Thompson's yellow.

Neither was the arrival of Kane Hemmings as Boro looked to press home any advantage.

The latest sub got a header on goal although with barely any power on it under pressure and there were balls flashed across the area that were just too far in front of anyone in red or white.

But still the pressure kept coming and the worry and panic coming from the stands became more and more evident.

A Roberts' header glanced the side netting on its way past the post and Reid should have levelled for Boro when he got in behind the last defender, Norris making the save.

The rebound brought more controversy as it thudded off the hand of the defender. It was down by his side but there was a claim to be made.

Time wasting tactics came into play for the home side and both Norris and Joe Rafferty went in the book for their attempts to slow things down.

The game ended with two red cards for Boro, Nathan Thompson given a straight red for a challenge in the air on Christian Saydee.

Assistant manager Paul Raynor then went for a second yellow in the aftermath.

Stevenage though will feel themselves unlucky not to come out of the game with something.

Match details

Stevenage: Ashby-Hammond, James-Wildin, Butler, Piergianni, Sweeney (N.Thompson 46), List (Forster-Caskey 46), Freeman, Roberts (MacDonald 87), Burns (B.Thompson 46), Reid, L.Thompson (Hemmings 59).

Sub (not used): Hegyi, Pressley.

Goals: L.Thompson 26

Booked: L.Thompson 11, Sweeney 35, bench 46, Roberts 57, Piergianni 72, N.Thompson 88, Raynor (bench) 90+8

Sent-off: N.Thompson 90+7, Raynor 90+8


Portsmouth: Norris, Pack, Robertson (Saydee 83), Bishop, Morrell, Rafferty, Shaughnessy, Raggett, Sparkes, Kamara, Lane (Devlin 77).

Subs (not used): Schofield, Towler, Scully, Whyte, Stevenson, Saydee, Devlin.

Goals: Lane 12, Bishop 33

Booked: Pack 62, Rafferty 86, Norris 90+1


HT: Portsmouth 2 Stevenage 1

Added time: 9

Referee: Charles Breakspear (Walton-on-Thames)

Attendance: 18,891 (including 592 from Stevenage)