I agree that this afternoon's match is a crunch game as if we don't win, there'll be even greater pressure on Jack Ross and he may well be on the way out. We finished well against Accrington and we need that kind of approach again today with an attack-minded formation. McNulty looked like a good signing when I saw him against Oxford and I think he's going to get among the goals this season. Of course, we're sick of the sight of Pompey and some of their fans haven't exactly endeared themselves to us recently but in the play-offs we showed that we could handle them and I think the tide has turned in our favour. I won't be at the game but the manager of my favourite bar, just off Oxford Street, is going to open up early especially for me to watch the game. Match prediction, after taking a deep breath and trying to think sunny thoughts: a battling 2-1 win for us.
I got to the bar not long after 12.00 and got the team-news. Ozturk was in for Flanagan, which I thought was all to the good as the latter has been decidedly flaky of late. Maguire and McGeady were both starting so we were definitely going for it. Power was starting too while Grigg and Wyke were on the bench so we had all our potential firepower available (well....). I got a Guinness in and sat in my favourite seat awaiting whatever the day might bring.
As soon as we kicked off the screen froze, which didn't seem like a good omen. It soon revived and both sides were putting in some hard tackles from the off so there was no surprise there. Portsmouth did more pressing in the opening ten minutes but neither side created a shot on target, though Close had a decent shot that went not far over. Portsmouth soon won the first corner of the game and McLaughlin held it cleanly while we won our first just after the quarter-hour mark and that was easily cleared. We finally started to get into their half and put some pressure on ourselves but it didn't last long and in the twenty-second minute Portsmouth went ahead. A series of bounces didn't go our way as Portsmouth broke from the half-way line and we couldn't clear it from our box before Harness slotted a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner. It was just as well we didn't have sound on the TV. Thankfully we didn't have to wait long for an equalizer as five minutes later a Leadbitter corner from our right was niftily nodded into the left corner by Willis. It was a more balanced game after that and then in the thirty-ninth minute we took the lead with a great goal. It began with a hopeful punt from the halfway line out to our left and when the ball was fed to McGeady, he passed low across the goal for the onrunning Maguire to fire home. I doubted that it would remain 2-1 for too long. It was 2-1 at the break and I was well pleased with that as we don't often come back from a goal down to take the lead these days. I'd had the bar entirely to myself so far.
I didn't know what the crowd was but it looked well below 30,000 to me. Anyway, Portsmouth started off doing all the pressing again but then McNulty went down injured and we had a close up of Wyke putting on what looked like a bra before he came on to replace him. Maguire and Naylor were having a bit of handbags and received a ticking off from referee Michael Salisbury. Ten minutes in Marquis fluffed a great chance for them when he was put through with a clear sight of goal but shot well wide. Pompey were still looking the more likely to score and at times we were showing a tendency to revert to our old passing-it-backwards attacking style. We had a penalty shout when O'Nien went down but the ref was having none of it. They made two changes just after the hour-mark and I was glad to see Curtis go off. With around twenty minutes to go I wondered how long McGeady could last and if we'd bring on Grigg for him. The time was ticking away quickly for a change and I tried to suppress dreams of my 2-1 prediction coming true. There were a few crunching tackles going in from both sides and McGeady was yellow-carded with twelve minutes on the clock. McLaughlin made a great save shortly after that and then Grigg did come on to replace McGeady. We were coming under a lot of pressure and the time was slowing down again. Five minutes to go and Maguire was booked for a foul just outside our box but mercifully the resultant free-kick went straight though for a goal-kick. Maguire was promptly subbed by Hume and I don't think it was because he was tired. As if things weren't tense enough, four minutes of stoppage-time were announced but we managed to hold out and got a very important win.
This was a battle but we had the tenacity to win through and achieve a great result. Three games undefeated, two against major promotion rivals plus a decent cup win. We've got long way to go but things are looking a lot better than they were a week ago.