I think we all appreciate the significance of this evening’s match. Portsmouth have been a bogey team for us in recent years and they’re a close competitor at the moment. If we win today, it’ll not only put a good deal of distance between us and them but will confirm us as serious challengers for a top-two finish. Other rival sides are in action tonight with Peterborough playing Hull while Ipswich are at home to Lincoln so if we manage to win and Lincoln lose, we’ll be in third spot. Portsmouth are on a bad run, having won only one of their last five games and they got a surprising good hiding from Northampton on Saturday while our form has of course been very good. Despite our makeshift defence, we’ve done well at keeping the goals out though we’ve ridden our luck at times and I think Portsmouth’s attack will pose more of a threat than the last few sides we’ve faced. Still, I think with the buoyant mood in the club we can get at least a draw so my match prediction is a 2-1 win.
I got to the bubble an hour early to facilitate getting a Chinese Just Eat down the neck and the team-news came through at 6.45. Gooch and Flanagan were both on the bench and that was good news and with Diamond and Maguire also on there we had plenty in reserve. Portsmouth had made five changes from Saturday’s side. Most of the League One matches kicked off at 7.00 and by the time we started Lincoln were 1-0 up, Peterborough and Hull was 1-1 and Doncaster were drawing 0-0.
In the first minute White put a heavy tackle in on Power and that may well have set the tone for the evening. It only took two minutes or so for Jones to get his first great run in down the right from which we won the first corner. In the twelfth minute McGeady powered in a great shot from the left angle of their box that MacGillivray did well to turn out for a corner. When the corner came in, though, Wyke was given loads of space and he powered yet another header into the net to put us ahead. Portsmouth won their first corner about five minutes later but thankfully Harrison headed it well wide. Around the half-hour mark Portsmouth were putting a fair bit of pressure on but we were defending well and we survived a penalty shout when Marquis went down rather easily. Elsewhere Hull were 3-1 up against ten-man Peterborough and Doncaster had gone one-down to Crewe so the evening was going well by and large. At the break it remained 1-0 to us and we’d impressed, passing it around very well and defending in numbers. Pompey hadn’t had a shot on target. Elsewhere Accrington were suddenly 4-0 down to Bristol Rovers and Ipswich had equalized against Lincoln.
As we kicked off again I felt that we could score another and put the result beyond doubt. Far from Pompey putting us under a lot of pressure in the opening stages, we had the better of it and as the earlier games finished most of them had gone well for us. Ten minutes in, we passed the ball about fifty times in a row and had Pompey penned back. When was the last time we did that? In the fifty-ninth minute we were two-up and it came out of nowhere as Jones pursued what looked like a lost cause down the right and having won the ball from some slack defending he put in a delightful chip to beat MacGillivray and it drifted slowly into the net. Pompey had been appealing for a free-kick in the build up but that’s their problem and you should always play to the whistle. Flanagan replaced O’Brien who’d maybe taken a knock. After another vain penalty appeal involving Flanagan from Portsmouth there was a bit of handbags after a robust tackle from Sanderson. I have to say that Flanagan looked nothing like the Flanagan of old facially. We hadn’t done a switch somewhere had we? Jones had a great run followed by a shot on target in the seventy-fourth and if anyone was going to score, it looked like us. Maguire came on, as I’d hoped, for Jones who’d had a great impact on the game. We won a free-kick in a great spot just outside their box and it was deflected for a corner. Before we could take it Gooch came on for McGeady. Three minutes to go and the win was looking nailed on but there was bound to be a fair bit of stoppage-time time. O’Nien deservedly got the man of the match award – makes a change from ending up among the Pompey fans and getting shoved around two seasons ago. Five minutes stoppage-time were announced but we were looking secure all over the pitch. It ended 2-0.
This was a very confident display all round and I haven’t seen us play better all season. We’re still fourth but could overtake at the top with our games in hand.