A win today would be a very significant achievement not only because it's always good to beat Portsmouth, one of our bogey teams of recent years, but also it happens that the four sides above us are playing each other and of course something has to give there. If both games are draws and we win, then they'll each have dropped two points while we've got three. Could be worth a bet? Portsmouth are just outside the top six but haven't had a great start with three wins and two draws from seven. The Crewe match was a funny one as we had endless chances and didn't manage to score ourselves, though at the end I still thought Wyke had got the winner. A number of players had good efforts on or near the target so we can't pin it all on one striker. It looks like Willis might be back in contention and apparently Sanderson isn't quite fit yet but other than that I'm not expecting any major changes to the starting line-up. I'd still like to see Kimpioka brought on near the end but that's unlikely to happen. I won't be watching the game with my bubble as I'm back in London so it'll probably be audio on SAFSEE for me. It's going to be a battle, our toughest game since Peterborough, but I think we'll grind out a 2-1 win.
When I got the team-news, Willis was in, McLaughlin was on the bench but Diamond was nowhere to be seen. I got the audio on and they were describing the array of fan club flags that are now displayed around the empty stadium including one from Feyernoord. Apparently, Phil Parkinson hadn't beaten Portsmouth in seven recent encounters so today would have to be the day...
Portsmouth seemed to edge the opening five minutes and there'd been a lot of rain before kick-off so the pitch was on the slippy side. In the seventh minute Harness put them ahead when nobody picked him up following a swift break and he slipped it under Burge. We soon had a chance ourselves but Scowen hit a free-kick well over. In the tenth minute we were level when Hume got to the by-line, put a cross in and Wyke was there to hit it home. Commentator Nick Barnes said that Charlie had been credited with the goal against Crewe after all so that's three games in a row he's scored and he's finally showing us what he can do. Portsmouth won the game's first corner when Burge did well to palm away a powerful Harness header but we cleared it. It was turning into the battle we'd expected and we'd have to keep close tabs on their attack, especially Harness who was sounding a right handful. Next thing Burge punched a Jacobs free-kick over the bar and he was certainly earning his money after a few fairly quiet games for him. Williams was booked after a foul in the nineteenth minute and there was some tasty tackling going on. About five minutes later Leadbitter made a rare mistake by giving the ball away and when it was slipped by Harness to Marquis, he hit home their second. I could see the game ending 5-4 or something similar and Benno agreed. Portsmouth kept pressing and Willis did well to rob Harness on the edge of our box. With fifteen minutes to the break we were well under the cosh and seemed to be getting overrun. We managed our first attack in ages with around five minutes to go when Watmough allowed the ball to get to Maguire and he hit a left foot shot that went wide of the left-hand post. There were just two minutes of stoppage-time and we were pressing more but it remained 1-2 at the break and we needed to get a grip on midfield if we wanted to get even a draw.
We started the second-half brightly and almost from the off Hume put in a great cross that Maguire just failed to get on the end of and then a Gooch shot was beaten away. We soon won our first two corners of the game and things were definitely on the up. It looked like Portsmouth were going to lose Jacobs who went down injured for the second time but he recovered. He soon went down for the third time, though, and was replaced by Jacobs ten minutes in. He'd caused a lot of trouble down the flank so I wasn't sorry to see him go. We won two more corners around the hour-mark and had had much the better of the half so far. Would Parky bring on another striker? Our passing was starting to get sloppy and we'd need to do a lot better as time was racing away. The two top of the table matches were both level as we passed the sixty-fifth minute. O'Nien took a yellow for the team when he stopped a dangerous break and then Grigg came on for Scowen with twenty minutes on the clock. Portsmouth were coming much more back into the game and it was looking like a draw was all we could hope for. Hume was continuing to make good runs down the wing but we couldn't convert any of these into a goal. At the other end we were defending well. Marquis had the ball in the net but the flag was up immediately and we breathed again. Ten minutes to go and O'Nien was pushing further forward as Graham prepared to come on as we had to go for it. Leadbitter was the man to make way. 'The Three Amigos' was what Nick Barnes called our triple strike force – well if they could manage a goal between them I'd stop smirking. In the eighty-fourth Portsmouth were awarded a penalty when O'Nien brought down Williams and Luke was red-carded too. Marquis took the kick and made it 3-1 and the result was no longer in any doubt. Burge saved well from Harness to spare us further blushes before the latter was subbed. There were four minutes of stoppage-time and though we won two corners right at the end, we couldn't get another goal.
Right from the word go Portsmouth caused us problems with their pacey attack and we can't argue with the result. Peterborough and Lincoln both won to further distance themselves from us so everything has worked out badly for us today.