What a difference a week makes.
Our team yesterday was almost unrecognisable from the one that lost to Rotherham last weekend and this was the first time this season that we’ve actually looked the better of the two teams on the pitch.
We looked stronger and fitter than the hosts, and more committed to the cause. Hats off to Kenny Jackett, because for me his new recruits, especially the deadline day ones, have made all the difference.
McCrory and Thompson at left and right back respectively were very solid and barring injury I can see yesterday’s back four becoming a permanent one.
Burgess and Clarke were excellent and mopped up everything that Wimbledon threw at us which, in fairness, wasn’t a lot.
O’Keefe also had an excellent game in midfield and is more than an ample replacement for Michael Doyle. He was everywhere yesterday and is highly combative. I can only see him getting better with match time.
Kennedy was also a constant threat down the left wing, and again will only improve with match fitness. He just needs to sharpen up his crossing of the ball, especially with his left foot as he has a habit of wanting to cut the ball back in on to his right foot.
The first half started in bright sunshine and ended with ominous looking clouds overhead. From the first whistle, the 800 travelling fans were in fine voice with at least 3 new songs ringing out, one for Drew Talbot (which is a tad harsh, but very funny), one for Ollie Hawkins and the catchy new Pompey one – ‘I’ve seen Pompey win at Fratton, I’ve seen Pompey win away, I’ve seen Pompey win promotion, and we’ve danced along Wembley way’.
The game was a fairly even affair for the first 20 minutes or so before the ball broke to one of their players on the edge of the box but his fierce shot went wide of the left upright.
About 15 minutes later Nathan Thompson ran down the right wing and from right on the halfway line put an inch perfect ball up to Pitman on the edge of the box.
As Brett ran into the box striving to control the ball with his head he received the lightest of nudges in the back from their captain Fuller, and Pitman went down, perhaps a little too easily.
The ref had no hesitation in pointing to the spot for what I think was a really soft penalty. Anyway, our captain stepped up and sent their keeper the wrong way. 1-0 to the blues, or whites as we were for the day.
As the half continued we grew in confidence and stature and went in 1-0 up at half time. Just before the first half ended there was a nasty clash of heads between Ollie Hawkins and one of their players. It took place right in front of me and I have to say Hawkins did lead with his elbow a little, although it was unintentional.
The Wimbledon player had to be stretchered off, but Hawkins was eventually helped up off the ground and helped off the pitch by two medical staff. He looked like he had just done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson so I suspect will be out for the next game or two. Shame, as I like the look of him. He really puts himself about.
As the players were about to come out for the second half there was a flash of lightning and an ominous crack of thunder as the heavens opened, so much so that the referee led the players back into their dressing rooms.
5 minutes later the sun was out and we kicked off the second half. Chaplin had been brought on at half time to replace Hawkins and within 5 minutes had put us 2-0 up.
This followed a corner which got headed out to Adam May on the edge of the box who cleverly passed it to McCrory who spread it out on the left wing to the impressive Kennedy who looped in a cross which one of their defenders failed to deal with. Chaplin pounced on the loose ball, but their keeper saved brilliantly only for our striker to bury the ball in the back of the net.
Scenes among the travelling supporters and chimes of ‘one of our own’ ringing out. The tiring Kennedy was replaced by birthday boy Kyle Bennett after about 65 minutes and Bennett immediately got involved in the action. Having competition for his place seems to have done him good as I think he looked much sharper yesterday.
Paul Robinson had to go off after 80 minutes after another nasty clash of heads – this left the hosts with only 10 men as they had already used up all three subs.
The only sour note of the day for me was our fans singing ‘we’ve seen you before’ to Robbo when he was clearly injured, blood pouring from a head wound. Not very classy from some of our fans, especially as Robbo had given so much for our club.
Pompey played the game out comfortably with the hosts failing to register one shot on target. We did pick up 3 bookings though (May, Burgess and O’Keefe).
I doubt we’ll have many easier games this season, but the new look team has much more grit and guile to it and I have to say I feel a lot more confident than I did less than a week ago.
On to Northampton on Tuesday night.
Photo credit: Official PFC