Today’s match was a very tight encounter that we probably deserved to win, just. Whilst it was ‘only a 1-0 win’ I have to say I came away a happy man purely because of the fighting manner in which we won the game.
It could have been oh so different, but that’s football. We started well and were just about in control for the first 10 minutes or so, with Matt Clarke unusually showing his attacking prowess down the left.
In fact we could have scored after about 3 minutes after one of his marauding runs down the left ended with him whipping in a cross that deserved someones attention.
Southend then started growing into the game, and if it hadn’t been for an amazing fingertip save from McGee we could have easily been 1-0 down quite early in the game.
For the rest of the first half both teams probed though neither really looked like scoring. However, they took more and more control of midfield as we sat deeper and deeper.
As half-time approached they attacked our goal and but for some resolute defending nearly scored. I haven’t seen the highlights yet, but in a bizarre twist the referee awarded a penalty having previously pointed to a corner.
The lino running the NSL then called the ref over and a penalty was awarded for an apparent Clarke handball. Anyway, this absolutely riled the Fratton Faithful who poured abuse on the lino (rightly so IMO).
Up steps a swaggering, over confident looking Ranger who blasts the ball over the bar. The home support reacted as if we had scored.
About 30 seconds later the half-time whistle was blown and the officials must have felt like they were walking the gauntlet as they walked down the tunnel. I’m sure this incident also played into our hands psychologically.
The second half started with Bennett being replaced by Kennedy. Bennett hadn’t played at all badly, but he was being bullied out of the game.
This decision by Kenny Jackett probably won us the match as Kennedy was a game changer. He produces the one quality moment in the game with a beautiful cross from the left (with his right foot) that Pitman rose to glance into the net with his head. 1-0 BOOOM.
No other player on the pitch could have scored that goal – it was pure Pitman quality. We then played out the rest of the game, mainly on the back foot, but I loved the way we defended so resolutely.
My thoughts on our players:
McGee had a very good game – amazing save in first half, and did nothing wrong all game.
Back four were excellent, especially Burgess and Clarke, although Evans and Hawkins not at all shabby with the latter looking better at CB than up front!
Rose and Close were a revelation for me, both having excellent games.
Bennett, Lowe, Naismith and Pitman all played well though Naismith was the standout dish for me, and when Matty Kennedy was introduced to the game, he changed it.
All in all, a very satisfying performance leaving us 2 points off the play-offs.
Bring on next week.