With Charlton losing away at Oxford in the early kick-off, Pompey had the chance to push away from the Addicks – finding themselves one point above the South London outfit with two games in hand going into their kick-off at the Pirelli Stadium.
Kenny Jackett’s men also had the opportunity to put pressure on promotion rivals Sunderland, who began the day level on points with the Blues, but not in action until later in the evening.
The visitors started off the brighter of the two sides, playing some quick and fluid football throughout the opening stages of the game.
The ever-reliable defensive unit of Matt Clarke had a good chance to open the scoring on the 3rd-minute, flicking over a header from a Lee Brown corner.
Five minutes later Tom Naylor, the former Burton Albion centre-back, also had an opportunity to give Portsmouth the lead, but Gareth Evans’ corner sails agonisingly above his head at the back-post.
Liam Boyce almost took advantage of a mis-hit clearance but could only send his volley weak into MacGillivray’s arms from 10-yards out.
The hosts had a couple of opportunities just before the quarter-hour mark but were unable to get anything from them. The two sides hard to separate in the opening stages at the Pirelli Stadium.
From the off, it was clear that Burton were playing with a high line and looking to hit the Blues on the counter, which paid off in the second-half but not so much in the first, in which Pompey dominated.
And that dominance was finally rewarded just after the half-hour mark when Ben Close, AKA the Pompey Xavi, made it 1-0 with a beautiful strike from the edge of the 18-yard-box, following a pinpoint ball from the right flank by Nathan Thompson.
Burton 0-1 POMPEY
It was just as well that Pompey found the lead because Nigel Clough’s side were dominating them in the midfield areas and, although the Blues did deserve to be 1-up on the grander scheme of things, the hosts looked threatening on the counter-attack.
However the goal clearly wiped any momentum from the Burton side, who appeared sloppy after Close’s strike and up until the half-time break.
Pompey COULD have been 2-0 up just before half-time though, Oli Hawkins surprised everyone with a bit of trickery on the right-hand-side before bursting down the wing, in doing so creating an opportunity from nothing. The number 9 squared it to Pitman, who was in a similar position to Ben Close when he scored, but his identically taken shot sailed over the bar to round off first-half proceedings.
HALF-TIME: Burton Albion 0-1 POMPEY
The second-half started and it was Burton who began the brightest, attack after attack from the off and finally beating Pompey keeper Craig MacGillivray on the 48th-minute.
Unfortunately, it was a goal that could have been prevented – goalscorer Liam Boyce leapt highest above and between Matt Clarke and Lee Brown, who both stood motionless as the attacking-midfielder put a bullet header into the back of the net from an exquisite Colin Daniel cross from the left.
BURTON 1-1 Pompey
Oli Hawkins and Jamal Lowe would have been, although not so much after the full-time whistle, gutted to have collided with one another just five minutes on. Hawkins seemed to capitalise from an error at the back in front of the travelling Pompey fans, but his unfortunate heavy, yet improvised touch caused a collision with teammate Lowe – resulting in an offside being called by the linesman on the right.
On the 58th-minute Christian Burgess done everything he could to try and put Pompey back ahead – leaping highest above the home defence from a long free-kick out on the far-left, but Brewers goalkeeper Stephen Bywater was equal to it and pulled off a brilliant save to tip the defender’s effort over the bar and out for a corner.
The corner came to nothing and unsurprisingly Burton went straight up the other end on the counter-attack, but StephenQuinn’s low shot from 20-yards wasn’t quite good enough as Craig MacGillivray was able to tip it round the post.
With half-an-hour remaining on the clock, Kenny Jackett made a double substitution – bringing Omar Bogle and Bryn Morris into play at the expense of Oli Hawkins and Brett Pitman.
But the Blues were still being outplayed and were still the weaker of the two teams in the midfield battles heading into the latter stages of the game.
A good opportunity on the 76th-minute was squandered by Pompey… Omar Bogle linked up with Gareth Evans, who then found a pacing Lee Brown bursting forward down the left. The left-back sent a low ball into the box and substitute Bryn Morris was there from 7-yards-out, but the midfielder put his effort way over the bar.
Ronan Curtis replaced Gareth Evans on the 77th-minute and really, from then on, it was the visitors from the South Coast who looked the more likely to bag a winner.
Number 16 for the Brewers Marcus Harness continued to pull the strings in the midfield and going forward but even he couldn’t find a second way through the Blues defence, as Pompey then came into the game and looked dangerous in the final third following the changes in personnel.
A gamble from Kenny Jackett, but one really that had to be made considering the position the team were in at 1-1 and with promotion only remaining in their hands with a win, with results going against them elsewhere at Oakwell – where Barnsley beat Shrewsbury by 2 goals to 1.
Both teams were going at each other’s throats in the closing minutes of the game… Burton needed a win to keep their play-off hopes alive while anything less than a win for Pompey meant automatic promotion was no longer theirs to lose.
And then up stepped Matt Clarke…
The defender scored an injury-time winner to send the travelling Blues fans into pandemonium, after a bit of a scramble in the Burton 6-yard-box… but they all count the same!
There were cries of hand-ball in the build-up to the goal, which proved to be the final act of the game, but referee Craig Hicks was having none of it and it was Portsmouth who went home with all three points and their sixth successive league win.
It finished at the Pirelli Stadium… Burton Albion 1-2 POMPEY
Pompey (4-3-3): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Close, Naylor, Evans (Curtis 77); Lowe, Hawkins (Bogle 61), Pitman (c) (Morris 61)
Goals: Close 31, Clarke 90+2
Booked: Close, Bogle
Subs not used: Bass, Walkes, Haunstrup, Solomon-Otabor
Photo: Jake Smith