We’re back in the game!
Four consecutive draws laid a solid and respectable foundation, but winning on a day when everyone else around us failed has given the points boost we’ve all been craving. Survival is not just a pipe dream anymore chaps – this thing could actually happen.
Saturday always felt to me like it was going to be a close one to call. Portsmouth have their own problems, but a 4-1 win over Birmingham in the week meant a watchful eye was needed. Our home form is downright formidable though, plus we had our own reasons to be confident thanks to the euphoric nature of the draw at Cardiff on Wednesday.
But there’s always that doubt. You know what I mean; that sneaking suspicion that they’ll somehow find a way to bugger it up when there’s the opportunity to make the leap. It’s happened so many times before, whether it’s the current squad or any of the other groups we’ve watched over the last decade.
In the end, we needn’t have worried. While close in patches, we were able to see the game out in a professional and relatively comfortable fashion. If you’re a Pompey fan reading this, don’t take that to be some sort of embarrassingly misplaced condescension – I’m well aware what it must feel like to see a Coventry fan speaking in this way. It’s just how I felt watching as the 90 minutes closed out. Clearly the two-goal cushion helped, but believe me, if you’ve seen us this season you’ll know that there’s no situation we take for granted. So the feeling of comfort isn’t a regular one, and is certainly worth noting when it comes around.
It was an up and down first half, as both teams showed positivity and nerves in equal measure.
For City, Sammy Clingan assured himself in the midfield and seemed ultra-keen to get on the ball. His whipped free-kick was unlucky not to zoom pass Jamie Ashdown in the Pompey goal, and his all round positivity was noticeable. The amount of people screaming for him to move forward at every single opportunity is still laughable, and my one worry is that he starts to take too much notice of them. A nudge to tell him to be a bit more adventurous is one thing – we don’t need him becoming too aware of the pressure on him, though. Just remember, sometimes you have to pass backwards..
For Pompey, number 16 Scott Allen impressed in the opening period with his close control and directness on the right flank. We’d reverted to the diamond, leaving Chris Hussey and Oliver Norwood the men charged with controlling this side of the pitch. It was a tentative start by them, that’s for sure, but Hussey was able to get to grips with the wide man as the game went on. In fact, young Christopher was equally as adventurous himself and took advantage of the extra space afforded him, and offered a useful outlet throughout.
I wasn’t going to do this, but while I’m on the subject of Portsmouth players, I feel obliged to register my disgust towards the git-ish Chris Maguire. You may also remember him as the number 22 who spent the entire game moaning, provoking and kicking our players out of view of the referee, while demonstrating a keenness for extravagant diving. If that wasn’t despicable enough, he then took it upon himself to give one of our young ballboys a foul mouthed rebuke for daring to throw the ball slightly too high up in the air for him. The potty-mouthed swine.
His worst moment came a few minutes later, as he did a bit of cleverly-disguised spitting. It was discrete in nature, but clear in intent and rendered me wild. The very same high-thowing ballboy again passed the ball back to Maguire in a way he didn’t like, so as he bent down to place the ball onto the corner quandrant, he looked back and spat in the direction of the ballboy. Okay, it was never going to hit him, and was not as obvious as gobbing in his face. But it was a completely unnatural action – and an abhorrent display of petulance which would have been picked up if it was in a Premiership match.
Anyway, I’m sure that’s of little interest now, but I want it placed on Sky Blues Blog record that I saw it. I know your game, Maguire.
Back to the day’s main event, and the difference in performance between first and second half was again huge. While there was the general feeling that we’d laboured around the pitch in the opening 45 minutes, we picked up the pace in the 2nd period and soon found ourselves in front through the otherwise anonymous Gary McSheffrey. Hussey was invited to surge deep into the Portsmouth half, was able to a unleash a low and misplaced shot which fortunately fell into the path of McSheffrey who stroked it home on the run. It was McSheffrey’s only real contribution to the game as he struggled to fit in with the tempo of things, but it was a great finish nonetheless.
Typically, the immediate response by Pompey was to give us a fright, and my great pal Maguire was allowed time to drift beyond four of our players and dip a shot just over Murphy’s bar. Kind of scary.
Our performance was at a solid level however, and with the introduction of Bigi on the right, our shape and attacking unit seemed far more balanced, and we were able to harness the ambition of both Hussey and Clarke in equal measure.
Clive Platt was dominating aerially but we couldn’t seem to capitilise as the majority of his knock-downs eluded Nimely. Our approach play around the penalty area was composed and incisive however, and the second goal was the result of some crisp passing by Clarke which sent Nimely to the byline where he was able to cross for Norwood to slam home his second goal in four days. Cue knee-slide jubilation by the corner flag, with everyone else having a bit of a boogy.
Aside from a few shaky moments as we allowed Portsmouth to shoot at Murphy, including a free-kick which we were very luck to see crash into the post and out to safety, we did a solid job of seeing out the result from that point onwards. Crucially, we didn’t allow ourselves to drop too deep, and with the central partnership of Keogh and Cranie in defiant mood, we were secure in finishing off the job.
There’s no understating it. This was a vital win in our pursuit of safety, simply because of the gap we’ve now created beneath us, and the pressure it puts on those we’re chasing above. Somehow the lads have clawed us back from the abyss and in turn answered a very big question of themselves by proving that they’re capable of getting the big points when needed.
Just another seven of these games to go now.
So, in the words of Richard Keogh (according to that valiant image from the programme, at least) – Let’s do this.