Portsmouth went into the Easter weekend as the form team in the Sky Bet league One and knowing that 5 wins from 5, would be required to gain promotion into the Championship.
With both Burton Albion and Coventry City looking to claim the last possible playoff place it was certainly going to be a tough test for promotion chasing Portsmouth.
Burton Albion 1 – 2 Portsmouth FC (Good Friday)
Burton started the more lively with Craig MacGillivray helplessly watching Jamie Allen’s drive fly narrowly wide of the goal. This spurred Portsmouth into life and took the lead the Ben Close’s marvellous drive from the edge of the box which nestled into the top right-hand corner of the Burton net. Portsmouth continued to dominate the first half but failed to put away their chances, with the score remaining 0-1 as the half came to a close.
Burton flew out the blocks in the second half and quickly equalised through Liam Boyce. Colin Daniel was left in acres of space down the left, he dully crossed the ball deep toward the back post where, Liam Boyce ghosted in and rose above Matt Clarke to head home two minutes in the half.
Portsmouth continued to try and regain the lead with Christian Burgess’ header forcing a fantastic save from veteran keeper Stephen Bywater. With the game petering out a familiar long ball forward found Ronan Curtis out on the left, his cross found Thompson whose faint shot was blocked but Matt Clarke was on hand to side foot home the rebound. Albion were convinced that Thompson had handled the ball in the build-up, but referee Chris Hicks allowed the goal to stand thus securing all three points for promotion chasing Portsmouth.
Portsmouth FC 2 – 1 Coventry City (Easter Monday)
Portsmouth hosted a familiar Coventry City buoyed by their success on Good Friday to relegation threatened Bradford City.
With ex-Pompey faces Tom Davies, Dominic Hyam and Pompey’s one of our own Conor Chaplin returning to face their old club but it was Jody Hiwula who, with only nine minutes on the scoreboard got the wrong side of Thompson and as Hiwula slipped he hooked a right footed shot into Craig MacGillivray’s top right hand corner.
Coventry continued to trouble an out of form Portsmouth side with Luke Thomas coming closest to doubling their lead. Coventry broke on the counter, Thomas raced unchallenged at the Portsmouth goal and knocked the ball pasted the on rushing MacGillivray but his near post shot was blocked by Nathan Thompson after he superbly made up the lost ground.
At the break Portsmouth manager made two changes with James Vaughan and Ronan Curtis replacing Ollie Hawkins and Gareth Evans. A chance which changed Portsmouth’s mentality and play.
Portsmouth started the half in a positive fashion with Curtis having a shot blocked and James Vaughan heading a difficult cross from Bret Pitman high and wide. Portsmouth equalised on the 66th minute when Tom Naylor rose highest to head home a Lee Brown corner.
Portsmouth continued to press high up the pitch and looked the hungrier and more likely to score. Jamal Lowe broke down the centre of the pitch and forced a good save from Coventry goalkeeper Burge. The resulting corner was played to the back post were Curtis gained control of the loose ball and played the ball back into the box. Burge’s unconvincing punch fell to Brett Pitman, who on his left foot half volleyed into the net erupting the Fratton faithful. As the 90 minutes approached six minutes of injury time was allocated however despite Coventry throwing everybody forward, The Portsmouth defence held strong and repelled attack after attack to claim all three points and making it six points from six over the Easter weekend.
Coventry manager Mark Robins admitted that although his side had played some pleasing football it was Portsmouth who came out on top, he also stated that “there is no way we deserved to get nothing from the game”. Robins did also concede that it didn’t help that there was a fire at the team hotel leaving the players with no food and having to order from a well-known chicken establishment.
Kenny Jackett couldn’t fault the resilience and commented that both Burton and Coventry have very good teams. The double substitution was needed to inject some freshness and pace into the side. “To make it six points from six is a very good Easter.
Match Report: Mike Hurdle
Photos: Dave Taylor