By Chris Vaux (@ChrisVaux)
The anxiety of a Pompey Fan at the moment could be measured like it was a Richter scale and if you had one waving around near me at the game on Saturday it would have been clicking like crazy!
On arrival at my seat I was met with the sight of Scunthorpe’s travelling contingent at the other end of the pitch. I think I have seen Southsea beach look more lively in a winter storm. There was the expected chorus’ of “who the f*cking hell are you” coming from the Fratton End which fell pretty dead on the 50 or so travelling weary Scunnie supporters. But in all fairness during the whole match the atmosphere didn’t reach the dizzying heights that you might have become accustomed to on more notable occasions. This was League One football between two of the slow starters this season.
Team news: There was a debut for Bournemouth’s Wes Thomas, handed a start on his first game in Pompey colours. He joined Izale Mcleod up front as Pompey went back with an attacking look to the team.
The midfield consisted of Lee Williamson on the left-wing, Brian Howard and Darel Russell anchoring the middle and Muzzy Dumbuya promoted to a right wing position.
There was also a first start at home for young Adam Webster stepping in at right-back alongside the improving Lubo Michalik, Gabor Gyepes and Jon Harley.
Andersen retained the gloves in goal.
The match started with a good level of energy from both teams but it was the same old story for Pompey, clumsily passing the ball slowly from the back and losing possession in dangerous areas. In Scunthorpe’s first attach of note on five-minutes, the ball was thrown in to Scunthorpe’s lively winger Jimmy Ryan 10-yards from goal, who held off the challenge of Webster to pass the ball into Clarke’s feet. The in-form Charlton loanee calmly slid the ball inside Andersen’s near post earning Scunthorpe a deserved early lead for their industry.
In truth Scunthorpe could have been out of sight within 15-minutes with the referee not noticing Gyepes’ push on Hawley in the box before Hawley missed a nailed on chance leaving some serious questions about Portsmouth’s desire to get into the game.
But Pompey did manage to get a foot hold and started to play the ball around nicely before earning a free-kick which was deflected wide for a corner. On 11-minutes, Howard’s in-swinging set piece was flicked away from goal by the Scunthorpe keeper only to fall to McLeod inside the six-yard box, but he could only air kick the ball before Gyepes strode up to hammer in from close range. You could feel the relief around the ground that Pompey had managed to strike back quickly and the energy along with the noise amongst the crowd started to rise.
But Scunthorpe didn’t just roll over despite their substitute goalkeeper being called into action due to an injury to Slocombe in the build up to the goal. Indeed they fashioned the better chances before Pompey’s great chance to go ahead. Hawley firing at Andersen from close range and a corner being gobbled up by the young Dane.
And so Pompey’s penalty. Thomas turning away from Caravan (or is that Canavan?) was bundled over inside the box in an ugly challenge. Howard wanted the kick. Anyone who saw our penalties against Bournemouth in the JPT would have thought this would be a cake walk for our captain Howard. But no. He hit it fairly firmly but at a lovely height for stand in stopper Severn to save. Was it going to be another one of those games.
There was another great moment for Pompey before half-time as McLeod turned and struck a great effort off the top of the crossbar from the angle of the area but it was not to be. Pompey huffed and puffed the rest of the half out. They weren’t making it easy on us fans, the 10,000 or so that had turned up….
HALF-TIME: Portsmouth 1 Scunthorpe 1
So the second-half kicked off with Pompey shooting towards myself in the Fratton End. We started a lot more brightly but still we couldn’t get a real hold of the game. Webster looked shaky on a couple of occasions and even Dumbuya seemed to be feeling the pressure stumbling with the ball when under pressure. Thomas was showing some potential up-front, running off the centre-backs but nothing was sticking.
The middle of the park was going AWOL before Russell went off injured introducing Ertl back to the fans. He might not be a majestic mover but he shows industry and seemed to shore things up more when we didn’t have the ball.
The half meandered on with not a lot happening and myself with my fellow fans were settling for a point. That was before Howard crossed in a beauty to the back post and Thomas was celebrating, knocking a header in from the goalies finger tips. We even had time for a marauding run from Mcleod rounding the same defender three times before firing against the post with the goalie beaten.
Is he Pompey’s answer to Lionel Messi? More like Iz-he messy but anyway the win was ours and we could sip our post match beers with a touch of romance about rising up the league.
My Dad hadn’t seen a Pompey home win in nearly five years, such is his bad luck with home games. But a famous occasion against the mighty iron was celebrated with three points from a hard working if unspectacular Pompey performance.
FULL-TIME: Pompey 2 Scunthorpe 1
I wouldn’t get too excited just yet, but every win is the potential of another corner turned and a chance of a more promising season. If optimism were money, us Pompey fans would be rich enough to buy our great club!!
Photos supplied by Alex Read (@alexread11) and Sam Beesley (@sambeesleym8).