REPORT: Edgy Posh need own goal to squeeze past Pompey

Posh closed to within three points of leaders Hull City with a nervy 1-0 win over Portsmouth at the Weston Homes Stadium on Tuesday night.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 9:53 pm
Sirki Dembele gets a shot away during the first half against Portsmouth (Pictures: David Lowndes)

Darren Ferguson's men were far from at their best in a game low on quality, but they won't be overly concerned by that as they claimed three more crucial points in their promotion push.

Posh won it thanks to a scrappy own goal from Pompey defender Rasmus Nicolaisen after 32 minutes, and although the visitors pressed hard for an equaliser in a slightly more entertaining second half, the home side hung on.

The win sees Posh stay second, three points off Hull with two games in hand, and it was a good night elsewhere too as third-placed Lincoln were beaten 3-0 at home by Gillingham.

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Harrison Burrows closes down his man as Posh take on Portsmouth

Posh were dealt a blow before kick-off with the news that Sammie Szmodics was ruled out after reportedly picking up an injury in training.

He was replaced in the starting line-up by Harrison Burrows with Louis Reed replacing the suspended Ethan Hamilton.

Pompey, under the caretaker management of Joe Gallen following Kenny Jackett's sacking at the weekend, made five changes to the team that lost the 2020 EFL Trophy Final to league two Salford on Saturday.

Leading scorer John Marquis missed out through injury, along with fellow striker Ellis Harrison.

Posh dominated the early possession in a cagey opening, without carving out any clear chances against a Pompey team effectively playing five at the back.

It was the 21st minute before either side had a clear sight of goal, and it was Portsmouth's Ryan Williams who got in behind after a ball over the top, but Nathan Thompson did brilliantly to get back and snuff out the danger after a heavy touch from the attacker.

A tinkering of the Posh formation, switching to four at the back and pushing Thompson out to right back, saw a rise in tempo and the change paid almost instant dividends on 32 minutes as Posh took the lead.

It was a bit of a farcical goal though, as Burrows' wicked inswinging corner from the right was too hot to handle for goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray, who could only punch the ball against defender Nicolaisen and it flew into the net.

Pompey suddenly started to show a bit of urgency and responded with their first strike on goal, but Christy Pym was right behind Ronan Curtis's free-kick from 25 yards.

The visitors came out for the second half with a much more positive attitude and started the stronger.

They applied plenty of pressure and went close on 54 minutes, but Mark Beevers did well to block Nicolaisen's snapshot from 10 yards, before Jack Whatmough headed Lee Brown's free-kick wide when well placed.

Mo Eisa replaced Siriki Dembele as Darren Ferguson tried to get a spark in the Posh attack, and the substitute should have done better than shoot tamely at MacGillivray after being put through by a lovely pass from Jonson Clarke-Harris.

Posh were now regaining a foothold in the game though, and Reed went close to doubling the lead on 72 minutes, as he dispossessed Tom Naylor and let fly from 25 yards, but MacGillivray dived to his right to save well.

With 12 minutes remaining, Burrows was inches away from making it 2-0 as he looked set to tap into an empty net after Joe Ward had cut the ball back from the right, but a superb last-ditch challenge from James Bolton saved Pompey.

The game was really opening up as it entered the closing stages, and Pym had to make his first serious save of the game as he plucked Jody Hiwula's effort out of the air, while Frankie Kent made a brilliant block to deny Naylor after a goalmouth scramble.

Curtis then let fly from 25 yards, but it was straight at Pym, while Harvey White headed well over when well placed.

Posh were hanging on towards the end as Pompey got more and more desperate, but they held out to claim a crucial victory.

Teams

Posh: Pym, Butler, Thompson, Beevers, Kent, Ward, Brown, Reed (Mason, 83m), Burrows (Blake-Tracy, 89m), Dembele (Eisa, 63m), Clarke-Harris. Substitutes not used: Gyollai, Jones, Kanu, Barker.

Pompey: McGillivray, Brown, Naylor, Whatmough, Williams (Hiwula, 73m) , Close, Curtis, Bolton, Cannon (Harness, 61m), Nicolaisen, Raggett n(White, 73m). Subs not used: Ward, Byers, Daniels, Mnoga.

Goals: 32 - 1-0 Posh (Nicolaisen OG)

Bookings: 42m - Whatmough (Pompey); 77m - Beevers (Posh); 83m - White (Pompey)

Referee: J Oldham