Many Unhappy Returns

Last updated : 03 April 2018 By Jim Bonner

Pompey defied the odds to defeat title favourites Wigan and ruin Paul Cook's return to Fratton Park yesterday.

The atmosphere in the old ground was the best it had been all season thanks to the gutsy performances of everyone in a blue shirt and some questionable decisions from referee Tim Robinson.

The Latics dominated possession early on as expected but didn't really test Luke McGee with both sides having dangerous crosses cut out. Pompey ensured the visitors were never too comfortable and turned the game into a scrap, which was something Wigan clearly wasn't up for.

The noise inside Fratton Park was raised when Michael Jacobs went down easily under Nathan Thompson's challenge in the box but no penalty was awarded, much to the fury of Cook in the visitors dugout who was given a final warning about his conduct.

James Vaughan struck a shot wide in what was Wigan's best chance of the half but Pompey were awarded a contentious penalty with five minutes to go as Dan Burn was adjudged to have brought down Ben Close in the box.

Brett Pitman stepped up to convert and give Kenny Jackett's men a surprising lead and may have had another soon after the restart as he seized upon a poor clearance by Callum Elder but didn't have the legs to beat Christian Walton to the ball and poke it beyond the Wigan keeper.

The second half began in niggly fashion as Robinson kept blowing up for silly fouls but the roof almost came off Fratton Park ten minutes in as Jamal Lowe turned in the box and struck the ball past Walton to double the lead. Cook's expletive reaction to his team going two behind told the story perfectly.

McGee then stepped up to preserve Pompey's lead with two outstanding saves. The first coming when Nick Powell dribbled the ball into the box only for his close range effort to be tipped onto the crossbar and then an even better save followed as he dived to keep out Will Grigg's volley.

Pompey continued to press but, of course, beating Wigan was never going to be too straightforward and the nerves were jangling when Grigg headed in Gary Roberts' ball at the far post to stage a tense finale.

But despite giving away some stoppage time corners, Pompey were able to stay strong and see out the five minutes of stoppage time to confirm the most important victory of the season so far and a massive three points in the promotion race.

Not since the final day of last season have Pompey fans left Fratton Park as happy as they were yesterday and the contrast between the atmosphere at the final whistle yesterday and the final whistle after the Gillingham debacle was like night and day.

There were so many outstanding performances yesterday that it's difficult to name a single man of the match. McGee produced two amazing saves but the defence was well marshalled by the ever-growing partnership of Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough.

Thompson continues to impress at right back, Anton Walkes did a superb job to keep Powell quiet, Lowe worked hard and showed some impressive skill for the second goal whilst Pitman was a tireless runner up front.

Gareth Evans and Ben Close also won their fair share of battles in midfield when the match wasn't reduced to a long ball fest and it was also interesting to note that Jackett didn't make a single substitution despite playing two games in three days.

The whole day was made sweeter by the fact that both Paul Cook and Leam Richardson leave their old stomping ground empty handed but it was good for Gary Roberts to get the reception he deserved. Now that some "revenge" has been had, you would expect any lingering animosity towards Cook and co. to subside.

The bigger picture is that Pompey have won four games on the trot and are now outside the play-off places on goal difference and with just six games to play. If yesterday's victory couldn't convince you that this team isn't capable of winning promotion then why do you even bother to watch them?

If the players can maintain that level of performance and show as much guts as they did for the rest of the season then, who knows? Perhaps a campaign which looked dead and buried just a few weeks ago could well be a memorable one yet.

Pompey Player Ratings

Luke McGee: 8 - Two outstanding saves to keep Pompey in it.

Nathan Thompson: 8 - Constantly got in the faces of the Wigan attackers and rarely gave them an inch.

Matt Clarke: 8 - Even when he had that dodgy moment in the first half when he turned his attacker too often, he got himself out of it. The man oozes class.

Jack Whatmough: 8 - Won some very crucial headers, especially late on when Pompey's lead was halved.

Brandan Haunstrup: 7 - Did his defensive duties well.

Anton Walkes: 8 - Looks so much better in the defensive midfield position. Kept Powell quiet for most of the game.

Jamal Lowe: 8 - Tireless runner and bagged a brilliant second goal.

Ben Close: 7 - Showed he was up for the fight and won the penalty.

Gareth Evans: 7 - Seems to have found a new home in central midfield.

Kal Naismith: 7 - Didn't have a bad game despite having little attacking influence on it.

Brett Pitman: 8 - Worked so hard up front on his own and showed the Scummers how to take a penalty against Wigan.


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