Naismith Nicks The Points

Last updated : 11 December 2016 By Jim Bonner

Kal Naismith's superb late free kick was enough for Portsmouth to claim a deserved three points at Blundell Park yesterday.

Paul Cook's men dominated possession in the first half but struggled to test James McKeown in the Grimsby goal with Carl Baker's tame effort being the only notable attempt on target with Gary Roberts also firing wide late on.

Pompey had looked threatening in the opening period and there were occasions when Kyle Bennett and Enda Stevens got at the Mariners defence down the left hand side and forced them into panic. If only there had been more cutting edge up front, the visitors could have been a couple of goals up before the break.

The second half was a more lively affair as Grimsby improved but not before Michael Smith had a shot saved and Stevens fired in an extremely dangerous ball across the box which only needed a touch to result in a goal.

David Forde was finally called into action when he palmed away Ashley Chambers' hooked effort and Bolarinwa had a crack from distance that flew just wide to the travelling fans' relief.

Both sides had a chance to score following a goalmouth scramble but the game looked to be heading for a frustrating but creditable draw. That was until Naismith stepped up and curled in a peach of a free kick into the top corner with just four minutes of normal time remaining to send the Pompey fans behind the goal berserk.

The celebrations from the players and the staff were equally euphoric and the videos posted on the internet don't do them justice. However, those cheers were almost immediately dampened when Forde spilled Scott Vernon's shot from kick-off but thankfully he beat the Grimsby striker to the loose ball.

Once the Pompey fans had pushed their collective hearts back from their mouths, there were five minutes of stoppage time to endure. Conor Chaplin looked to have been put through on goal to seal the victory only to be denied by the offside flag but the men in blue dealt with everything Grimsby could throw at them and another win on the road was confirmed.

Let's get the negatives out of the way first, shall we?

This was four minutes (plus stoppage time) from being another one of "those" performances where Pompey keep possession well but lack a real cutting edge and don't test the goalkeeper enough. Forde had to make more difficult saves than his opposite number as numerous crosses into the Grimsby box weren't capitalised on.

It should be added that Roberts, barring a brief late spell in the first half, was virtually anonymous and should have been taken off sooner. He would benefit from being dropped but Cook is unlikely to do that.

There were so many positives to take from this performance, though.

Firstly, the unity between the players after the incident in the previous match was there for all to see. The players worked tirelessly to ensure that Grimsby had little time on the ball and the pressure told as they produced some hilariously bad passes to the left on at least three occasions.

Christian Burgess and Michael Doyle may have covered themselves in shame during the Stevenage match but they were arguably the best performers on the pitch yesterday. The former had Omar Bogle in his pocket whilst the latter was constantly at the heels of the Grimsby players.

This was a real team performance, though, and the difference in play between yesterday's game and the defeat to Stevenage was clear from the start. Pompey were quicker to get the ball forward and resorted to basics when it came to defending, even if it meant lumping the ball into touch so they could regroup rather than trying to play it out and risking a silly mistake.

Once the final whistle blew you could tell how much it meant to the players as Cook retreated to allow them to take the plaudits from those who made the long journey north to celebrate such an important result. With Doncaster losing at Plymouth and Luton holding Carlisle, Portsmouth are now fourth in the League Two table and sit five points from automatic promotion and seven points from the top.

Cook said in his post-match interview that he couldn't remember the last time his team were beaten on the road. That was a 3-1 defeat at Blackpool all the way back on September 27th and so when Pompey next play away on Boxing Day against Newport, that will be virtually three months unbeaten away from home. That's not too shabby, is it?

Of course, the home form needs to drastically improve, starting with Saturday's game against hapless Hartlepool who suffered a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Cambridge yesterday. Only a win will do but we've already seen this season how a significant win on the road can be undone by a dreadful Fratton Park showing.

If the manager can find that winning formula at Fratton Park then the top three will be well in reach come the second half of the season.

Pompey Player Ratings

David Forde: 6 - Made one good save but very nearly made a howler straight after the goal.

Gareth Evans: 6 - Did a job but would still be more effective playing further forward.

Matt Clarke: 7 - Did the basics very well.

Christian Burgess: 8 - Kept Bogle quiet and won everything with a last-ditch challenge on a Grimsby player who would have had a free shot on goal otherwise being the highlight.

Enda Stevens: 8 - Supported the attack really well and his balls into the box deserved better.

Michael Doyle: 8 - Responded in the perfect way to the Stevenage incident and saved his fight for the Grimsby players instead.

Danny Rose: 7 - Seemed to be everywhere around the pitch.

Gary Roberts: 5 - Virtually invisible as an attacking threat.

Carl Baker: 6 - Had his moments of quality.

Kyle Bennett: 6 - Full of running but lacked an end product.

Michael Smith: 7 - Worked extremely hard and held the ball well when he could.


Liam O'Brien

Tom Davies

Amine Linganzi

Kal Naismith (Roberts 76): 8 - The difference maker.

Milan Lalkovic

Noel Hunt (Smith 89): N/A - Brought on to run the clock down.

Conor Chapin (Bennett 76): N/A - Didn't see much of the ball.