Pompey's Promotion Charge Continues

Gareth Evans scored the only goal of a scrappy encounter at the Bescot Stadium yesterday to keep Pompey's promotion hopes alive.

Kenny Jackett's men controlled the majority of the first half and created the better chances. Brett Pitman headed a cross just wide whilst Ben Close had two attempts with one being deflected into the keeper's arms and the other hitting the side netting.

Walsall offered virtually nothing in attack with just the one wayward shot from Keiron Morris late in the half. The most animated the home fans got was when Kal Naismith was taken out by Nicky Devlin in what was a clear yellow card offence, yet some of the Saddlers didn't seem to think so and spent the rest of the game booing him.

The second half continued in the same vein as the first only the chances were more clear cut at both ends. Naismith fired a couple of shots from distance which narrowly missed the target whilst his ball across goal was agonisingly close to being slid in by Pitman at the far post.

Walsall's only real opportunity of the second half came when Adamou Bakayoko skied a shot from the centre of the box having beaten Matt Clarke to an incoming cross from out wide.

Despite the clock ticking down there was always the belief that the Blues could bag a late winner and that belief grew when Pitman's free kick had to be tipped over the crossbar by the goalkeeper.

Then, finally, the deadlock was broken as a poor clearance from the Walsall defender allowed Pitman to head the ball to Jamal Lowe, he teed up Evans and that beautiful man sweetly struck the ball into the corner to send the fans behind the goal into wild celebration.

Pompey were able to hold out for the rest of the match plus the five minutes stoppage time although survived a scare at the death when Maz Kouhyar's free header sailed wide at the death to deny the hosts what would have been an undeserved equaliser on balance of play.

This was a convincing win, after all, although it should be noted that Walsall were poor and after losing four on the spin, their fans are rightfully worried about being relegated.

As for Pompey's performance, Luke McGee had little to do thanks to the work of the back four in front of him whilst Anton Walkes did a good job of silencing Walsall's best player in Erhun Otzumer after moving into a defensive midfield role.

The other two central midfielders in Evans and Close kept the game flowing in Pompey's favour and ensured that the home side could never find a footing.

The attacking players worked hard and on another day would have made the scoreline more favourable but overall the transformation of this team since the key players have returned has been unmistakable.

That's now three straight wins for Pompey without conceding a goal in the process and the manager has to take credit for that for getting nearly everything right since the Gillingham debacle. Once again, it seems like the turn of Spring has seen Portsmouth embark on another late run of form as they so often have done in previous years.

Tomorrow sees the return of some old friends to Fratton Park for the most eagerly anticipated match of the season. If Wigan can be beaten on Easter Monday then we'll all have reason to believe that we could all be on our way to the Championship next season.

Pompey Player Ratings

Luke McGee: 6 - Nothing to do.

Nathan Thompson: 7 - A solid return to his usual position.

Jack Whatmough: 8 - Christian Burgess won't play again this season if Jack keeps up his current form.

Matt Clarke: 8 - Rarely beaten.

Dion Donohue: 7 - Delivery was excellent once again.

Anton Walkes: 7 - Kept Otzumer quiet.

Jamal Lowe: 6 - Didn't influence the game until late on.

Gareth Evans: 8 - Scored the crucial goal and looks comfortable in centre midfield.

Ben Close: 7 - One of his better performances this season.

Kal Naismith: 7 - An integral figure in most of Pompey's attacking moves.

Brett Pitman: 6 - Unlucky not to score but always a threat.

Substitutes

Alex Bass

Christian Burgess

Brandan Haunstrup

Stuart O'Keefe

Connor Ronan (Close 77): N/A - Barely touched the ball.

Matty Kennedy

Oli Hawkins