Valley Victory For Pompey

Pompey's unbeaten away record continued yesterday although they made hard work of their 1-0 win over Bradford at Valley Parade.

After a slow start to the match which saw the hosts pile on some early pressure, Kenny Jackett's men took the lead when an unmarked Gareth Evans ran onto a Ronan Curtis ball into the box and smashed it into the roof of the net.

The feeling was that a second goal would finish the Bantams off but it never arrived and instead Craig MacGillivray was the busier of the two keepers whilst a last-ditch challenge from Jack Whatmough prevented George Miller from scoring.

Pompey's best chance of scoring another goal in the half came when Oli Hawkins struck the ball into the ground and over the bar from close range after a free kick but all other efforts at both ends of the pitch were too tame to cause any concern to both teams.

The second half saw Pompey more comfortable in their defending than the first but their attacking also became worse.

Too many high balls up to Hawkins were proving to be fruitless as he was either crowded out or penalised for a foul. On the occasion he was able to win the header, there was nobody there and Bradford were able to clear.

The hosts themselves didn't look too dangerous although Adam Chicksen's ball across the Pompey goal could have easily turned into a goal had someone got on the end of it.

The Bradford full back then received his marching orders late in the game for a second bookable offence after a late lunge on Jamal Lowe and it seemed like that would be enough to win the game as Pompey attempted to keep the ball in the corner.

However, in stoppage time the hosts squandered a glorious opportunity to equalise when Hope Akpan and Sherwin Seedorf played a one-two and the former was through on goal one-on-one with MacGillivray but somehow lofted the ball over the bar when it was easier to score.

There was one final chance at the death for Bradford but David Ball's free kick curled narrowly wide of the post and the referee blew the full time whistle to end the ordeal for the travelling fans as yet another three points on the road was secured.

The narrow margin of victory could not be more perfectly illustrated by the stoppage time in this game. Pompey fans may have left Valley Parade with joy and relief but if either of those two chances at the death go in then suddenly the top team in the league have failed to beat the bottom team who had ten men and those joyous feelings turn to fury instead.

This was far from Pompey's best performance of the season. The hopeless hoofs to Hawkins were ineffective and although Curtis provided the assist to Evans for the goal, neither player made an impact on the match thereafter.

In fairness to Bradford they didn't play like a team bottom of the league but their finishing was woeful and they couldn't take advantage of a Portsmouth defence that had to resort to hacking the ball away, a regular feature of Pompey matches against poor opposition, it seems.

On a positive note, the defence as a whole limited Bradford to few chances and when they didn't simply hoof the ball away, they controlled possession well. Anton Walkes also slotted in well at right back and performed much better than his previous showing against Burton.

Matt Clarke again proved why he is the best centre back in the division as he makes defending look so easy. A trademark surging run forward was crudely halted yesterday but one day it will result in a goal. The man has everything for someone so young and will surely play in the Premier League in his career.

Tom Naylor is another who is making a name for himself in a Pompey shirt. He covered so much of the pitch yesterday and made it difficult to get past him - a contender for the player of the season award so far.

Everyone should also be reminded just how good Pompey's away record is. It's now the best in the Football League having taken 23 points from 27 available and that statistic is ridiculous given the club's terrible away record in history.

Next week's F.A. Cup match probably comes at a good time for Pompey who can take a breather from league action and the squad players can navigate the potential banana skin at Maidenhead next week before the next league game at Scunthorpe when the promotion charge continues. 

However, the wins remain pragmatic, unconvincing and ugly to watch at times and there still seems to be an element of good fortune regarding their results.

Whilst they're still top of the league for now (Sunderland can replace them if they beat Wycombe at home on November 17th) it might be wiser for fans to judge the ability of this team at Christmas after the fixture against the Black Cats, with a trip to Barnsley the weekend before.

Pompey Player Ratings

Craig MacGillivray: 7 - One good save and a few comfortable ones. Made himself big at the end which may have put Akpan off.

Anton Walkes: 7 - A good return to the side and worked well with Lowe.

Jack Whatmough: 7 - Continues to do all the basics right.

Matt Clarke: 8 - Performances are taken for granted now such is his ability.

Lee Brown: 6 - One wayward shot but did his duty at the back.

Tom Naylor: 8 - Like a brick wall.

Ben Thompson: 6 - Gave the ball away cheaply a few times.

Gareth Evans: 6 - Scored but did little else.

Ronan Curtis: 6 - Provided the assist but struggled to beat his man and may need a break.

Jamal Lowe: 7 - Constantly pressured the Bradford defence and always posed a problem. Needs a goal, though.

Oli Hawkins: 6 - Did what he could.

Substitutes

Luke McGee

Christian Burgess

Brandan Haunstrup

Ben Close (Evans 76): N/A - Shored the midfield up a little.

David Wheeler (Curtis 87): N/A - Had one opportunity to run at the Bradford defence but never took it.

Joe Mason

Brett Pitman