Portsmouth 2-1 Coventry City
PORTSMOUTH made it ugly win number two of the Easter weekend and piled the pressure on Sunderland and Barnsley in the fight for automatic promotion.
Much like the Burton game on Good Friday, Pompey were not at the best, but again they found a way to claim all three points and register their seventh consecutive win and move up to second spot ahead of the 3pm kick-offs.
They were deservedly behind after a lacklustre first half performance that saw an impressive Sky Blues go in one up; the visitors really should have been further ahead but for a goal-line clearance by Nathan Thompson from Luke Thomas.
Kenny Jackett’s side, however, hit back after the break with goals from Tom Naylor and an 83rdminute Brett Pitman left-footed finish that moved them into the automatic promotion places, for a few hours at least.
Portsmouth were looking to pile the pressure on their promotion rivals and they were almost gifted an opener in the seventh minute – Coventry goalkeeper Lee Burge showing a few nerves as his punch almost ended up in his own goal before Davies cleared the danger.
If Pompey thought that was early indication of a comfortable afternoon they soon found otherwise. Jackett would no doubt have made clear the dangers in the Sky Blues team before kick-off and amongst those would have been Jordy Hiwula, who stunned the home crowd by grabbing his fourth goal in his last five games in the ninth minute.
The Sky Blues’ pace on the break had Pompey on the back foot with Thomas linking with Bright Enobakhare who ran all too easily to the edge of the box before playing the ball in to Hiwula. A quick spin in the box ended with the forward firing past Craig MacGillivray.
It should have been two shortly after as Thomas broke upfield after a Pompey attack broke down. The speedy winger rounded MacGillivray and when it looked like he could have rolled it in with his right foot he took the ball back on to his left, allowing Thompson to get back and superbly block his effort on goal.
Having recently beaten Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, Coventry were looking to dent the chances of another side chasing that second automatic promotion spot, at the same time boosting their chances of making a late move into the play-off places.
Pompey were finding their opponents just a little too clever in the opening half and although they had chances – Naylor heading over and Pitman’s effort clearing the bar – Mark Robins’ side were creating the more clear-cut opportunities and Jackett would have been relieved they only went into the break one down.
A double change was Jackett’s response at the break with Oli Hawkins and Gareth Evans replaced by James Vaughan and Ronan Curtis.
The first major incident Vaughan was involved in was an accidental clash with Liam Kelly, the Coventry man coming off worse but both plyers continuing after treatment.
The hoped-for boost from the changes was nowhere near immediate, and Hiwula had the chance to make it two for the visitors on the hour mark, the Pompey defence managing to clear his effort.
Shortly after Vaughan, who had recently been training back at Wigan before being called into the squad to replace the injured Omar Bogle, got on the end of Lowe’s cross but couldn’t direct his effort on the Coventry goal.
Pompey were enjoying a rare spell of possession and showed that even when they weren’t playing well, they still retained fighting spirt.
The leveller arrived with Lee Brown supplying the pinpoint corner for Naylor to head powerfully into the roof of the net with 66 minutes on the clock.
Despite the improvement the Sky Blues were still threatening on the break and the wasteful though talented Thomas missed another great chance to score, firing into the side netting when though in on MacGillivray.
Despite the intensity of the game there was time for the Pompey faithful to give a rousing reception for Coventry substitute and former Fratton Park favourite Conor Chaplin – even better that he had little impact in the game.
Play was switching end to end and it was Coventry’s profligacy in front of goal that was keeping Pompey’s hopes of picking up all three points alive. Those hopes increased dramatically as another set piece ended with goal number two for the home side.
A Brown corner was cleared to Curtis whose ball back in had Sky Blues keeper Burge again looking shaky with Pitman picking up the pieces on the edge of the area to fire the winner.
Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close; Lowe, Pitman (Walkes 90mins), Evans (Curtis 46); Hawkins (Vaughan 46). Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Haunstrup, Morris, Solomon-Otabor.
Coventry City (4-2-3-1): Burge; Sterling, Davies (Willis 75mins), Hyam, Mason; Shipley (Wakefield 85), Kelly; Thomas (Chaplin 74), Enobakhare, Hiwula; Bakayoko. Subs (not used): Addai (gk), McCallum, Ponticelli, Westbrooke.
Referee: Darren Drysdale