Leicester 0 Pompey 1

David Nugent nets Pompey's winner at the Walkers Stadium
David Nugent nets Pompey's winner at the Walkers Stadium
Pompey midfielder Ben Close Picture: Joe Pepler

Close is free from injury and full of Pompey ambition

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Balram Chainrai and Levi Kushnir are fortunate, very fortunate.

The self-styled accidental owners have yet again stirred up supporters with more breathtakingly insensitive handling.

And once more it is down to Steve Cotterill and his troops to ride to the rescue.

Talk about endeavours on the pitch forming a perfect distraction from the woes elsewhere in the club.

Pompey’s players have made a priceless habit of that recently.

Record-breaking runs, a flood of victories and suddenly the play-offs have excitedly captured the imagination.

Except, on Saturday, not even an impressive victory at Leicester was enough to avert fans’ glare from those running this football club.

The season-ticket shambles may prove to be the owners’ biggest – and most costly – mistake.

Taking a snap shot of public feeling into account, it is certainly hurtling that way at breakneck speed.

No question about it, Blues fans are furious at the large price hikes and being fobbed off with excuses of VAT and Football League levies.

They are incensed they have just two weeks for the first part of the Early Bird and are not allowed to use credit cards.

They are livid there has been absolutely no consultation or canvassing of their views in the build up to the bombshell.

To top it all off, a statement accompanied the delivery of ticket prices, with nobody from the club willing to talk.

For a club which has tirelessly attempted to reopen communication with its fanbase, suddenly the lines have gone dead and the signal has been lost.

Last time around, the emergency loan arrival of David Cotterill and subsequent victories papered over the cracks created by the sale of John Utaka and the criminal lack of transfer activity.

This time there can be no let off.

Cotterill & Co keep on performing their heroics, mind you.

Had they imploded since January, the withering heat would have certainly been unleashed on the owners and their handling of matters.

As it is, success on the field has largely gripped the attention of supporters, while talk of play-offs have raised spirits.

Even the award-winning Pompey community office, recently honoured by The News in recognition of its on-going excellence, has provided welcome respite.

And that is why Chainrai and Kushnir have been remarkably lucky.

Until now, perhaps.

For this season-ticket debacle has continued to dominate discussions, radio phone-ins, message boards and e-mails long after Saturday’s triumph.

Of course, such negativity is doing a dishonour to the Walkers Stadium achievement and another outstanding away victory.

The Blues have already won at Swansea, Norwich and Ipswich since December, two teams of which will definitely make the top six.

Now they have inscribed Leicester onto that lengthening list following a 1-0 triumph.

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side were supposed to be strutting through the pack and into the automatic promotion spots by now.

They have certainly spent enough to warrant such lofty expectations, in particular recruiting Yakubu on loan from Everton for a reported £40,000-a-week.

Instead they lie just one point ahead of Pompey and, on Saturday, were roundly booed off the pitch.

In truth, it was the only time the home faithful managed to find their voice, such was the uncomfortable viewing on show.

They would have turned up for the visit of Cotterill’s side licking their lips in anticipation of another home victory to bolster play-off hopes at the very least.

Yet David Nugent struck first of all – then it was left to the excellent defence to do the rest.

The decisive moment came on 13 minutes when Greg Halford launched a long throw into the Leicester penalty area.

Sol Bamba managed to get his head on it ahead of his own keeper Ricardo, with the ball falling to Nugent 10 yards out.

Pompey’s leading scorer calmly steered a right-foot volley into the empty net and the visitors had drawn first blood.

Moments later, Jamie Ashdown produced a wonderful point-blank stop to keep out Bamba’s powerful header.

It was the Blues keeper who would prove to be the chief tormentor of Eriksson’s men with a number of crucial saves.

On 62 minutes, Halford missed a long ball through the middle to allow Paul Gallagher a passage through on goal.

But Ashdown raced off his line for a brilliant block.

Then, in the closing stages, he was at it again with a flying stop to deny Kyle Naughton netting with a swerving long-range effort.

Of course, Pompey should have had everything sewn up by then, had it not been for Joel Ward’s unfortunate miss.

The substitute was presented with a golden opportunity when teed up by Jonathan Hogg, yet he somehow dragged his effort wide of a welcoming net when he should have done better.

Still, it mattered not as that well-oiled Pompey defence stood firm once again, with Ricardo Rocha as immense as ever in the heart of it.

Such was their rearguard dominance, Yakubu was booed by his own fans following one particularly errant shot at Ashdown’s goal.

The former Pompey favourite had earlier been greeted with a rendition of ‘Quashie, Quashie’ by gloating away fans after slicing another effort high and wide.

Pompey, though, held on to make it seven wins in their last nine games

And a staggering eight of those results have yielded clean sheets.

In addition, the play-offs remain in their sights, growing ever more realistic as far as ambitions go.

Cotterill’s men are now six points off and, just as crucial, are bang in form and confidence heading into the final eight matches of the season.

The owners elected not to back the club in the transfer market, now they will be desperately hoping their manager can lead them back into the Premier League.

Not merely for the riches such an achievement would attract, of course.

But also for the welcome distraction it provides for supporters still reeling from those season ticket moves.

Except, this time they might not be so fortunate.