Pompey 1-0 Accrington

ake Jervis fires Pompey in front three minutes into the second half as Accrington Stanley's Peter Murphy closes in Picture: Joe Pepler
ake Jervis fires Pompey in front three minutes into the second half as Accrington Stanley's Peter Murphy closes in Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin and Brett Pitman. Picture: Shaun Boggust

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Pompey boss Richie Barker had berated his players and bluntly called into question their quality and heart in the aftermath of the Scunthorpe apocalypse.

A response last night was not merely required, it was essential, in the on-going battle to retain the club’s League Two status.

Sure enough, Jake Jervis delivered against Accrington with a 48th-minute shot from long range at Fratton Park – his fourth for the Blues since returning to the club in January.

More precious points then for Pompey to aid their bid to climb up the table, with tough away fixtures approaching and their rivals now also picking up form.

Granted, it was laborious at times – particularly during a largely uninspiring first half.

But Pompey remained comfortable throughout, even if their creativity was once again lacking.

Certainly no suggestion of the defensive capitulation which characterised their Glanford Park defeat just three days earlier, with a back four which contained two changes.

In attacking terms, Ricky Holmes enjoyed an impressive second half, while Michael Drennan – on his full Blues debut – was bright and should have netted in the first half with a swivel and shot.

As it was, Jervis was the match-winner in front of a crowd of 13,387, shooting from long range and appearing to catch Stanley keeper Marcus Bettinelli unaware in the process as the ball found the back of the net.

From that moment it was a more energetic and enthusiastic Pompey, with the recalled Romain Padovani putting one wide and Daniel Alfei seeing a shot superbly saved as full-time approached.

The win was priceless for Barker, as was the chalking up of a clean sheet – an increasingly regular sight during his tenure as the results continue to be ground out.

Just as important, he had the response he craved – there were no sulking players following his public and private criticism, no matter how such supporters anticipated it.

A crucial win, even if the distance between the Blues and the bottom two remains seven points, as others also picked up victories during a full League Two programme.

Barker made five changes to the side who suffered the hammering at Scunthorpe at the weekend.

Andy Barcham was ruled out after his wife went into labour, yet the remaining four paid the price for that abject performance.

Nicky Shorey replaced Marcos Painter at left-back, while, surprisingly, Bondz N’Gala took the spot of Sonny Bradley in the centre of defence, with Joe Devera still not back from injury.

Thery Racon and Jed Wallace dropped to the bench, with Holmes and Padovani included in the starting line-up.

Finally, with the Blues reverting to a 4-4-2 formation, on-loan Aston Villa striker Drennan was included in attack to partner Jervis and effectively replacing Barcham.

Once again, though, there was no Simon Ferry, Ryan Taylor, Danny East, Dan Butler, Tom Craddock and Devera in the match-day 18 as they continue their recoveries from their respective injuries.

When the match kicked off, there was little to excite the Fratton faithful during a lifeless opening period from both sides on display.

And it wasn’t until the 20th minute that the game’s first chance was created, following a Jervis cross that was drilled in from the right flank.

The delivery picked out the run into the box of Holmes but his header lacked power and flew straight into the arms of the comfortable Bettinelli.

Moments later, the Blues should have been in front, after Alfei delivered a deep free-kick from the right which was missed by both Ben Chorley and Bettinelli in a towering aerial challenge.

The ball bounced kindly for Drennan, who swivelled and fired a snap-shot agonisingly past the far post, with the keeper struggling to regain his position.

Stanley’s response was swift – Kal Naismith drilling a shot well wide of the target, with keeper Trevor Carson fully in control.

The match was beginning to warm up and on 34 minutes Wes Fogden should have done better down the left-hand channel of the penalty area, after he fizzed in a cross to no-one and the ball ran out of play.

It was still a grind to watch, however, and when Drennan sent in an ambitious half volley from wide out on the left, it ballooned harmlessly into the Milton end of the ground.

There were no changes at the break as Pompey attacked the Fratton end.

But within minutes of the restart the deadlock was broken.

There appeared no danger when Jervis picked up the ball down the left and cut across the pitch.

Yet he then unleashed a low 25-yard shot which Bettinelli was powerless to stop.

The Blues had the momentum and on 54 minutes Jervis did well down the right and delivered a low cross from the byline which Drennan nearly got his head on.

At the other end, Padovani was dispossessed on the edge of his own penalty area facing the goal and when the ball was eventually delivered, Peter Murphy sent in a header.

Fortunately for the hosts, it lacked power and bounced once before finding the arms of a relieved Carson.

On 63 minutes, Padovani spurned a glorious opportunity to double the Blues’ advantage after magnificent work down the left from Holmes.

The wide man capped his run by pulling the ball back from the byline and it found its way to the former Monaco midfielder, whose first-time left-foot shot went past the far post.

Holmes was proving to be a real menace down the left, and when he fired in a cross in the next meaningful attack, Drennan sent a header from distance over the bar.

In the 89th minute, Bettinelli prevented Alfei wrapping up victory for Barker’s men with the slightest of fingertips to push his powerful drive from distance against the bar.

The fourth official indicated three minutes of time added on but Pompey remained composed to see out the match and collect a vital victory that sees them move up to 18th in the league standings.