Pompey 1 Sheff Utd 0

Hermann Hreidarsson sinks Sheffield United. Picture: Barry Zee
Hermann Hreidarsson sinks Sheffield United. Picture: Barry Zee
Pompey midfielder Danny Rose. Picture: Joe Pepler

Rose: Penalty decision worked in Pompey’s favour

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Nine months ago a distraught Jamie Ashdown was shown the Fratton exit.

Today he has his name etched into Pompey history.

Tomorrow he could go one step further and smash a 33-year-old club record.

Such has been the remarkable revitalisation of the 30-year-old.

Such has been the remarkable rebirth of the team of which he has established himself as an integral part.

Angelos Basinas, OJ Koroma and Steve Finnan may have disappeared from the footballing radar – even Google struggles to pinpoint their whereabouts.

But the fourth member of the group told by the Blues’ administrators their contracts would not be renewed on May 19, 2010, remains in the spotlight. Very much alive and kicking.

Another shut-out on Saturday makes it a staggering six in a row for Steve Cotterill’s resurgent troops.

Not since Stephen Davies’ acrobatic effort for Derby have they conceded a goal – and that was 596 minutes ago.

And at the heart of it has been that man Ashdown, the reject who has established himself as a must-have this season.

True, Hermann Hreidarsson was the matchwinner against Sheffield United in victory number six out of six for Pompey.

He pounced in the 24th minute to crash the ball home from close range after David Cotterill’s left-wing corner posed problems.

It was a wonderful moment indeed for a player who feared his career was over a year ago this month after he was injured at White Hart Lane in a Premier League clash with Spurs.

Up until a few months ago, it didn’t even appear he would get the opportunity to prove his worth again in a Blues first team.

There he was, though, with the crucial decider as the unlikely play-off push continued to gather momentum.

It will be Ashdown’s achievement which will survive the test of time, however, rather than Hreidarsson’s priceless contribution.

Not since Peter Mellor in 1978 has a Pompey keeper kept six clean sheets in a row.

Well, they have now – step forward Cotterill’s undisputed number one.

Not that he had too much to do against Micky Adams’ side who, for all their pressing, struggled to carve out opportunities.

Such is the excellence of Pompey’s defence at present, the Blades were barely given a sniff of shattering that run.

Nonetheless, they forced back the hosts for long periods, with some frenetic rearguard action at times required to thwart them.

No wonder Adams continues to wear the haunted look of a manager without a win from his 13 matches in charge.

At Fratton Park they certainly didn’t represent a team doomed to relegation to League One.

Not that Blues fans – or Ashdown – will be too concerned about the Blades’ unfortunate plight.

After all, United stole three points during the reverse fixture at Bramall Lane back in September, ironically by the same scoreline.

This time the Blades came across a rejuvenated Pompey team steamrollering their way up the Championship table.

And it is progress underpinned by the clean sheets Ashdown and the defence keep on racking up.

Another shut out at Bristol City tomorrow would see Mellor surpassed and a new post-war record created.

How fitting that Ashdown could achieve it on the same pitch as his long-time Fratton goalkeeping rival David James.

Let’s not forget, it was James whose imperious form had indirectly hastened the summer departure of his understudy, with many unconvinced of his qualities because his time on the bench.

In fact, should the former England man have committed his Blues future rather than heading to Ashton Gate, Ashdown would never have come back to the south coast. Still, Pompey can savour another landmark in a season which has endured plenty of peaks and troughs.

Thankfully, at present, life is on a high for Cotterill and his weary troops who have turned their season around so dramatically over the past few weeks.

Surely nobody encapsulates that more than Ashdown – and how he deserves his credit this season.

Curiously, there still appear to be knockers out there, stubbornly unconvinced over the former Reading man’s ability.

Scratch away those preconceptions and surely Blues fans will admit he has been one of the stars of this season so far.

Not a bad response from somebody who travelled on that infamous trip to America and Canada on trial, looking to secure a Fratton Park return.

The rest, as they say, is history.

History Ashdown is continuing to rewrite.

Saturday’s clash with the Blades will not live long in the memory but the achievements which have accompanied certainly will.

Especially for Ashdown and that ever-blossoming defence of Hreidarsson, Ritchie de Laet, Ricardo Rocha and Greg Halford.

In win number six, Cotterill’s men started brightly enough and had the visitors rocking within the first few seconds.

It was aggressive stuff from Pompey and top-scorer David Nugent forced a save from Steve Simonsen after a fine run down the left.

Halford also went close following a free-kick, while Neill Collins had to produce a last-ditch block to prevent Nugent having a shot on goal from close range.

On 24 minutes, though, Hreidarsson lashed the ball home left-footed before embarking on a strange celebration, with tongue sticking out and arms pumping. If anything, that seemed to spark the Blades into action as they stepped up their game.

Richard Cresswell prodded one past the near post, Ashdown had to keep out Stephen Quinn with his legs, while the keeper also stood tall to block Cresswell.

It was a busy end to the half for Pompey’s keeper – and Adams’ men continued to threaten after the break.

Quinn should have done better than drag his shot wide of the far post, while substitute Sam Vokes headed straight at Ashdown.

They were nervy times for Cotterill’s men, who sank deeper and deeper in a bid to thwart the United attacks.

Yet their goal remained intact and the 1-0 scoreline was secured.

Pompey now find themselves 11th in the Championship table and seven points off the play-offs.

For Ashdown, though, there is a prize considerably closer than that.

And tomorrow at Bristol City, his fairytale return could be complete.