Pompey 1 Tranmere 0

The current Fratton chants are music to David Connolly's ears   Picture: Barry Zee
The current Fratton chants are music to David Connolly's ears Picture: Barry Zee
Pompey midfielder Carl Baker Picture: Joe Pepler

Jackett: Baker has Pompey future

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David Connolly had grown tired of the Fratton faithful’s chants centred around losing every week.

He found them neither amusing or motivating – now the striker has forced a rewrite as Pompey’s remarkable resurgence continues.

The veteran striker has found his feet since returning from a hamstring injury. What’s more, the Blues have discovered their form.

When Yassin Moutaouakil crossed from the right in the 53rd minute yesterday, with an inevitability, Connolly was there to net.

Defeat then to Tranmere, former table-toppers and now, thanks to Pompey, nudged out of the play-off spots.

For Guy Whittingham’s men, that is now just two defeats in their past 11 games since halting a club-record run of matches without victory.

It is a period which is ensuring Whittingham’s argument to be given the manager’s job full-time is growing ever more compelling and, surely, increasingly likely.

Suddenly the anticipated 10-point deduction appears it will relegate the Blues rather than matters on the pitch during another wretched season.

And at the heart of it is Connolly, tireless in work-rate and outspoken in his demands for professionalism and success.

A wretched miss in the 38th minute was merely a blip, certainly an unusual sight since the former Watford man’s arrival at Fratton Park at the turn of the year.

Stood unmarked from eight yards out, he blazed a shot over the bar when he should have netted with a degree of comfort.

Still, Connolly made amends when goal number five of the season arrived in the second half for what proved the match-winner.

A third victory in a row at Fratton Park, another polished display and now the fans are singing about winning when they want.

Come the final whistle there was even a rendition of ‘We are staying up’ and ‘We will never die’ from many housed in the Fratton end.

Certainly music to the ears of Connolly and appealing on the eyes of those long-suffering home supporters who, for four-and-a-months previously this season, had not seen a Blues victory.

And with four fixtures remaining this term, the likelihood is that yesterday won’t be the last they see on the field of play before the campaign is over.

Of course, another battle looms in the High Court next week, one which Whittingham, Connolly and Co have no influence on whatsoever.

But the feel-good factor is definitely back at Fratton going into that key date which will prove pivotal in the Pompey Supporters’ Trust becoming the club’s new owners.

Whittingham made two changes to the side which drew at Preston at the weekend, one of which was enforced.

Ricardo Rocha was carrying a slight knock so dropped to the bench, with Sam Sodje granted his first start since his sending-off at Oldham.

There was also a maiden start for Jack Maloney, selected on the left-hand side of midfield in place of Liam Walker.

When the game got under way, it was Jed Wallace who had Pompey’s first attempt on goal in the eighth minute, firing over from just inside the box following a Connolly pass.

It was Simon Eastwood, though, who pulled off the first save, finger-tipping over Abdulai Bell-Baggie’s cross-cum-shot from the left which threatened to loop over him.

At the other end, a tremendous low centre from Wallace from the right was almost knocked into his own net by Ash Taylor, in the Tranmere defender’s hurry to crash the ball out for a corner.

Connolly produced that glaring miss in the 38th minute when he should have given Pompey the breakthrough.

Shaun Cooper delivered a cross from the left which Patrick Agyemang headed back across goal to the unmarked veteran striker, his marker having slipped.

But Connolly elected to take his shot too early, screwing it over the bar from eight yards with plenty of time for a composed attempt on goal.

On the stroke of half-time, Connolly sparked a counter-attack by blocking a pass on the halfway line and then feeding Agyemang.

The powerful striker surged half the length of the pitch, beating the last man and breaking into the penalty area, before driving a shot just past the far post.

Pompey did break the deadlock in the 53rd minute, though, following a superb move down the right flank.

Wallace fed Moutaouakil, who cut the ball back from the byline, and Connolly was there to steer the ball home from close range.

The hosts began to seize control of play and, in the 64th minute, a scramble inside the Tranmere penalty area resulted in Therry Racon firing in a low left-foot shot which was saved low down by Owain Fon Williams.

The Tranmere keeper pulled off a stunning stop in the 87th minute, somehow blocking Johnny Ertl’s piledriver on the edge of the penalty.

Seconds later, Pompey’s captain was at the other end of the pitch, heading clear a cross from the right as the visitors strove for an equaliser, summing up his immense importance.

The fourth official indicated an additional four minutes of added-on time to set the nerves going amid the cold April air.

But victory it was for Pompey to continue their highly-encouraging run which displays plenty of promise for the future.