Pompey 2-0 Hull

Goalscorer Joel Ward sees his attempt to extend Pompey's 2-0 lead in the second half thwarted by impressive Hull keeper Vito Mannone
Goalscorer Joel Ward sees his attempt to extend Pompey's 2-0 lead in the second half thwarted by impressive Hull keeper Vito Mannone
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So the Great Escape is on after all.

Pompey’s Championship progress has resembled a light switch in recent weeks, such have been the ups and downs.

They were certainly plunged into darkness following the dreadful Coventry performance at the weekend.

Yet Michael Appleton’s side shone brightly at Fratton last night as victory over play-off-chasing Hull once again reignited those relegation survival hopes.

Suddenly the fight to remain in the division is back on, with seven league matches remaining.

As if, of course, anybody possibly doubted it.

For the second successive Tuesday night, with last week’s 4-1 victory over 10-man Birmingham still fresh in the memory – it was an outstanding Fratton Park display which had the temerity to promise more.

A daring suggestion there could be light at the end of this very dark, dark tunnel.

Except, this was no result secured through a barnstorming second-half display against 10 men.

The 2-0 triumph over Hull was clinched through two goals in four minutes midway through the first half.

What’s more, Pompey continued to maintain such a tempo throughout the match.

The magnificent Chris Maguire opened the scoring and Joel Ward swiftly added to the scoreline shortly afterwards.

And had it not been for the brilliance of visiting keeper Vito Mannone, the victory would have been even more emphatic.

As it was, Appleton’s men produced a dominant performance over a flailing Hull side with ambitions of reaching the play-offs.

Now two wins in three games and everything is appearing slightly more optimistic down Pompey way.

That is providing the momentum is built on when Burnley visit the south coast this Saturday.

Still, last night was a tremendously impressive showing from Pompey, inspired by Maguire and fellow-loanee George Thorne.

And that was enough to put any prospect of the Great Escape firmly back on track once again.

Debutant Karim Rekik was just the one change to the side who performed so disappointingly at Coventry on Saturday.

The young Manchester City defender came in at left-back, with Tal Ben Haim moving across to right-back and Greg Halford slotting into the centre of defence.

That meant Ricardo Rocha dropped to the bench, bringing an end to 12-successive appearances.

Yet, there was once more no room for out-of-favour duo Dave Kitson and Benjani Mwaruwari.

In addition, Aaron Mokoena and Kanu remained on the sidelines, while youngster Adam Webster again failed to make the final squad.

That meant Appleton was selecting from the same 16 which made the trip to the Ricoh Arena, yet with the one alteration.

When the game got under way, Maguire came within a whisker of giving the hosts an 11th-minute lead.

Hull failed to clear a corner, and when David Norris headed the ball back into the box, the Scot attempted a flying volley but just missed making a connection.

Maguire appealed for a tug, yet the referee was not interested and it was an opportunity missed.

It was a bright start from Pompey and Ward surged forward before driving a shot from distance well wide of the post.

In the 20th minute, Ben Haim won possession and fed Maguire down the right who whipped in a wicked cross.

Yet Varney just couldn’t manage to connect at the far post – the ball flashing past him in agonising fashion.

A minute later the Blues did break the deadlock, though, in brilliant fashion.

Maguire chased a ball down the right, and as Mannone charged out, he produced a first-time lob from the tightest of angles which found the net.

Mannone then finger-tipped another Maguire shot around the post when it appeared his drive was destined for the net.

In Pompey’s very next attack, though, they doubled their advantage.

Thorne squeezed down the left flank and pulled the ball back from the byline for Ward to slot home.

Fratton Park erupted but Jamie Ashdown had to be immediately alert to prevent the Tigers reducing the deficit.

Rekik lost possession in the box and when Matty Fryatt pounced to fire in a shot, Ashdown somehow managed to parry and Jason Pearce completed the clearance.

On the stroke of half-time, Maguire cut in from the left flank and unleashed a right-foot shot which Mannone gathered.

Hull made a double substitution at the break, with Andy Dawson and Fryatt replaced by Corry Evans and Aaron Mclean.

By the 54th minute, Jay Simpson was also introduced, ensuring the visitors’ full allocation of substitutions had been used.

Still, the Blues were dominant, however, and on the hour mark Varney teed up Norris who surged forward before unleashing a right-foot drive which was saved by the keeper.

Ward then somehow saw his shot saved from four yards out following wonderful skill from Scott Allan down the left-hand side.

In the 68th minute, Maguire crashed another shot in from distance which was finger-tipped around the post by the busy Mannone.

Then, in stoppage time, the Scot had a golden opportunity to grab another after fine work by Norris but, instead, he blazed over the bar.

Not that it mattered.

The result had already been decided – as had another twist in the battle to remain in the Championship.