Pompey 2 Scunthorpe 0

Kanu goes close to adding to Pompey's tally
Kanu goes close to adding to Pompey's tally
Leam Richardson. Picture: Joe Pepler

Richardson: Wigan only focused on Pompey win

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It was Steve Cotterill who proclaimed the captaincy had boosted Dave Kitson’s performances.

Last night his argument was backed up emphatically.

Pompey needed inspiration from somewhere, anywhere, in a match drifting towards an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Scunthorpe turned up at Fratton Park with their Championship lives hanging by a thread.

Not that they played like a side destined for the drop.

They frustrated, they battled, they even had the temerity to have the best chances of the first half including a disallowed goal which should have stood.

Then up stepped the skipper.

With two goals in his last 19 matches, Kitson’s return has been desperately disappointing for too long.

No wonder eyebrows were raised when he had the armband handed to him by Cotterill a week ago.

Yet when the Blues required a hero, their new Captain Marvel stepped forward.

The decisive moment came on 62 minutes, deep in Scunthorpe’s half.

A goal-scoring opportunity seemed over when Kitson picked the ball up only to knock it too far in front of him.

But the striker then rescued the move, producing quick feet to wriggle past two defenders and drive a 20-yard shot past Lillis in one slick motion.

It was breath-taking quality from the hitman who has largely struggled since his arrival back in August.

More importantly, it ended the visitors’ resilience as the nut was finally cracked open.

Up until that point, Pompey had finished second best in the first half and struggled to create meaningful opportunities in front of goal in the second.

The fans were becoming restless, the players sloppy, while Ian Baraclough’s men grew in confidence with every minute.

Cue Kitson to step up to the plate and draw crucial first blood.

Granted, substitute Aaron Mokoena sealed the 2-0 scoreline in the 80th minute with a deflected drive.

That merely added an air of disbelief to the occasion, with laughter drowning out the cheers from the home faithful.

The fatal blow had already been delivered by that man Kitson.

And with it came a fifth successive win and fifth consecutive clean sheet as the remarkable revival under Steve Cotterill continues.

At one stage Blues fans were singing: ‘We are staying up’. Well, they are right.

Before the match, there was noticeably no recall to the first XI for Liam Lawrence, despite his recovery from a calf injury.

Instead it was decided not to throw a player with just one training session under his belt straight into the starting line-up.

The Republic of Ireland international did make the bench, though, on a cold Fratton Park night.

There was one change to the side which beat Ipswich, however, with Kanu stepping up to operate just behind Kitson.

The veteran took the place of Joel Ward, who picked up a calf problem at Portman Road.

Meanwhile, fellow injury doubt Hayden Mullins shook off a knee problem to retain his spot.

Not that Mullins featured for too long, ultimately being forced off in the 22nd minute to be replaced by Mokoena.

Still, when the match kicked off, it took a stunning save from Josh Lillis to prevent David Nugent giving Pompey a 10th-minute lead.

Kitson started it off, charging down David Mirfin’s clearance before receiving the ball back from the head of Kanu.

He fed Nugent, whose 25-yard effort was heading for the top corner until the Scunthorpe keeper somehow clawed it over one-handed.

The visitors thought they had taken the lead on 19 minutes when Mark Duffy’s right-wing centre was headed home from close range by Lee Miller.

But their celebrations were cut short when Miller was adjudged to have pushed Greg Halford in the back as he attempted to make contact with the cross.

At the other end, Nugent should have broken the deadlock when put through by Kanu but he blazed well over from 10 yards out.

The match was generally lacking excitement but Scunthorpe once again prompted a scare in the 35th minute.

Miller crossed from the right and Michael Collins slid in a shot which bounced agonisingly past Jamie Ashdown and trickled wide of the far post.

As the first half drew to a close, Hermann Hreidarsson headed Greg Halford’s long throw just wide, while Kanu failed to nod Kitson’s header over the line.

Come the second half, there was a marked improvement in Pompey’s display.

Although, it was left to Ashdown to beat out Collins’ shot as the visitors also grew in confidence.

Then came that Kitson intervention in the 62nd minute to decide the destination of the points.

There was still time for Mokoena to get his name on the scoreline, moments after a dreadful pass had gifted the ball to the Iron.

Jonathan Hogg won it back and when Kanu calmly laid the ball off, Mokoena charged in to fire a 25-yarder which deflected past Lillis.

On the face of it, two unlikely scorers had clinched a likely result.

But it was the skipper who made it all possible as the play-offs suddenly don’t look like a pipe dream after all.