Pompey 3 Yeovil 1 '“ Neil Allen's match report

The Fratton darlings of yesteryear witnessing the heroes of tomorrow.

Sunday, 9th April 2017, 6:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:41 pm
Gareth Evans scores Pompey's first goal from the penalty spot against Yeovil. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey are on their way, so close to that prized final destination.

Fitting then that architects behind the club’s five post-war promotion campaigns were present to observe the pretenders.

The cushion has been extended to eight points with five games of League Two remaining.

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Doubts are dispersing by the match, while convictions are hardening. Such is the unshakable belief gripping Blues these days, not even a Yeovil equaliser could inject apprehension.

Instead the triviality was shrugged off, the faithful responding by roaring their side on, while the players slammed their way through the gears.

We inhabit a glorious slither of Pompey history in which confidence is dripping off those on the pitch and oozing among those off it. Unified.

No longer is it about expectation – it is about destiny.

Perfect timing then for the hosting of the annual Former Players Day, dovetailing with the previous night’s Hall of Fame occasion.

Among more than 50 guests of the club were the likes of John Milkins, Alan Biley, Alan Knight, Colin Garwood, Steve Davey, Derek Showers, Vince Hilaire and Linvoy Primus, representing previous promotion eras.

Primus, of course, attracted the most boisterous cheer of those introduced at half-time, with the captain of his 2002-03 entry – Paul Merson – inducted into the Hall of Fame hours earlier.

They will soon, very soon, be joined by fellow winners, a squad to etch their names into Fratton folklore in recognition of achievements for the Blues.

For too long the names of those who almost destroyed the club have overshadowed accomplishments by managers and players.

The time has nearly arrived to honour success rather than reflect on failure. Talk is centring on when, not if, Pompey secure promotion.

On Saturday, a sixth win in seven matches maintained progress as the flying finish continues at remarkable pace.

Since the Crewe outcome, no side can match the results of Cook’s Pompey troops, both in terms of points and goals, such has been their admirable consistency.

The latest triumph was secured through an impressive second-half display beneath splendid south-coast sunshine.

The encounter with Yeovil felt special – accompanied by one of the best Fratton Park atmospheres of the campaign.

That was none more so apparent than in the 51st minute when Yeovil somehow dredged up a leveller against the grain of the game.

Matt Clarke and Enda Stevens tussled with Francois Zoko for a ball inside the penalty area and somehow it resulted in being lifted over David Forde into the net.

Tellingly, Zoko’s celebration was minimal, while Stevens left the scene of devastation in shock, with hands on his head.

Later, the left-back admitted his attempted clearance had struck his team-mate and ballooned into a goal-bound direction not anticipated.

It was freakish, ill-deserved and stunned the stadium.

Yet, crucially, the subsequent response demonstrated the current conviction that Pompey will be in League One next season.

The Fratton faithful’s reaction to such a set-back was to dig deep and urge their side on. No recriminations, no boos, no demands for an instant inquest, just support and backing.

Not so long ago it was the staple diet to conceding a goal by a fanbase refusing to waiver. On Saturday it rose once again.

And as home followers attempted to lift the team, the players effortlessly raised their performance to see out another vital victory.

Gareth Evans, who netted the 15th minute opener from the penalty spot, afterwards claimed last season’s Blues wouldn’t have possessed the character to stagger to their feet following such a blow.

He’s right of course. Promotion ended in the play-offs during the previous campaign – this time around nobody possesses the might to deny this irresistible Pompey charge.

Coupled with the introduction of Conor Chaplin from the bench to free Kal Naismith for a more accustomed attacking midfield role, there was again a swagger to their play.

Naismith had mainly operated as the lone striker against the Glovers, with Eoin Doyle and Noel Hunt sidelined through injury.

It’s a job in which he never looked comfortable, but soon the man-of-the-moment was at his impish best to inspire the Blues.

On 68 minutes, Kyle Bennett and Enda Stevens once again linked up superbly down the left flank and the full-back pulled the ball back from deep inside the penalty area.

There was Naismith to take a touch before squeezing home a left-foot shot in at the Yeovil keeper’s near post.

That’s now a goal in each of the last four appearances for the rejuvenated midfielder, who presently leads the Blues goal charts with a tally of 12.

The successful regaining of the lead represented a seventh attempt on the visiting goal in 17 minutes since conceding, such was the hurry.

Still the hosts poured forward as chants of ‘We are going up’ filled the Fratton air with certainty rather than speculation.

Jamal Lowe entered the field for Carl Baker on 76 minutes and within 120 seconds had registered his maiden Pompey goal.

Combining with Naismith on the right, he barged his way into the penalty area, the ball refusing to stray far in the process.

The 22-year-old then drove in a right-footed shot from an impossible angle to somehow beat Artur Krysiak and allow the winger a long-desired embrace with the Fratton end.

Also a Football League breakthrough for Lowe, who made his debut in August 2012 for Barnet and has been waiting ever since for a first goal.

He had lost his place against Yeovil following Baker’s return from a hamstring injury, yet weighed in to secure a victory never doubted.

The first-half had yielded a penalty won by Gary Roberts, Matt Clarke’s header cleared off the line, while Roberts’ cross was deflected against the inside of the far post.

Yet it was after the break when Cook’s men truly found their rhythm to devastatingly dispose of another threat to promotion aspirations.

Move up Primus and Co, you’re about to have company.