Bizarre injury almost ruled out key Pompey man

PASSED FIT Phil Smith. Picture: Joe Pepler
PASSED FIT Phil Smith. Picture: Joe Pepler
Wes Thomas, right, scored the opening goal in Oxford's 3-0 win over Pompey at the start of the season

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Phil Smith revealed he almost wasn’t available to keep Pompey’s critical clean sheet against Bury.

And it would have been match-winner Bondz N’Gala who was to blame if Smith had failed to take his place between the sticks in Saturday’s 1-0 win.

A bizarre training-ground injury put the keeper’s availability against the Shakers in doubt.

Smith kicked a post on Friday when given a short backpass by N’Gala in a small-sided game at the Blues’ University of Portsmouth base.

That left the 33-year-old in a race against time to be fit for the Bury clash.

But the keeper put those problems behind him to deliver a sound display, which proved a big factor in the three points.

One point-blank second-half save from Shaun Harrad was key, with Smith’s sound handling also a standout as Bury pushed late on.

Smith admitted he was delighted to make a big contribution with Trevor Carson now establishing himself as first choice.

But, in a light-hearted jibe, he stated he wasn’t prepared to let N’Gala off the hook just yet.

Smith said: ‘The injury? I don’t want to talk about that! It was one of those crazy things.

‘I’m not going to name any names but there’s someone who scored a goal who stitched me up!

‘It was a short backpass and I kicked the post. The post didn’t move, put it that way!

‘It was painful but it was alright in the end.

‘Stupid things happen on the training ground sometimes.

‘It was a silly accident but everything was okay in the end.

‘I’m happy, though. I don’t necessarily know when I’m going to play again, so it’s good to get the win and the clean sheet.

‘It’s pleasing to do well. It’s nice.’

The man blamed with putting Smith’s place in Saturday’s game in doubt more than redeemed himself by scoring the decisive first-half goal.

But N’Gala admitted an air of relief that the man behind him was able to take his place in Pompey’s starting 11.

It was the defender who lost a couple of yards on Harrad, as he got the header away 10 minutes after the restart.

Smith was equal to that effort, however – and N’Gala was hugely thankful.

N’Gala acknowledged Smith was a critical factor in Pompey’s third win in four games.

He said: ‘It was a solid performance from Phil. He made an unbelievable save in the second half.

‘I was glad about that. I could have kissed him actually!

‘That went a long way to getting us the three points.

‘Yes, it was me who gave him a short backpass and he kicked the post.

‘We didn’t think he was going to make it at one stage.

‘I’m glad he did because it was that clean sheet which made all the difference.

‘I might have been to blame if he didn’t play but he got there – and I was definitely happy about that.

‘He has played a big part in us getting the win, that’s for sure.

‘Because of that we can push on and start thinking about really pushing up the league.’