Kenny Jackett saluted Brett Pitman’s goal-scoring credentials after yet another match-winning contribution.
The striker yesterday netted a 72nd-minute penalty to overcome AFC Wimbledon 2-1 at a soaking Fratton Park.
It represented Pitman’s first goal since mid-November – yet a 13th overall during a prolific campaign.
The former Bournemouth man had missed the Blues’ previous penalty during a 1-0 victory at Charlton earlier in the month.
Yet Pitman retained the honours – and fired the Blues to a Boxing Day triumph.
Jackett said: ‘Brett was going to remain our penalty taker, he was confident to go again.
More contribution late in the game does happen sometimes with goalscorers, it opens up and energy levels come into it.Kenny Jackett
‘I didn’t think the Charlton penalty was a bad one, it was just a great save from the goalkeeper, who had read it. I would back Brett on the penalties and free-kicks. It’s key to his game and I do think there are goals in both.
‘For those strikes and free-kicks around the box, he hasn’t hit the target enough with the two or three he’s had of late.
‘I have been disappointed with those strikes. He can do more from those situations.
‘But he got the key goal yesterday and is our top scorer.
‘Getting him into the game and getting him those chances is something we want to do and something we work on.
‘After missing one at Charlton, he got a vital one yesterday.
‘The longer the game went on, the more Brett got involved. More contribution late in the game does happen sometimes with goalscorers, it opens up and energy levels come into it.
‘Wimbledon were pushing on to us and attacking – and, both in the box and outside it, Brett was involved later on more than earlier.
‘Maybe it was Oli Hawkins coming on but often games do open up late on. Then you need your quality to show.’
While Pitman grabbed the decisive goal, there was also a moment to treasure for Ben Close.
The former Priory School pupil had opened the scoring against the Wombles on the stroke of half-time.
His low right-foot shot from outside the box represented a first at Fratton Park after 49 appearances – and his second overall.
That was later cancelled out by Lyle Taylor’s 50th-minute penalty following Christian Burgess’ handball.
As the match panned out, though, the lead was eventually restored by Pitman from the spot.
And Jackett praised Close on an afternoon to treasure for the 21-year-old local lad.
He added: ‘I’m delighted for Ben. He has been a good player for us this season.
‘I have a lot of time for him as a footballer and a person.
‘He is very level-headed and has good drive about him to improve and get better.
‘To get his first goal at Fratton Park is a good moment for him.
‘It was a good strike and hopefully the first of many in a good career for us.’