Pompey 1 Crystal Palace 0

David Cotterill proved a constant menace for Pompey against Palace
David Cotterill proved a constant menace for Pompey against Palace
Sylvain Deslandes could play at left-back if Dion Donohue is switched to midfield

Pompey boss encouraged by ‘good options’

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All of sudden, all is rosy in the Championship garden for Pompey.

Steve Cotterill’s men celebrated their third win on the bounce with as dominant a 1-0 victory you are ever likely to see against Crystal Palace last night.

The latest success arrived with a display of energy, brightness and efficiency which also saw the Blues collect their third successive clean sheet.

It was a confident and breezy performance which took them another big step closer to securing their place in the division this season with time to spare.

Plenty of reasons to be cheerful, then. Heck, even Balram Chainrai is busy professing his love for the club again!

Supporters will be forgiven for taking his latest sweet nothings with a healthy portion of salt, of course.

They arrived on Monday night’s Sky Sports’ Inside Report, the programme which promised to lift the lid on events at Fratton Park over the past 12 months.

The reality was very different, however, with plenty of bluster but little in the way of new light shone on proceedings in the crazy world of Portsmouth Football Club.

Chainrai continues to dodge the questions about the past which will continue to haunt him as the dust settles at the club moving forward.

The only question last night, though, was how the Blues’ display yielded a victory by just a single goal.

David Nugent was the man to deliver with 25 minutes remaining to ensure progress continues on the pitch.

The result lifts Pompey 10 points clear of the drop zone and into 15th place.

Much of the talk among the Fratton faithful will revolve around the display of David Cotterill and Ritchie de Laet down the right flank.

That, and the resilience of the back line, was one of a number of positives to take from the performance.

The challenge laid down by Cotterill going into the game was for Pompey to win, but to do so with the style that was missing against Barnsley on Saturday.

The early signs were promising with the Blues comfortably slotting into their switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation from the 4-4-2 utilised at the weekend.

David Cotterill’s early forays down the right were pinning the visitors back, with the Welshman’s enthusiasm asking plenty of questions of the Palace defence.

Joel Ward was also playing with the energy which saw him pick up player-of-the-month plaudits before the game.

He went close to turning in one Cotterill corner, before his bravery was so nearly rewarded after he was flattened rising up with keeper Julian Speroni as he challenged for Nugent’s centre.

Pompey’s new-found defensive resilience has provided the foundation for their upturn in fortunes of late.

They were nearly punished for a momentary lapse, however, as Anthony Gardner rose unchallenged from Darren Ambrose’s corner but headed wide.

Still, there was plenty to admire about the play from Cotterill’s men and that was encouraging the home fans, who were in decent voice.

The opener should have arrived after 21 minutes when Nugent went around Speroni and the loose ball fell to Cotterill, only for the loanee to blaze over with the goal gaping.

It was looking a case of if, not when, the score would come as Pompey continued to dictate play.

De Laet was the next to threaten as he charged forward from his right-back berth but no blue shirt could meet his cutback after he’d marauded half the length of the pitch.

Steve Cotterill was certainly getting the performance he’d demanded, unfortunately the goal the Blues’ play merited wasn’t arriving.

Some irresistible link-up play from De Laet, David Cotterill and Nugent carved open the Eagles yet again and looked like it might do the job before the break.

Nugent’s cross was too heavy, though, and it meant 45 minutes of dominance for the Blues went unrewarded at the interval.

Any notion that a half-time rocket from Palace boss Dougie Freedman would change the pattern of the game after the restart proved wide of the mark.

Pompey continued to push back the Londoners, with David Cotterill their chief tormentor.

A dangerous free-kick, after he was hauled down, created uncertainty in a Palace defence playing with increasing confidence of late.

Then it was Greg Halford’s turn to try his luck after Dave Kitson was manhandled by Eagles skipper Paddy McCarthy but Speroni managed to push over his 25-yard blast.

It was undoubtedly one of the most dominant displays of Pompey’s season.

But the longer the wait went for the goal, the greater the fear became it wouldn’t be their night.

When the opener did finally arrive with 25 minutes left, it showed little of the finesse forwarded in the rest of Pompey’s play.

Halford’s Exocet throw was the tool that finally undid Palace, as Kitson’s flick was met by Nugent.

His connection was far from the best but it was enough to steer it over Speroni.

The Scouser wasn’t arguing as his celebrated his 10th strike of the season in front of the Fratton end.

From there, it was a largely-comfortable ride home, with Kitson nearly adding a second from the umpteenth pinpoint Cotterill centre of the night.

McCarthy headed wide Palace’s best effort at pulling themselves level over the finale.

But it was job done for Pompey as they continue on a run that looks likely to have them hitting that 52 point-survival mark thrown down by first-team coach Ian Woan sooner rather than later.