Pompey 1 Southend 0 – Neil Allen’s match report

Pompey celebrate Brett Pitman's goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey celebrate Brett Pitman's goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
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There was a cold finality, closure on the ultimate footballing contribution.

Fan ownership was this week officially severed as Trust shares were cashed in, funds re-distributed among those who saved their club.

Regardless of the Eisner family having taken charge, the Fratton faithful retain the overpowering might to continue dictating Pompey’s fortunes.

Certainly their intimidating presence among a season’s best crowd of 18,431 was the cornerstone in victory over Southend.

Possessing a searing sense of injustice, this was no occasion to challenge Blues followers.

As Nile Ranger crucially found to his – and the Shrimpers’ – cost.

‘I think the crowd actually made your man miss the penalty,’ reflected Matty Kennedy.

‘I called it on the bench to Dion (Donohue): “He’s going to miss this. The crowd are putting him off here, I’m telling you”.

‘The 12th man were suddenly shouting at him (Ranger) and put him off.

‘You know what it is like hitting a penalty. I missed a penalty once for Hibs in a Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United, it was the last penalty in a shoot-out and put us out.

‘The occasion affects you, especially the crowd here and it was packed. It made a big impact on the game – and made him miss that penalty.’

Ranger couldn’t capitalise on those ill-gotten gains, blazing the spot kick in first-half injury time into the gloating Fratton end.

There was a hint of a slip as the striker connected with the ball right-footed without even threatening Luke McGee.

Pompey’s goalkeeper himself had been a lively spectacle on the line during hyperactive arm-flailing attempts to distract Ranger.

As it was, the smothering ill-feeling cascading from the Fratton stands choked the ever-controversial 26-year-old. Not that this quarrel was his doing.

The largely uneventful first half leapt into life when Danny Rose headed Simon Cox’s powerful strike off the line, yet the danger had not subsided.

The ball fell to John White, whose follow-up attempt cannoned against Matt Clarke amid a flurry of flying bodies.

The makeshift left-back afterwards insisted the well-struck object had left a painful mark on his chest, nonetheless a handball had been called for.

Linesman John Farries’ yellow flag alerted the referee and a penalty was subsequently awarded, much to the anger of Kenny Jackett’s players and those supporters gathered in the Fratton end and adjacent North stand.

Christian Burgess, the player closest to Clarke at the time of the event, led the lengthy protests, but the spot kick stood – and it was over to Ranger.

Moments later, the teams returned to their dressing rooms at half-time with the scoreline goalless.

As for the match officials, how they must have craved brief solace in their changing room having stirred up the Fratton crowd.

The boos fired in their direction continued upon their re-emergence, Farries feeling the toxic breath on the back of his neck while carrying out the customary duty of checking the goal nets in front of the Fratton end.

The fan reaction generated towards referee Carl Boyeson and his officials was anger more vociferous than any heard at Fratton Park for some years.

For Danny Rose, Pompey’s man of the match with boundless energy and tireless heart, the missing of the penalty represented the turning point in the fixture.

Certainly, off the back of it, the Blues emerged stronger after the break and claimed victory through Brett Pitman’s 12th goal of the season.

As for Ranger, he was replaced in the 64th minute by Stephen McLaughlin as Shrimpers boss Phil Brown scrambled to find a way back into the game.

Still, in terms of the decisive goal, that was provided through excellent work from the aforementioned Kennedy.

Dropped to the bench for the past two league games, it’s an ongoing omission the Scot admitted had left him surprised. Unquestionably he has a point.

Kennedy has impressed tremendously since his arrival on a season-long loan from Cardiff, yet Jackett’s desire to squeeze both Kal Naismith and Kyle Bennett into his starting XI prompted the winger’s first-team removal.

On Saturday, Pompey were unchanged from the side which defeated Blackpool 3-2 the previous weekend, ensuring Kennedy remained on the bench.

He was joined by Nathan Thompson and Stuart O’Keefe, back from suspension but could find no instant return to the starting line-up.

Yet Kennedy’s introduction for Bennett at the interval helped galvanise the Blues and provide the attacking impetus missing from their first-half game.

Sure enough, on 54 minutes, he flung in a right-footed cross from the left and Pitman managed to rise above Anton Ferdinand to nudge a header into the top corner.

Pompey’s skipper didn’t even appear favourite to make contact in that aerial duel, yet once again demonstrated his natural scoring talent.

Earlier in the match, a superb Clarke cross from the left had seen Pitman steer the ball just wide from an excellent position. In a game of few goal opportunities it was gilt-edged.

At the other end, one-time Pompey triallist Theo Robinson curled in a left-footed shot which drew an excellent finger-tipped stop from McGee in the 19th minute.

That was the true sum of the efforts in a first half which suddenly erupted into controversy as the interval beckoned.

Southend were never the same side again, while Jackett’s men appeared comfortable in their lead, with McGee barely called upon following that earlier save.

Pitman’s contribution was enough to settle a tight contest and lift the Blues into 10th – now just two points off the play-off positions.

Suddenly from a position of four successive defeats and some hysterically demanding change in the identity of the manager, Pompey have collected three straight victories.

Of course, Saturday could easily have yielded defeat when Southend were given the helping hand of a penalty, spotted by a sole individual in the ground in the form of a linesman.

Yet the Fratton faithful deserve just as much credit for Rangers and his team-mates’ failure as Pitman has for claiming the matchwinner.