Pompey 2 Coventry 0

Portsmouth's Jed Wallace (centre) scores his side's first goal
Portsmouth's Jed Wallace (centre) scores his side's first goal
Southend continued their good form. Picture: Joe Pepler

Powell: We didn’t play well in win over Pompey

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They were gathered in the South stand corridor, eyes trained upwards.

Some 10 minutes after the final whistle against Coventry, around 20 fans had negotiated the exiting traffic to linger.

The object of their interest was the plasma television positioned in the corner, a remnant of the Convers Sports Initiatives era.

Capturing their unwavering attention on the screen were the full-time results and, in particular, the second half of the League One table.

Suddenly for Pompey supporters the league standings have become rather interesting – no longer do they have to peek through the fingers of the hands across the eyes.

A run of only two defeats in the past nine matches and optimism has been uncorked and released into the skies above Fratton Park.

Belief in escaping the drop may, in brutal honesty, be unrealistic but those tiny seeds of hope have been planted. The players have seen to that.

A remarkable transformation, culminating in a 2-0 success over 
play-off chasing Coventry on Saturday, has got the pulses racing again.

Guy Whittingham’s men are now two places off the bottom – five points adrift of safety with six matches still to play.

Albeit that doesn’t take into account the 10-point deduction, a punishment which continues to lurk in Pompey’s shadow.

Still, there it was, the unfamiliar sight of fans staying behind at Fratton Park to cheer other results and eagerly glimpse the league standings.

Certainly it is not a scenario which has occurred often during the past few years, for painfully-obvious reasons.

On Saturday, though, chatter greeted details of Bury’s heavy defeat at Bournemouth, a few exclamations were sounded upon news of Hartlepool’s home draw with Walsall.

Then came the moment they had waited for – the table itself.

Pompey were no longer in the bottom two, the gap to safety had been cut and long-banished hopes of remaining in League One stirred.

It’s testament to the turnaround invoked by Whittingham and Andy Awford in a campaign which has broken many records for all the wrong reasons.

In the process, the duo are slowly winning steadily-increasing support in their bid for the roles on a permanent basis once would-be owners the Trust complete their takeover.

Not that Whittingham is publicly entertaining the idea of pulling off what would be a sensational survival act should it come to fruition.

He knows better than that, particularly with the points deduction cloud hovering above his head.

But suddenly, on the field, everything is clicking into place and the Coventry result was another impressive step forwards in this pre-High Court limbo state.

Of course, it could have been a very different tale had Simon Eastwood not saved Gary McSheffrey’s seventh-minute penalty.

In fact, the result overall would have been entirely different if it hadn’t been for an outstanding display from the young keeper.

As it was, Pompey were fluent, resilient and, notably, buoyant with self-belief as they stormed back to claim the victory for themselves.

Both goals had a touch of quality about them, enough to outmanoeuvre an in-form Coventry side in the mix for the play-offs.

Certainly the Sky Blues have been one of the better sides to visit Fratton Park in a season in which most teams are much of a muchness.

Let’s not forget, last week it was a 1-1 draw at leaders Doncaster, who on Saturday further increased their lead at the top of League One.

No wonder Pompey fans are peeking at the table again, although surely out of hope rather than expectation that there may be an exciting finale to the campaign.

The importance of stability, both on and off the field of play, has never been as apparent as in the past six weeks as Whittingham’s settled side continue to flourish.

After five successive matches of naming the same side, the caretaker boss elected to drop Dan Butler to the bench and bring in Shaun Cooper.

It was a first start in seven matches for the loanee, who was asked to play the unfamiliar role of left-back.

As it turned out, the ex-Blues apprentice was involved in both home goals, as well as the penalty which Eastwood dealt with so well.

In the sixth minute, Cody McDonald got on the inside of Cooper and the pair tangled inside the penalty area, Phil Gibbs pointing to the spot after first glancing at his nearest linesman.

McShreffrey was the one charged with duties but Eastwood dived to his right to push the ball away.

Barely eight minutes later, Pompey themselves broke the deadlock in front of the Milton end.

Cooper was fed by Therry Racon down the left and exchanged passes with Wallace, not once but twice, the second return coming from inside the penalty area.

The teenager did the rest, crashing the ball high into the net, leaving Joe Murphy no chance, for his fourth goal of the season.

Coventry, though, continued to threaten yet encountered Eastwood in fine, fine form.

Cyrus Christie saw a wickedly-serving shot pushed wide, Aaron Martin had a long-range effort parried and Franck Moussa’s angled shot was then somehow finger-tipped around the post.

The best of the lot saw Moussa thwarted again, this time Eastwood pushing his fiercely-struck shot over the bar.

Then came Pompey’s second, with another impressive well-worked move.

Cooper laid the ball back to Liam Walker down the left flank and the midfielder whipped in a looping first-time cross from deep which was headed home by Patrick Agyemang.

For the on-loan striker it was richly deserved in an appearance full of effort, hard work and plenty of battling knocks.

Upon Agyemang’s substitution on 90 minutes, Pompey fans rose to their feet to give a standing ovation to a player who has made such a massive impact since his loan arrival.

It was Eastwood, though, who was the star of the show.

He produced two more late saves to keep that cherished rare clean sheet intact.

Chants of ‘Guy Whittingham’s Blue and White Army’ echoed around the famous old ground long after the final whistle as the fans celebrated another encouraging performance and result.

Then it was off home to toast successive Fratton Park victories.

And some, yes some, even dared to catch a glimpse of the League One table.