Portsmouth 2 Walsall 0

Ronan Curtis celebrates his goal against Walsall. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ronan Curtis celebrates his goal against Walsall. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey marked their League One return to Fratton Park with a 2-0 victory over Walsall. 

Goals either side of half-time from Oli Hawkins and Ronan Curtis ensured the Blues retained their four-point advantage at the summit of League One.

The clash against the Saddlers was the first time in 36 days a league fixture took place at PO4.

And Kenny Jackett’s troops gave the Fratton faithful plenty to cheer about.

Pompey had a decent opportunity to break the deadlock in the eighth minute but Gareth Evans headed over Curtis’ cross.

The skipper should have been awarded a penalty on 17 minutes when he was bundled over inside the box by Nicky Devlin, but referee Alan Young didn’t put to the spot.

Jackett’s men did deservedly open the scoring eight minutes later, however.

Curtis’ deflected cross found its way to Hawkins at the back post and he headed home from close range for his seventh goal of the campaign.

To their credit, Walsall responded well, with Kane Wilson’s dangerous shot taking a touch off Tom Naylor for a corner.

Pompey almost went half-time with a two-goal advantage but Curtis’ angled right-foot shot flashed beyond the far post.

The Saddlers missed a gilt-edged chance to level two minutes into the second period when Josh Ginnelly’s volley at the far post failed to trouble home keeper Craig MacGillivray.

And the Blues made the visitors pay by doubling their advantage two minutes later. Lowe’s cross picked out Curtis, whose first effort was blocked before his shot on the swivel at the second attempt rifled into the roof of the net.

Pompey could have put the game to bed minutes later, with Hawkins missing two headed opportunities.

Walsall had a decent spell midway through the half, yet MacGillivray was untroubled in the Blues net.

Nathan Thompson almost grabbed his maiden Pompey goal with 10 minutes remaining when he powerful 25-yard effort was adeptly tipped over by Saddlers keeper Liam Roberts.

Substitute Kieron Morris went close to grabbing Dean Keates’ side a consolation at the death, but he fired wide from the edge of the box.

Nevertheless, Jackett’s men ran out deserved winners and remain top of the table by four points from second-placed Sunderland.