Jordan Cross looks back on Pompey’s win against Southend on Saturday and analyses the main talking points...
Reasons to be cheerful
Kenny Jackett has highlighted the need for an unbeaten run if Pompey are to be play-off contenders.
It’s probably a stretch to say this current side are capable of producing such form to propel themselves into the top six.
But Jackett’s men are showing signs of progress after recording back-to-back league wins for the second time this season.
There’s no doubt the treatment room clearing to pep up competition for places is a significant factor in recent improvement.
The Blues boss chose to keep faith with the players who delivered an impressive victory at Blackpool.
Jackett went for experience at Bloomfield Road, which paid dividends.
That nous came to the fore again against Southend as Pompey saw the game out after Brett Pitman’s 54th-minute winner.
The victory sees talk of making the top six surface as there’s now just a two-point deficit to the play-offs.
The fact Blackburn and Charlton have two games in hand on most of the teams around them skews the picture a little, though.
With three other sides sharing the Blues’ 26-point total in a tight top half of the table, it’s all there to take for a side who hits a strong sequence of results.
The evidence on the pitch doesn’t quite suggest Jackett’s troops are ready to seize the opportunity yet – but the upwardly-mobile signals offer reasons to be cheerful.
There are few things more satisfying for a manager than getting their substitutions bang on.
And Kenny Jackett was on the mark against Southend. The half-time introduction of Matty Kennedy had a match-changing impact on proceedings.
The Scot looked like a man with the bit between the teeth as he changed the flow of the game in Pompey’s favour.
Kennedy’s willingness to engage the opposition with direct running was a marked improvement – it was an area they fell short in during the first 45 minutes.
With the Shrimpers operating with a diamond formation and plenty of bodies centrally, the flanks had an added significance and were always going to the Blues’ best outlet.
That’s been the case regardless of formations throughout the season, with Kennedy’s input a big plus since his arrival on loan from Cardiff.
The Checkatrade Trophy clash at Charlton broke a run of 12 starts since the 23-year-old came into the team.
So it was a surprise to see him benched for the past two games, with Jackett feeling the time was right to take him out of his side.
‘I was a bit disappointed to get dropped at Blackpool and in training on Monday I was a bit moody,’ said Kennedy. ‘But I got my head around it.’
It also saw some fire placed in the winger’s belly, which resulted in the delivery for Pompey’s winner – and a standout all-round display.
Keeping the points
Strikers will always get the headlines for being match-winners.
It’s a footballing truth goalkeepers don’t get proportional credit for their key interventions in games. Well, so they say, at least...
So before the Goalkeepers’ Union are angrily contacting The News’ sports desk on behalf of one of their members, we have to highlight Luke McGee’s role in Saturday’s win.
The former Spurs talent’s save to keep out Theo Robinson’s curling 19th-minute effort from 25 yards was fundamental to Pompey picking up three points.
Robinson was left with his hands on his head after McGee stretched full-length to keep out the former Blues’ triallist’s effort, which was heading for the top corner.
Kenny Jackett was quite right to highlight the save as a turning point in Pompey’s victory.
It arrived at a time when Southend were enjoying a fair amount of pressure, as they looked for the breakthrough.
‘It was a big save and big saves from keepers will win you matches,’ said Jackett as he sung McGee’s praises.
So Brett Pitman will again get the plaudits for his 12th goals of the season being decisive.
After collecting his seventh clean sheet of the season, though, McGee knows how much he contributed to the win.