Portsmouth 2 Scunthorpe 0 - Neil Allen’s verdict: Welcome Fratton Park’s new talisman
The numbers never quite added up for Omar Bogle, unmistakably room for sum improvement.
A spell of six clubs in two years reflected a free-scoring and much-coveted striker’s swift descent into curious nomadic existence.
Before his Pompey association, there was a meagre return of eight goals since January 2017, a bewildering figure upon cursory glance
Still, the reputation remained relatively undiminished, Bogle’s fine work at Grimsby lodged in recent memory to sufficiently excite each new stop-off point along his travels.
While Fratton Park desired Bogle to reinvigorate a fading promotion push, the 25-year-old craved this latest residence to reignite a dimming career.
Subsequently, four goals in eight Blues matches has created a mutually-beneficial partnership.
With immaculate timing, the fortunes of both parties are suddenly on the rise. Tentative steps forward, admittedly, but the early indications are distinctly promising.
Since Kenny Jackett declared the improbable necessity of nine victories gleaned from remaining League One fixtures to restore automatic promotion ambition, there have been two triumphs.
On both occasions, Bogle, back from a hamstring issue, has netted – enabling the clawing back of four points from Pompey’s deficit behind second-placed Barnsley.
There was the instant impact of Luton, off the mark within 34 minutes of his Blues bow having entered from the bench.
The following match arrived a leveller against Doncaster on his Fratton debut.
Encouragingly, the goals have continued, culminating with two this week registered during a 72-hour period which effectively has sealed Pompey’s play-off presence.
Bogle has now scored more at Pompey than mustered during spells at any of his other four clubs since departing Grimsby in a £750,000 switch.
On Saturday, Jackett’s men had to be patient against a Scunthorpe side which offered little in attack, yet were comfortable defensively.
In fairness, the Fratton faithful recognised the situation, refusing to add to the steadily-growing pressure as the clock ticked down. They remained firmly behind the players.
The hosts’ perseverance included dominating second-half possession, building from the back in blustery south-coast conditions which rendered keeping the ball on the floor imperative.
Yet Scunthorpe’s three centre-halves, effectively five in defence including non-advancing wing-backs, could not be ruptured.
Inspiration was required – and on 71 minutes it was the loanee from Cardiff which provided it.
Jamal Lowe won a free-kick down the left after Rory McArdle was punished for holding, with substitute Gareth Evans flighting the dead ball into the penalty area.
An initial clearance fell to the feet of Ben Close, yet Bogle was alert to seize control of the situation, pouncing to swivel and send a first-time left-footed shot into the corner of the net.
The relief around Fratton Park was palpable, the breakthrough finally achieved. It was a precious lead which would not be surrendered.
The Blues required a spark – and comfortably the most impressive of the six January recruits conjured it up.
Bogle’s footballing progress since exiting Blundell Park may have stalled, yet Pompey are providing first-team starting opportunities largely denied – and are reaping the rewards.
The striker’s added mobility and pace has added a new dimension to the Blues’ attacking capabilities, while permits Brett Pitman to operate behind.
Aerially and in terms of hold-up play, Oli Hawkins remains a better option, yet Bogle’s differing attributes are continuing to have a massive impact on the side.
Clearly the striker with more substitute appearances than starts in recent years is revelling in his manager’s trust. In all but penalties, the 25-year-old is proving an inspired signing.
How Pompey needed his intervention against the Iron, anything less than a win would not have been stomached, particularly taking into account how the match was panning out.
Lowe then ended any thoughts of a nervy finale by capping a man-of-the-match showing with a wonderful goal three minutes from time.
It marked the 13th of the season for the ever-improving winger, who edges ahead of Ronan Curtis and Evans as leading scoring this season,
A 2-0 success and, eight days from that demoralising televised defeat at Charlton, the Blues have halved the gap in pursuit of the second automatic promotion spot.
They are now four points adrift from Barnsley with eight league matches remaining. Sunderland still lurk, admittedly, yet the situation is considerably brighter than the gloomy Valley aftermath.
As for the play-offs, Jackett’s troops are positioned 15 points clear of seventh-placed Coventry, the equivalent of five wins. Qualification is assured, albeit not mathematically.
Still, through Bogle’s ongoing contribution, in the past week Pompey have collected wins against Walsall and now Scunthorpe, representing back-to-back League One triumphs for the first time in 2019.
That promotion ambition is stirring into life once more, yet victories must continue to flow, with a trip to Shrewsbury next.
Unsurprisingly on Saturday, Jackett elected to field a side unchanged to the one which claimed a 3-2 success at Walsall in the week, a scoreline which flattered the Saddlers.
The sole alteration to the squad was Lloyd Isgrove added to the match-day 18 following a back injury to James Vaughan, sustained during a substitute appearance at the Bescot Stadium.
It meant, of Pompey’s six January transfer-window arrivals, only Viv Solomon-Otabor, a starter at present, had avoided injury since landing on the south coast.
That statistic was wrecked, however, when the loanee from Birmingham had to be substituted on the stroke of half-time with a calf problem, Evans replacing him from the bench.
Nonetheless, it was a first half in which Lowe should have earned the Blues a deserved lead, with Solomon-Otabor carving out the first opportunity.
Lowe was slipped through by his fellow wideman and skipped around the Scunthorpe keeper, only to see his eventual shot blocked by McArdle in the vicinity of the goal line.
Then, four minutes before half-time, Bogle’s shot was saved and, when Pitman diverted the ball back across, Lowe couldn’t manoeuvre his body to nudge it home from two yards.
The winger, of course, would register at last on 87 minutes when Nathan Thompson’s pass down the right was aimed towards substitute Hawkins, the ball then falling to Lowe.
He thought about switching play to the left and the unmarked Evans, but instead elected to nimbly head on the outside, switching the ball to his right foot and rifling a shot into the top far corner of the net.
By that stage, Bogle had already struck to maintain his impressive form and lay the foundations for a Fratton Park victory.
This talisman’s powers are growing – and so are Pompey at a pivotal time of the season.