Bolton 0 Portsmouth 1: Neil Allen's verdict - How Christian Burgess emotion reflects pivotal away-day breakthrough
The celebrations were emphatically more eye-catching than the standard of football dished up.
Even Kenny Jackett, the manager who oversaw Saturday’s triumph, conceded the performance ‘wasn’t the ‘prettiest’ upon post-match reflection.
Nonetheless, Christian Burgess’ passionate revelry upon the final whistle reflected the overwhelming sense of achievement surrounding the 1-0 victory over Bolton.
Admittedly, as the matchwinner, chief architect behind a clean sheet and man of the match, albeit the latter unbeknown to him at the time, the central defender had reason to rejoice.
Yet irrespective of the manner of the accomplishment and the matter of it arriving against League One’s bottom club, the win was essential.
The Blues had previously taken an unsatisfactory nine points from 11 away league matches, in the past five weeks losing 4-1 at Accrington and 3-1 at MK Dons.
Saturday was an uninspiring, lacklustre display in which many struggled to impose themselves, particularly during a second half largely devoted to holding the Trotters at bay.
Still, it resulted in a third success on the road for Pompey in League One this season, justification alone to toast the City of Bolton Stadium outcome.
The Fratton Park form of Jackett’s men is unmatched in the Football League, nobody else has retained an unbeaten home record at this stage of the campaign.
It’s a fortress providing the backbone to what has developed into another promotion challenge, following an awful start to the season.
Pompey cannot seek permanent residency in the top six through mere home results alone, there must be a significant contribution on their travels.
At Bolton there was victory – and a third-straight win away from Fratton Park in all competitions.
Since the turn of the year there have been triumphs via an FA Cup trip to Fleetwood, a Leasing.com Trophy encounter at Walsall and now, most importantly, in the league at the home of Trotters.
Enough evidence to dare suggest this Blues team which has taken an age to evolve has now developed the resilience and determination on the road which drove the best away form in club history last season.
Work to be done, clearly, yet nobody could fail to have been heartened by Saturday’s win, regardless of the low level of quality through which it was achieved.
Needs must – and Pompey came through with three points and a clean sheet at Bolton.
At the heart of it was Burgess, the Blues’ best defender by some distance this season, effortlessly seeing off the summer arrivals of Sean Raggett and Paul Downing to establish himself as first choice.
There was a time last season when the Checkatrade Trophy was supplementing his appearances, a fate he tackled without gripe or grumble.
This term, nobody has made as many League One outings, such has become his essential role in this Pompey team, even on occasions utilised out of position.
At Bolton, he also added an ingredient so glaringly absent during the current campaign – goals from the centre of defence.
It was approaching nine months since Burgess last scored, the moment arriving in April’s 3-2 home loss to Peterborough, incidentally also the last league defeat at Fratton Park.
In the subsequent 38 matches in all competitions, no centre-half had managed to net, a statistic met with growing criticism from an ever-concerned Jackett.
On Saturday, Burgess finished from close range in the 42nd minute after Sean Raggett’s header had initially been saved by keeper Remi Matthews.
Of the starting XI at the University of Bolton Stadium, just Ronan Curtis, Tom Naylor and Burgess were present on the pitch when a Blues central defender previously scored.
The team that day also consisted of Matt Clarke, Nathan Thompson and Jamal Lowe.
Still, Burgess banished that barren spell, with plenty of help from the free-kick delivered by Steve Seddon, the loan arrival from Birmingham who is rapidly proving to be a revelation.
Jackett himself has credited the left-back for the set-piece impact he has made since coming into the team at Fleetwood, a period which has added a new dimension to the Blues’ attacking threat.
It is difficult to see how either Brandon Haunstrup or Lee Brown, when declared fit, can find a way back into this side at left full-back, such has been Seddon’s impressive early impact.
Jackett does not shy from making big calls when the need arises, his latest being to omit Gareth Evans from Saturday’s match-day 18.
The return to fitness of Ryan Williams and current preference for John Marquis and Andy Cannon in the number 10 role ensured the long-serving midfielder wasn’t included on the bench.
Evans still travelled, along with Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, training with the team on Friday after journeying from the south coast. Brett Pitman and Paul Downing remained at home.
Marquis was the sole change to the side which beat AFC Wimbledon last weekend, replacing Cannon operating behind Ellis Harrison.
That 2-1 result marked a third-straight game in which the former Doncaster man had netted, earning him a swift recall for the trip to the north west.
As it was, Marquis found little joy on one of those occasions when nothing goes right for a footballer, even when later restored his natural – and best position – as a striker.
The summer acquisition wasn’t alone, Pompey’s performance deteriorated considerably in the second half, although Alex Bass was still rarely challenged by a Bolton side lacking a cutting edge.
The hosts will also feel aggrieved that Raggett was not shown a straight red card on 27 minutes when he mis-timed a tackle on Joe Dodoo outside the box as the attacker burst through.
Instead referee Tom Nield brandished a yellow, particularly lenient once replays are studied, suggesting Raggett is the last man, despite James Bolton attempting to cover.
By the end of the first half, Pompey had taken a lead which would prove unassailable and earn them a rare league away triumph.
In the aftermath, one Bolton fan accused Pompey of being the worst team to have played at the University of Bolton Stadium this season.
It was pointed out perhaps that mantle should go to the side which remain rooted to the foot of League One with four wins all season.
Still, few could have been transfixed by the Blues’ performance – yet it was mightily effective for a team striving to ramp up involvement in the promotion race.