Crewe 1 Portsmouth 3: Jordan Cross' verdict with Cowley at the wheel as play-off bandwagon accelerates

It’s been billed as the week on the road which will reveal whether Pompey have any top six hopes to speak of this season.

By Jordan Cross
Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 11:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 4:57 pm

With eyes on his team selection, Danny Cowley’s steady hand at the wheel saw the play-off bandwagon continue to accelerate at Crewe.

A sixth win in seven was never in doubt as the Blues closed the gap to five points - putting the prospect of the season being extended firmly back on the agenda with 11 games to go.

It was a 3-1 success achieved with Pompey looking the sum of their cohesive parts and their season now well and truly motoring.

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Pompey celebrate Tyler Walker's goal at Crewe tonight (Photo by Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com)

With in-form Aiden O’Brien left on the bench along with Saturday’s man of the match, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Cowley knew he freshened his line-up amid an intensive programme with changes which would be under the microscope.

It was a move which reaped dividends, allowing batteries to recharge as their red flights began to flicker in this slimline squad.

Pompey came away with Hirst adding two more headers to his fast-growing collection, with his goal run now reading six and six, while Walker opened his own account at the 10th time of asking. Crucially there were no new names on the injury list to speak of.

Tougher challenges lie in wait, of course, than an opponent who looked every inch the condemned outfit they will become.

But wherever this season ends up, there’s a feelgood factor back in Pompey’s campaign once more - and what’s not to enjoy about that?

After the farcical events of two-and-a-half weeks ago, the first cause for celebration was to see a game take place at all, in east Cheshire.

Those who were present to see Martin Coy’s perplexing decision to postpone the fixture an hour before kick-off back then, were quick to note the Gresty Road pitch was in worse condition for Pompey’s return than 3pm on that occasion.

Still, the 1000-plus hardy fans spread across the Ice Cream Van Stand had actually made it into the ground this time and were intent on making themselves heard long before the action was underway.

And it didn’t take the travelling blue army long to really raise the decibels - thanks to a player in irresistible form.

Hirst’s ninth goal of the season owed everything to the tenacity of Joe Morrell to snare the ball from Crewe’s Regan Griffiths, and then the calm delivery of Connor Ogilvie from Ronan Curtis’ through ball.

Once the defender’s centre found the right area to attack the outcome was never in doubt, as the Leicester City loanee feasted on the invite with the glee of man at the top of his game - powering home an unstoppable header.

Chris Long saw a glimpse snuffed out by Sean Raggett, but Crewe’s brittle confidence should have been broken into pieces in the 13th minute by Walker.

Ronan Curtis earned himself a shot at goal after being fouled 25 yards out, and his deviating hit could only be spilled into the path of the Coventry loanee for the kind of gift-wrapped chance to open his Blues account which is never likely to be bettered. The striker, however, could only tamely fire into Richards’ arms.

There are few if any Pompey players performing as consistently as Ogilvie in recent months, and he once more showed his defensive quality with a tackle which needed to be spot on as Dan Agyei rampaged into the penalty area.

The execution was everything we’re coming to expect of the Gillingham arrival, as he slid in with inch-perfect precision to snaffle the ball away from the nippy Crewe wide man.

And finally we could say the same for Walker, with his Pompey goal account opened at the 10th time of asking in the 31st minute.

It was Raggett’s presence in the box which caused panic to set in to Crewe’s leaky defence, enough for the striker to ghost in untracked and apply the final touch when the defender’s initial effort was saved.

That was the cue for a full rendition of promotion chants to rolled out as the Pompey jamboree continued in the away end, with Cowley’s team purring as Curtis slammed a 20 yarder a whisker wide just before the break.

The feelgood is certainly back in Pompey’s season and it was almost lifted another notch with an outrageous piece of impudence from Ogilvie 11 minutes after the restart.

Curtis’ free-kick sizzled across the face of goal, but was nonchalantly flicked over the defender’s own head in one movement before a volley was unleashed which would have settled the goal of the season argument on the spot had Richards not batted away his drive.

The keeper had no such luck as he was left grasping at fresh air in the 66th minute, as Hirst added to his account with the kind of header which is fast becoming his trademark from Ogilvie’s centre.

A late melee saw Connor O’Riordan’s effort hit the bar before Gavin Bazunu's stoppage-time gaffe saw the gloss taken off the win as Chris Long's shot squirmed through his legs.

But 17 days' later at Crewe, it was worth the wait to see another upbeat chapter added to a Pompey season now firmly in the fast lane.