Portsmouth keeper’s mentality augurs well for promotion run-in – but left wing becoming a slight concern
Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey’s 1-1 draw at Sunderland...
MacGILLIVRAY MENTALITY AUGURS WELL
There wasn’t a supporter of either side inside the Stadium of Light who couldn’t appreciate Craig MacGillivray’s performance.
The Pompey keeper delivered without doubt his best and most important display since his arrival from Shrewsbury last summer.
Four key saves ensured Kenny Jackett’s troops returned to Fratton Park with a point and remain in the race for automatic promotion.
Alert from the outset, MacGillivray acrobatically kept out Lewis Morgan’s overhead-kick in the fourth minute, tipping the Sunderland forward’s effort on to the post.
Before half-time, Charlie Wyke thought he’d regained the hosts the lead, yet the ex-Walsall man spread his legs to adeptly thwart the effort.
Max Power’s shot in the second half was the easiest of MacGillivray’s four superb saves. However, it was still no mean feat to push the ball out of harm’s way and around the post.
And MacGillivray’s most crucial save arrived with five minutes remaining when he improvised by using his bicep to steer Will Grigg’s poked effort from close range on to the woodwork.
MacGillivray’s Sunderland counterpart, Jon McLaughlin, is currently in the Scotland squad.
It’s a shame there’s no boss currently in the hot seat across the border.
It would have been a chance for the manager to run the rule over two Scottish keepers – one of which surely is on the radar of his country.
With two games remaining, MacGillivray has underlined he’s capable of not only performing under pressure but delivering match-winning performances.
That sort of mentality is going to be needed if the Blues are to be promoted.
In the past four games, something of an issue on the left wing has cropped up.
Right-winger Jamal Lowe was in superb form at Sunderland, especially in the first half, and scored his 17th goal of the season when he stabbed home in the 24th minute.
Ronan Curtis on the opposite flank, however, struggled to seriously stamp his authority on the game and was replaced by Gareth Evans on 66 minutes.
The Irishman was rewarded with a start after making an impact coming off the bench in victories against Burton and Coventry over the Easter weekend.
Yet Curtis was subdued against the Black Cats, while Evans had few opportunities to conjure up goalscoring opportunities.
The vice-skipper was also fairly quiet against Coventry, before he was substituted for Curtis at half-time.
Heading into the Peterborough clash, Kenny Jackett has to decide who he feels will give Pompey the biggest attacking threat down the left-hand side.
Evans and Curtis are both contenders, but after long seasons they may need some respite – especially if Pompey are to go into the play-offs.
That could well see Viv Solomon-Otabor given an opportunity against the Posh.
The Birmingham loanee hasn’t featured for more than a month following a calf problem, but Jackett may feel it’s time to hand a fresh Solomon-Otabor his chance.
THE INTRIGUING SUB-PLOT
It was the sub-plot of a heavyweight clash that proved just as intriguing to watch.
Nathan Thompson was tasked with marking Aiden McGeady for the third time this season.
After a heated battle in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley, the pair again went hammer and tongs against each other.
Both were fired up for the duel and had their moments.
A full-blooded challenge near the corner flag earned Thompson a yellow card in the first half – despite appearing to win the ball first.
At that point, McGeady had already been booked for a late tackle on Tom Naylor in the fourth minute.
Again, the skirmish proved to be a stalemate and they could potentially meet for a fourth time in the play-offs next month.
Nevertheless, Thompson’s duel with McGeady is a good warm up ahead of marking two of Peterborough’s most potent threats.
Siriki Dembele and Marcus Maddison operate down the wings for Darren Ferguson’s side.
They’re two tricky customers who will need to be nullified to prevent the Posh from scoring.
Thompson’s aggressive defending and tight marking will again be on show against the pair.