Lincoln 0 Portsmouth 2 - Neil Allen's verdict: Season threatening to become something special after seventh straight win
The notable names of Sunderland, Fleetwood, Sunderland, Blackpool, Peterborough and Ipswich have all perished at Sincil Bank this season.
Not Pompey, though. Not at this moment in time, not with this side.
Maybe earlier in the season, possibly even last month when the Blues were losing heavily at Accrington and MK Dons. But not now.
Such has been Kenny Jackett’s remarkable transformation of this Pompey team, last night they broke into the top six for the first time this season.
A 2-0 success at a bitterly cold Lincoln was secured through goals from in-form pair and leading scorers Ronan Curtis and John Marquis.
In the process, it represented a seventh straight win in all competitions, while extended an outstanding run to two defeats in the past 22 fixtures.
Most crucial of all, Pompey have now entered the top six, now six points adrift of leaders Rotherham with two matches in hand.
Once Curtis’ free-kick handed Jackett’s men the advantage in first-half stoppage-time, the visitors showed their class to claim a fully-deserved win.
Marquis’ penalty following a foul on Steve Seddon three minutes from time confirmed the outcome, yet Lincoln can have no complaints.
The semi-finals of the Leasing.com Trophy, the fifth round of the FA Cup and now fully-fledged automatic promotion contenders – the season is threatening to become something special.
Jackett named an unchanged side following Pompey’s impressive 4-2 FA Cup success over Barnsley at the weekend.
That meant Ben Close retaining his place ahead of the returning Cameron McGeehan, who was unable to face his parent club on Saturday.
There was also a show of faith in Andy Cannon, so often omitted from this team, yet again entrusted with the number-10 role.
On the bench, Lee Brown was back following last month’s Achilles operation, with Ross McCrorie also marking an injury return following hamstring trouble.
With McGeehan also among the substitutes, there was no room for Gareth Evans, who had travelled with the squad to Lincoln.
In addition, Oli Hawkins and Brandon Haunstrup had been left at home on the south coast, along with usual suspects Brett Pitman and Paul Downing.
Lincoln kicked the game off and, within the opening two minutes, Jorge Grant lofted a cross from the left on top of the Blues’ net, with Alex Bass backpeddling.
Apart from an intriguing singing battle between both sets of noisy supporters, there was little to excite during the game’s early parts, with the sides evenly matched.
Neither team were making inroads in the opposition’s penalty area, sloppy in possession, resulting in a tight affair and little creativity amid the cold Lincolnshire air.
Pompey did at least get the ball into the Imps’ penalty area on 17 minutes through Seddon’s lofted free-kick from within his own half, but keeper Josh Vickers made a tremendous take.
The visitors gifted Lincoln a counter-attack on 24 minutes following Marquis’ poor attempted lay-off after Close slid the ball inside to him.
The errant pass allowed the Imps to break and eventually Tyreece John-Jules blasted a shot over Bass’ bar.
Neal Eardley collected the game’s first booking on 24 minutes following a lunge on Marquis as the striker moved to pass the ball.
Then Christian Burgess superbly read a home attack to intercept and threaded a ball through to Cannon, who charged forward and shaped to shoot from distance.
However, his attempt ricocheted off a defender and then into his nether regions, leaving the midfielder rolling around in agony and requiring treatment from Bobby Bacic.
The move of the game so far occurred on 37 minutes through good work between Ryan Williams and Cannon down the right.
The latter wriggled into the box and squared to Close, whose shot was almost turned home by Marquis’ stooping header, yet flew wide. Although the linesman’s flag was raised against the striker.
Close earned a booking on 40 minutes following an ill-timed slide challenge on Joe Morrell, ending a bright charge forward from the Imps midfielder.
During four minutes of time added on, the Blues had their first attempt of the game, with Curtis shooting wildly right-footed from inside the box.
Late pressure continued, with Cannon’s fierce left-foot shot blocked, then Seddon crucially brought down just outside the box as he cut inside from the left.
Close and Seddon gathered over the free-kick before peeling off, leaving Curtis to strike a wonderful right-footed effort past Vickers to make it 1-0.
Following the break, and blessed with the lead, Pompey were demonstrating patience on the ball, in no hurry to drive the game.
Although Cannon did pick the ball up off Williams and rifle a rising shot from 25 yards narrowly over the bar and into the Blues’ away followers.
There was a scare on 52 minutes when Tom Hopper turned Raggett inside out down the left and pulled the ball back to the unmarked John-Jules, who blazed a first-time shot over the bar.
Pompey’s first corner of the game arrived on 55 minutes, delivered by Seddon, header over at the far post by Curtis.
John Marquis was booked on 58 minutes after taking out left-back Max Melbourne off the ball.
The lead was still slender and Marquis’ clever header into the path of Seddon sent the left-footer racing through, only for his angled drive to be saved by the keeper.
Unfortunately the ball wouldn’t fall kindly to those following up and nobody of Pompey persuasion could take advantage.
Then Curtis cut inside with the goal to aim for, only to smash a right-footed shot high and wide into the crowd.
Jackett made his first change on 76 minutes, with Cannon replaced by McGeehan.
Then, on 86 minutes, Seddon was brought down as charged into the box for an obvious penalty, Marquis finishing from the spot low to the keeper’s bottom right.
Curtis almost made it three, only for Vickers to deflect his attempt wide a point-blank range, but there could be no criticism.
Pompey had their 2-0 victory - and sixth spot for the first time this season.