Portsmouth 1 Exeter City 0: Fratton faithful give fearsome response as early-season belief in Mousinho era grows

Joe Rafferty stressed the importance of the Pompey faithful's contribution to this season’s quest to finally reach the Championship.
Colby Bishop got the decisive goal against Exeter in front of Sky cameras tonight.Colby Bishop got the decisive goal against Exeter in front of Sky cameras tonight.
Colby Bishop got the decisive goal against Exeter in front of Sky cameras tonight.

In front of the Sky cameras and against the side where it all started for John Mousinho, they gave their unequivocal and fearsome response.

On a night where patience was the valued commodity against an Exeter side who were second best but nonetheless stubborn in their resistance, Fratton Park showed their players how they respond when they see the basic qualities they demand from their team.

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Cheered off at the break after a first period of dominance, the majority of the 17,592 present were forced to wait for a tangible award for Pompey’s high-tempo forward-thinking play.

Their response was to increasingly turn up the volume until the moment of reckoning arrived, via the unerring finishing of Colby Bishop 20 minutes from time.

It saw the early-season positivity grow further as Pompey moved fourth in the formative League One table.

The big team news was the sight of Alex Robertson in the starting XI, after two very impressive Pompey cameos.

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He was one of two changes with Anthony Scully returning as Christian Saydee and Abu Kamara dropped to the bench.

There was the pleasing sight of Danny Cowley being warmly received as he made his first return to Fratton Park, since his January exit.

He made time for fans and youngsters as the former Pompey boss carried out media duties.

Some of the post-match talk at Leyton Orient focussed on the need for ongoing support from the Fratton faithful this season. The home crowd were certainly doing their bit early on as PO4 rocked to the sound of the Chimes.

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The intensity of Pompey’s pressing only served to raise the decibels, as Anthony Scully and Connor Ogilvie’s pressing nearly forced an early opening.

Exeter’s first effort arrived in the ninth minute, but was an extremely wayward 20 yarder from Jack Aitchison.

There was a purpose and confidence to Pompey’s passing early on as they maintained dominance of the ball.

That was seen in the 16th minute as Rafferty charged down the right and produced a telling cross, which was put behind for a corner. Scully’s delivery was a poor one, however, and easily cleared.

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Bishop then angled a shot at Viljami Sinisalo three minutes later, as the Pompey pressure continued.

A nice piece of trickery from Robertson then brought half-hearted appeals for a penalty as he tangled with Zak Jules, which ref Tom Reeves correctly waved away.

Conor Shaughnessy was then forced to concede a corner under pressure from James Scott, which prompted a flurry of Exeter pressure Pompey stood firm to.

Robertson’s drive then saw him craft the best opening so far, as he dropped a shoulder and drove forward - forcing Sinisalo to dive full length to his right to keep out his 25 yarder.

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Bishop then almost profited from his never-say-die attitude as he charged down Sinisalo, but the ricochet of the ball was off target.

Pompey fans were liking what they saw , however, as their team played at a high tempo, with Poole flying into tackles and then Ogilvie blitzing an angled 20 yarder which Sinisalo did well to equal.

A rare mistake from Robertson saw the ball gifted to Exeter, with Dion Rankine allowed to charge through the middle and fire at Will Norris.

But normal service then resumed as Rafferty’s pass was eventually worked to Bishop whose shot was at Sinisalo.

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Alex Hartridge then became the evening’s first booking for illegally ending Gavin Whyte’s run down the right.

Rafferty’s ball into the corridor of uncertainty failed to get a blue touch home and finished just the wrong side of the post for Pompey. Then Robertson drew applause for a 20 yarder which whistled inches wide in the final action of the half

The Pompey charge continued after the restart, as Robertson charged forward but Scully couldn’t quite bring the pass under his spell.

Poole then picked up the Blues’ first caution after mistiming his tackle on Demetri Mitchell.

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Whyte couldn’t guide the ball home with a decent connection from 12 yards from Rafferty’s headed cross after 59 minutes

Bishop was then immediately upended, allowing Robertson to whistle a 25-yard free-kick inches over the bar and into the Fratton End.

Exeter then served warning they were still in the game when Zak Jules was given a free header in the six-yard box. Thankfully it was straight at Norris.

The moment Pompey had been waiting for arrived with 20 minutes - and it had to be the Magic Man.

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Jack Sparkes had been on the pitch for moments when he found the pass to free Bishop, who spun and found his poise - before absolutely blitzing home his 15-yard finish.

It proved the game’s defining attacking moment as Pompey saw things home, but it still required a save of phenomenal agility from Norris to deny Pierre Sweeney at the start of nine minutes of stoppage time.

It meant that 206 days on from his first Pompey game in charge, Mousinho found another win against the Grecians - one to make it 15 games unbeaten across the end of last season and the start of this term.

More importantly it’s got Blues fans looking forward with a renewed optimism at this season’s possibilities.