Portsmouth 1 Lincoln 0: Neil Allen's verdict - Hardly vintage but win offers vital building block

John Marquis wheels away after netting the winner against Lincoln
John Marquis wheels away after netting the winner against Lincoln
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Following the game’s decisive moment, the Fratton End raised a smile.

‘We are staying up,’ they sang, with tongues firmly planted in cheeks.

Tom Naylor and Ross McCrorie look relieved after the final whistle against Lincoln

Tom Naylor and Ross McCrorie look relieved after the final whistle against Lincoln

Classic black humour from a supporter base who watched in horror as their pre-season promotion hopefuls lurk one point above the relegation zone.

In the process, Kenny Jackett has found his position come under increasing pressure from an alienated Blues faithful.

But, on 28 minutes against Lincoln last night, Gareth Evans’ free-kick from the right was met with a powerful Christian Burgess header.

Keeper Josh Vickers did well to keep the ball out but there was John Marquis to end 10 matches without a goal and bundle home the match-winner.

It was enough to secure victory upon the return of former boss Michael Appleton – and provide a little relief for the current incumbent.

Pompey were never entirely convincing in claiming the three points.

Confidence is brittle and belief somewhat lacking, despite the home support firmly behind them.

There were nervy moments too, certainly the outcome was not as comfortable as the Fratton Park scoreline suggested.

Nonetheless, with a positive result essential against visitors with two victories in their previous 14 fixtures, that is entirely what Jackett’s men achieved.

Requiring an upturn in fortune to finally begin the clamber up the League One table, the Blues’ 1-0 triumph can be regarded as an important first step and should be applauded.

Granted, it wasn’t entirely convincing but the Blues put in excellent endeavour, demonstrated plenty of heart and got their just rewards under the Fratton Park lights.

Amid the circumstances, it was welcome – a fourth win in the past 17 league and play-off matches. A semblance of hope had been provided.

There was applause at the final whistle, not a boo to be heard, as the home support among the 17,266 crowd appreciated the effort of their players.

An important win for Pompey, who moved up to 16th. And a vital one for the under-fire Jackett, as he strives to turn around the worrying malaise.

The Blues boss had made one change to the side which lost 1-0 at AFC Wimbledon at the weekend, with Ross McCrorie recalled.

The Scotland under-21 international was asked to replace James Bolton at right-back, marking a return to the starting line-up after almost five weeks.

The Rangers loanee last lined up for the Blues against Burton Albion in mid-September, reflecting his struggle to break into Jackett’s team.

However, he was handed an opportunity against Appleton’s Imps, with Bolton dropping to the bench having started the past five league fixtures.

Elsewhere, Brett Pitman (groin) was again ruled out, along with Oli Hawkins, Jack Whatmough and Bryn Morris.

The visitors kicked off, yet it was Pompey who rattled off two early attempts – testing keeper Josh Vickers, albeit giving him little trouble.

The first was Ryan Williams’ spin and shot, straight at the keeper, while Marquis struck a half-volley after taking the ball on his chest. Again it was on target but comfortably dealt with.

Lincoln, however, had a great opportunity on six minutes when Michael O’Connor’s free-kick from the right found the unmarked Callum Connolly but he could only plant his header wide.

Then Bruno Andrade’s fierce right-footed effort from outside the box was acrobatically tipped around the post by Craig MacGillivray.

From the resulting corner, delivered from the right, a scramble ensued – MacGillivray firstly parrying an attempt before grasping the ball underneath the bar as it pinged around.

It was developing into an open affair and, when Evans whipped a low cross in from the right, the slide of Marquis pushed it agonisingly the wrong side of the post.

The deadlock was broken on 28 minutes in Pompey’s favour.

McCrorie won a free-kick down the right, which was subsequently delivered into the box by Evans and met with a powerful Burgess header at the far post.

Keeper Vickers produced a low dive to his left to keep it out but there was Marquis to nudge it home for his third of the season.

With half-time approaching, Williams felt he should have won a free-kick after a tug from Andrade.

Yet it wasn’t forthcoming, the Lincoln man instead pushing forward to power a shot straight at MacGillivray.

Within 48 seconds of the second half kicking off, Sean Raggett became the first player to be booked following a clumsy challenge on Tyler Walker.

Williams then crashed a first-time shot on the run into the Fratton End after Marcus Harness had cleverly knocked the ball through to provide a decent opportunity.

At the other end, the Blues suffered a scare when Andrade burst down the left and delivered an excellent cross which John Akinde somehow missed, allowing Lee Brown to mop up at the far post.

Walker then fizzed in a low, bouncing cross from the right which MacGillivray had to scoop away, with McCrorie completing the clearance for a corner.

The visitors were enjoying their best spell of the match, putting Pompey’s penalty area under sustained pressure, yet could find no way through.

On 65 minutes, Evans’ deep free-kick from the right was met by a Burgess header which was thwarted on the line by the Lincoln keeper as bodies dived in.

Moments later, Jackett made his first substitution – Harness withdrawn for Ronan Curtis on the left flank.

The Blues stepped up following the introduction of the Irishman and they began to impose themselves on the match, although McCrorie did blaze a left-footed chance well over.

Nerves began to creep in with the finishing line in sight – with the addition of four minutes certainly not helping matters – but Pompey eased their way through to the full-time whistle.

How Jackett needed a win and his Blues side maintained their unbeaten home form by securing a timely three points.

Now Pompey and their manager must build on that positive at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.