Portsmouth 2 Lincoln 1: Neil Allen's verdict - A day of rare perfection as unified Blues inspire on and off the pitch

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It was a day of rare perfection, a football club unified as it toasted the past and embraced the future.

While the Fratton faithful did a club legend proud off the pitch, thankfully those on it also rose to the occasion as John Mousinho’s man brushed off their first challenge as League One leaders.

Having claimed four points on last week’s travels against promotion contenders Derby and Barnsley, it was back to Fratton Park on a glorious September afternoon.

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Proceedings began by honouring Jimmy Dickinson, with the unveiling of a £120,000 statue, a project spearheaded by the Pompey Supporters’ Trust and funded entirely by the fans.

The classy work of award-winning sculptor Douglas Jennings was universally applauded by those present at the unveiling at its new home in the vicinity of the North Stand, likewise subsequent latecomers to the nostalgic party.

Certainly there was a tangible feelgood factor pre-match and, come the final whistle, the bulk of a sell-out home crowd were boldly singing of promotion after nine league fixtures.

Unquestionably it was a mighty good day to be a Pompey supporter – and a Blues player for that matter.

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No moaning or chuntering after the hosts conceded a fourth minute goal to Lincoln, instead unflinching backing rewarded by a 90-minute team display which left those in attendance feeling a little more reassured over this side's potential.

Regan Poole's Pompey team-mates celebrate his winner against former club Lincoln. Picture: Barry Zee,Regan Poole's Pompey team-mates celebrate his winner against former club Lincoln. Picture: Barry Zee,
Regan Poole's Pompey team-mates celebrate his winner against former club Lincoln. Picture: Barry Zee,

Granted, Will Norris’ brilliant point-blank save from Paudie O’Connor’s header deep into time added-on prevented the Imps claiming an ill-deserved point at Fratton Park.

Nonetheless, the 2-1 victory was Pompey’s and the overall showing convincing as last Tuesday's newly-crowned league leaders secured their place at the top for another week at least.

Mousinho’s weren’t as fluid as that first half at Barnsley, the crispness to their play largely missing, too many heavy touches, ponderous moments, and a suggestion of tired legs.

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There was a distinct lethargy around the performances of several on display, perhaps understandable following gruelling exploits during the previous seven days, including those lengthy trips on the M1.

Still, Pompey dominated possession and, aside from the early opener and a late threat posed by Mark Kennedy's men, remained fully in control of matters, buoyed by clutching a half-time lead.

Encouragingly, there were also tantalising glimpses of a team which can be genuine promotion candidates, with several excellent passages of play daring to offer hope.

Leading the way was the flourishing Paddy Lane, whose eighth-minute equaliser represented goals in successive matches, while his displays are continuing to build in effectiveness.

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He was comfortably the pick of the attacking players against the Imps, a fact recognised by the home faithful who gave the exhausted Irishman an ovation when he left the pitch on 87 minutes.

The recalled Abu Kamara and Manchester City loanee Alex Robertson lacked a little spark and decent end product on this occasion, yet fellow youngster Lane is growing with each game.

Throw in Anthony Scully’s ongoing injury issue and Gavin Whyte’s frustrating form and the former Fleetwood man is rapidly developing into a key performer in this Mousinho side.

Hakeeb Adelakun had given Lincoln the lead when he finished off the returning Reeco Hackett’s pass, yet it was Jack Sparkes carelessly getting caught in possession by Lasse Sorensen which created the opening.

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Then, within four minutes, during a penalty box raid, Robertson fed Lane, who was allowed to take several touches before squeezing a left-footed shot into the net for an eighth-minute leveller.

Subsequently, what would prove to be the winner arrived in first-half stoppage time when Sparkes, in for the injured Connor Ogilvie at left-back, crossed from the left and Regan Poole headed home to make it 2-1.

For all their possession, the Blues rarely troubled the visitors after that, despite the best attempts of Lane from the right wing and the promptings of the impressive Joe Morrell in the centre of the park.

Crucially, though, it wasn’t until the dying minutes when Lincoln mustered up a meaningful attacking moment – and even then Norris was equal to O’Connor’s header.

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Now 20 league fixtures unbeaten, Pompey’s latest win, albeit not as eye-catching as Barnsley, positions them one point clear of Oxford United at the table’s summit.

And suddenly on and off the pitch, everything about the Blues in this 125th year of existence is looking extremely heartening.