Portsmouth back to their ‘average’ best as keeper reminds Shrewsbury of his quality
Sports writer Will Rooney assesses the talking points from Pompey’s 2-0 victory over Shrewsbury
POMPEY BACK TO AVERAGE BEST
Average Pompey was the moniker given to Kenny Jackett’s troops by opposition supporters during the first half of the season.
When the Blues set the pace in League One, they didn’t blow teams away with swashbuckle and bravado.
Bar the exception of wins over Oxford and Plymouth, the majority of Pompey’s victories close games that they edged.
The cornerstone to the Blues’ success was their defensive resolve, showing their steel and mettle to keep clean sheets.
That gave Jackett’s forwards the platform to hit teams on the counter and be clinical in the final third.
By the Pompey boss’ own admission, his side have conceded too many goals since the turn of the year.
The Blues’ goal difference compared to their promotion rivals underlines this.
But Jackett’s toops looked their old selves against Shrewsbury. Average Pompey were back.
Sam Ricketts’ side dominated the opening half-hour at New Meadow but Jackett’s troops failed to be breached.
It took a superb stop from Craig MacGillivray to deny Shaun Whalley’s effort, while Lee Brown made an excellent last-ditch block to deny Ollie Norburn.
And while Pompey didn’t create a plethora of goalscoring opportunities, they ensured they were ruthless when they did come around.
After a spell of pressure, Ben Close displayed good technique to get over the ball and open the scoring the 40th minute.
The three points were then wrapped up when the Blues took advantage of a Shrewsbury defensive mix-up, with Brett Pitman and Oli Hawkins combining well before the latter slotted home 11 minutes from full-time.
Everyone knows how shrewd a signing Craig MacGillivray has proved.
Despite not having 30 Football League appearances under his belt before the start of the season, the keeper has been top class throughout Pompey’s promotion push.
And on his return to the club he departed for Fratton Park, MacGillivray gave the Shrews a remainder of his quality.
The save the Scot made to deny Whalley in the 16th minute was nothing short of top class.
Struck hard and low, MacGillivray had to swiftly react to not just get down to his right but get a strong glove to repel the effort.
He also made several astute claims to snaffle up Shrewsbury corners and free-kicks.
A 16th clean sheet of the campaign was MacGillivray’s reward for a fine performance, as Salop fans likely rued Shrewsbury were unable to keep hold of him last summer.
Surely the 26-year-old will be eyeing 20 shutouts for the season.
Omar Bogle has made a good impression since arriving on loan from Cardiff City in January, netting four goals so far.
But it wasn’t his day at New Meadow.
Starved of service in the opening 30 minutes, Bogle’s touch and hold-up play left a lot to be desired when he did start seeing the ball.
A yellow card for a foul on Scott Golbourne from the marksman seemingly stemmed from frustration.
Two minutes later, Bogle was replaced by Oli Hawkins.
As soon as the former Dagenham & Redbridge man was introduced, he made a significant difference.
Hawkins was able to cause problems for Shrewsbury’s three-man defence, with his physicality and ability to get the ball to stick allowing the Blues to get runners in behind.
The 26-year-old was also a goalscoring threat, seeing one effort loop onto the crossbar, while Shrews keeper made an excellent save to deny his header from close range.
And it was Hawkins’ deft ball across the face of goal which allowed Pitman to finish home from close range to wrap up the three points.
Having not started Pompey’s past three games, he’s put himself firmly in the reckoning to feature against Sunderland at Wembley.