Portsmouth selections vindicated, Scotland given a reminder and a moment of class

Sports writer Will Rooney picks the bones of the three main talking points in Pompey’s 1-0 victory at Oxford United last night.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 6:00 am
Goal, Oxford United 0-1 Portsmouth, Harvey White of Portsmouth scores during the EFL Sky Bet League 1 match between Oxford United and Portsmouth at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford, England on 23 February 2021.

Team selection vindicated

Against the backdrop of successive defeats, Kenny Jackett was always going to shake up his starting XI at the Kassam.

However, when Pompey's team was announced an hour before kick-off, there were significant sections of fans in disagreement.

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Yet with three points yielded, the Blues boss' brave calls were vindicated.

John Marquis was dropped to the bench, despite being Pompey's top goalscorer.

However, his replacement Ellis Harrison pestered Oxford's centre-backs all evening – as did Ronan Curtis, who was handed a start leading the line rather than his usual position on the left-wing.

Instead of Curtis, it was Harvey White who lined-up on the left, with Ryan Williams also losing his starting spot. The Spurs loanee netted the only goal of the game.

Meanwhile, Lee Brown's leadership at the back was pivotal and something Pompey have missed.

Despite Charlie Daniels being a Premier League player for five seasons prior to this campaign, Brown added the commanding voice that's been missing.

The one selection decision supporters were most disappointed about was Jack Whatmough again only being named as a substitute.

However, Sean Raggett and Rasmus Nicolaisen were assured and yielded a deserved clean sheet.

A moment of quality

In their sixth meeting in the past two seasons, these two foes know all too well about each other's strengths and weaknesses.

The past five encounters ended in draws, with only penalties separating them in last campaign's play-offs.

And in the lastest showdown, there again wasn't too much between Pompey and Oxford.

However, a real moment of quality proved the difference as the Blues earned a Kassam Stadium victory for the first time since 2014.

Harvey White's 48th-minute header was a goal worthy of winning any game.

Callum Johnson's first-time cross had the right pace, whip and accuracy to invite the Tottenham loanee an opportunity.

When he saw the ball floated into the area, White only had one thought - to be brave, get across his man and make a true connection with his effort.

The result ended in his header finding the far corner, leaving home keeper Jack Stevens with no chance.

Mac to the rescue

Before the game entered stoppage-time, Craig MacGillivray had had a quiet evening in the Pompey net.

However, in the dying embers, Oxford's attack burst into life in search for an equaliser - yet the Scot refused to be breached.

MacGillivray made three fine saves to ensure Pompey returned down the A34 with a much-needed victory.

The first was a long-range effort from Anthony Forde that he thwarted to his left.

Moments later, Olamide Shodipo burst through on goal only for MacGillivray to alertly race off his line and make himself big.

Yet the best came last when Elliot Moore surely thought he'd grabbed the U's a point with a looping header.

However, MacGillivray back-peddled and tipped clear at full stretch.

It was the ex-Shrewsbury man at his very best and has surely given Scotland boss Steve Clarke something to ponder ahead of next month’s international break.