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Late Winner Flattens The Iron
Portsmouth 2 Scunthorpe United 1
Wes Thomas scored an 89th minute winner as Pompey finally recorded a home win in the league. Just.
Yesterday's game wasn't for the purists or any fans of stout defending as there were mistakes aplenty in a bizarrely entertaining first half.
Scunthorpe took the lead just six minutes in as Pompey's run of dreadful defending continued. Jimmy Ryan easily took the ball down the left wing and squared it to an unmarked Leon Clarke who simply struck the ball past Mikkel Andersen for his fifth goal in as many games.
It didn't take long for Pompey to equalise as the visitors were just as inept as Pompey when it came to defending.
Brian Howard crossed into the box for Lubor Michalik to head the ball straight at keeper Sam Slocombe who parried the ball loose. Izale McLeod tried to follow up bit could only produce an air shot so it was left to Gabor Gyepes to charge in and blast the ball into the roof of the net from close range for the equaliser.
McLeod almost redeemed himself for that embarassing miss soon after as he cut inside and struck a curling shot that hit the crossbar. Andersen was kept busy at the other end, producing two good saves after the defence's lack of pace was exposed by the Scunthorpe attack.
The home side should have taken the lead late in the half when Thomas was hacked down just inside the box, but substitute keeper James Severn brilliantly saved Howard's penalty.
Pompey almost paid for that miss as Scunthorpe went straight down the other end and Leon Clarke hit the side netting with his strike when he probably should have scored.
The second half was not as exciting as the first. A drab affair was lightened up when substitute Ashley Harris took the ball past two Iron players and shot wide from distance.
Mustapha Dumbuya had a chance to win the game after he surged into the box with one his runs, but his shot was saved by Severn and it seemed like the game would end in a frustrating draw.
However, Howard dinked a beautiful cross into the box and debutante Thomas was able to bundle the ball in from all of two yards to score the crucial winning goal.
McLeod could have made absolutely sure of the victory in stoppage time when he was clear through on goal after doing the hard work and beating a defender, but his shot cannoned off the post.
It didn't matter though, as the final whistle confirmed a much needed three points for Pompey, even if the quality of the match and the opposition wasn't particularly good.
Michael Appleton deserves some credit as an early tactical change paid dividends. Jon Harley made way for Harris and the back four was shuffled, with Webster and Dumbuya on the flanks providing much better cover.
The manager also got lucky with the ineffective Russell limping off and replacing him with Johnny Ertl, whose prescence in the centre of the park shored things up and made Pompey more solid.
Thomas worked hard and hopefully that goal will give him some confidence, whilst McLeod was unlucky not to score but did look good with the ball at his feet.
There is still much work for the coaching staff to do, though. Especially at the back where Pompey still look vulnerable, especially when it is up against players with pace.
But "a win is a win" as they say and it gives Appy and his team something to build on ahead of Tuesday's trip to Yeovil.
Pompey Player Ratings
Mikkel Andersen: 6 - A couple of good saves.
Adam Webster: 6 - Solid enough.
Gabor Gyepes: 7 - Maybe should be converted to a striker after another goal today?
Lubor Michalik: 5 - Struggled to cope with pace.
Jon Harley: 4 - Ripped apart at times in the first half.
Mustapha Dumbuya: 7 - Showed plenty of skill and willingness to run.
Brian Howard: 6 - Mixed game having produced a couple of great crosses but missed a penalty.
Darel Russell: 5 - Still unsure what he actually brings to the team.
Lee Williamson: 5 - Still not seen his best.
Wes Thomas: 7 - Hard work rewarded with late winner.
Izale McLeod: 6 - Unlucky not to score.
Johnny Ertl (Russell 67): 7 - Strengthened the midfield.
Ashley Harris (Harley 58): 6 - Looked lively at times.
Jordan Obita (Thomas 92): N/A - Time wasting sub.
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