Well, what a win! We don’t do things the easy way, do we? Doing the double over Sunderland but losing without scoring in two games against Rochdale and Shrewsbury in between. When we raise our games against the top sides, we look one of the best sides in the division, but we just seem to let ourselves down when the onus is on us – particularly at home. That will be the case for the final games, as Saturday’s visit to Northampton is followed by home games against Doncaster and relegated Bristol Rovers. We’re in the mix, and that’s all you can ask for!
- Sullay’s strike
It has to be one of our best for the season. The ball came in from a corner, was headed out to the edge of the box and Sullay Kaikai blasted past Lee Burge and into the back of the net. While last week’s winner from Luke Garbutt was scrappy, that winning goal was simply sublime. We all know Sullay has it in his locker and he’s been able to show his capabilities on an increasingly consistent basis in recent weeks. Hopefully the knock he picked up which resulted in his substitution doesn’t keep him out for the remaining games.
2. The team selection
Critchley was backed into a corner with Elliot Embleton unavailable for selection against his parent club, which meant Critch switched things up and dropped Ellis Simms for James Husband, shifted Garbutt forwards and put Kaikai in behind Yates. The gameplan was clearly about nullifying their threat from out wide and stopping the crosses at source. Grant Ward, Kenny Dougall and Sullay Kaikai were particularly good tonight in midfield.
3. Late comebacks
Pompey thought they’d won at Accrington when John Marquis scored to put them 3-2 up on 91 minutes, but then he scored at the other end and it finished 3-3. That means we’re fifth, with a game in hand on Portsmouth and Oxford. Then Crewe equalised at Charlton, meaning we’re three points clear of seventh place. If they’d both won, the pressure would be massively on, but now it remains in our own hands as we go into the final three games.
4. Strength in depth
Kevin Stewart returned to the bench, alongside Ellis Simms, Marvin Ekpiteta, Jordan Gabriel, Demetri Mitchell and Brad Holmes, as well as sub keeper Stuart Moore. We had options across the pitch for the first time in weeks, meaning Critchley could switch things up however he deemed fit.
Another couple of crucial saves from captain marvel. What about that one in injury time? I love his subtle timewasting from a winning position which has earned us plenty of points this season, and even more so his vital saves at vital moments. He’ll surely be in the running for Player of the Year. What a keeper!
- A big empty stadium
Whether it was the lack of commentary for the first five minutes or the sheer size of the Stadium of Light, the match felt like it lacked an atmosphere even during the COVID era.
2. Sullay’s injury
It wasn’t exactly clear whether Kaikai had a tear or a knock, but hopefully it was just precautionary given the congested fixture schedule. It’s a shame for him and for us, because he was really coming into his own in this one after his thunderous strike.
3. No goal for Jerry
It’s no goals in six now for the main man. That’s the longest spell since his first 11 games in tangerine which were goalless. Fortunately, Jerry’s game is more than just goals and he had a good game today, so I’m reluctant to be too critical. But Jerry will be keen to add to his 20 goals so far this season. He should certainly have had at least one tonight if Ethan Robson had have squared it to him, or if his low drive had whistled past the inside of the post.
4. Grant Ward’s injury
If we lose Kaikai and Ward for the rest of the season then there’ll be no promotion. Ward was simply the best player on the pitch until his injury and is really coming into his own, so it’s important that he comes back to fitness.
5. Seven minutes of injury time
That’s probably the most tense it’s been all season, as they came at us wave-after-wave. The keeper coming up for a couple of corners, Maxwell’s save, the battling headers from Ballard and Husband. How it stayed out of our goal, I’ll never know but a win’s a win and what an important one it was.
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