REPORT | Wanderers 1 Portsmouth 1

Collins Ogbeta celebration Portsmouth

Wanderers delayed Portsmouth’s promotion party but saw their own chances of going up automatically taken out of their own hands on an afternoon of contrasting emotions, writes Pete Oliver.

The Whites produced an impressive performance to out-play the champions elect, who need just one more point to seal a place back in the Championship for the first time in 12 yards.

But despite over-coming the set-back of conceding an early goal to level through Aaron Collins’ fifth goal in three games, Ian Evatt’s men couldn’t find the second goal to hand Pompey just a fifth League One defeat of the campaign.

As a result, Wanderers must now lift themselves for back-to-back home fixtures against Shrewsbury Town and Port Vale to collect maximum points and hope second-placed Derby County slip up one more time with two games to go.

Otherwise, it’s likely to be the play-offs but the Whites should at least be fuelled by the thought that a repeat of the level of performance Pompey would give them every chance of negotiating that potential route to promotion.

Wanderers, with Gethin Jones back on starting duty as the only change from the side that had won a week earlier at Bristol Rovers, were given superb backing by a crowd of over 25,000 as they looked to end Pompey’s unbeaten 15-game run.

But they were rocked early on as Portsmouth looked to uncork the champagne.

The visitors, knowing a win would seal the deal with three games to spare, made the perfect start when the dangerous Abu Kamara broke clear and drilled home a low let-footed shot.

But Wanderers quickly re-grouped to take the fight back to the run-away leaders and look the most dangerous side for the remainder of a gripping first half.

Josh Dacres-Cogley and Nathanael Ogbeta teased Pompey down the flanks, while Paris Maghoma posed a constant threat whenever he had the ball at his feet.

Collins saw one effort blocked in front of goal as Portsmouth desperately tried to hold onto their lead and look to relieve the pressure on the counter-attack.

And the Whites sent a succession of balls fizzing across the Pompey goal before they got the goal they deserved nine minutes before the break.

Maghoma again found space among the massed blue shirts to pick out Ogbeta and when the wing-back swapped passed and then clipped over the perfect cross, Collins was ideally placed to glance home a header and extend his purple patch with his seventh Wanderers’ goal.

Collins then further underlined his confidence with a low strike which had Will Norris scrambling to save before Jon Dadi Bodvarsson lifted the rebound wide from a tight angle.

With so much at stake it was impossible to take the eyes off the action, which intensified after the interval as the tension cranked up further.

Any goal would be huge, and it was Wanderers who went closest to getting it when an excellent move involving Maghoma and Bodvarsson ended with George Thomason – a driving force throughout the second half – arrowing a shot just wide.

With the onus on Wanderers, it was the Whites who continued to ask most of the questions – even if chiselling out clear-cut chances was hard to do against a Portsmouth side beaten away from home since the first week in January.

The best of them fell to Bodvarsson but from Dacres-Cogley’s pull-back he couldn’t keep the ball down with an attempted finish on the turn from inside the six-yard box with 20 minutes to go.

Then with 10 minutes plus stoppages remaining Evatt signalled the return of Dion Charles via the bench.

And the Whites’ top scorer almost made it the dream comeback after two months out injured when he met Kyle Dempsey’s low cross with an effort he stabbed against a post.

Captain Ricardo Almeida Santos, who defied a calf issue to produce a real leader’s performance, also twice went close to a winner from corners.

But despite pressing to the end, Wanderers couldn’t find a way through and must now hope three wins from their final three games can still somehow be enough to grab second spot and follow Pompey up.

Wanderers: Baxter; Jones, Almeida Santos, Toal; Sheehan (Morley 76); Dacres-Cogley, Maghoma (Dempsey 76), Thomason, Ogbeta (Williams 90+1); Bodvarsson (Jerome 80), Collins (Charles 80). Substitutes: Coleman, Iredale.

Booked: Toal, Almeida Santos, Jerome

Portsmouth: Norris; Rafferty, Raggett, Shaughnessy, Ogilvie; Pack, Moxon (Anjorin HT); Kamara, Lang (Saydee 58), Lane (Whyte 58); Bishop (Yengi). Substitutes: Macey, Sparkes, Evans.

Booked: Lang

Referee: Anthony Backhouse

Attendance: 25,738

Read Time: 4 mins