Football: Pompey on up and up

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The Independent Online
Portsmouth . . . .3

Oxford United. . .0

A COMMANDING victory - their sixth in succession - carried Portsmouth into second place in the First Division. Their three goals were all they needed to replace West Ham as automatic promotion candidates on goals scored. They also have Oxford to thank for their situation.

It was Oxford who narrowly beat the Hammers in midweek and it was the visitors' full-back Les Robinson who set Pompey on the way to victory with an own goal after the home side had struggled to break through.

It was only in the closing minutes of the first half that Portsmouth's apparent superiority began to turn into scoring opportunities. First Ray Daniel picked out Paul Walsh on the far side of a crowded penalty area and the former Tottenham forward delivered a fierce rising shot that Paul Reece did well to push over. Then Alan McLoughlin skimmed a tantalising centre across three Portsmouth foreheads.

The cumulative effect of this pressure survived the interruption of half-time and within four minutes of the restart Pompey went ahead. Walsh, whose skills were flourishing, jinked into the area before chipping over a cross which, although it by-passed McLoughlin and failed to reach Guy Whittingham, was headed firmly home by the unfortunate Robinson.

This stroke of good fortune loosened Portsmouth's stride; their approach play, which had previously been too studied, assumed a new fluency and direction. Shortly before the hour Walsh's tenacity won the ball in the Oxford half and his quick thinking released the excellent McLoughlin. The Republic of Ireland international advanced before deftly lobbing the keeper.

The third goal followed shortly. Warren Aspinall, receiving the ball at the angle of the penalty area, drove in a thunderous shot which Reece could only parry. Whittingham, not one to spurn such an opportunity, arrived to lash the ball into the unguarded net. It was his 40th goal of the season.

With victory secured, Portsmouth eased up and Robinson almost atoned for his mistake, hitting a low shot against the post. Portsmouth look good: on this form it could well be Up Pompey.

Portsmouth: A Knight; A Awford, G Butters, A McLoughlin (S Murray, 78 min), W Aspinall, R Daniel, C Price, M Chamberlain (G Lawrence, 82 min), P Walsh, G Whittingham, B Kristensen. Manager: J Smith.

Oxford United: P Reece; L Robinson, M Ford, L Phillips, C Evans, A Melville, J Magilton, J Beauchamp, N Cusack, J Durnin, M Lewis. Subs not used: D Penney, C Allen. Manager: B Horton.

Referee: A Gunn (South Chailey, Sussex).

Goals: Robinson og (1-0, 49 min); McLoughlin (2-0, 59 min); Whittingham (3-0, 65 min).

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