Football: Walsh keeps Pompey chiming

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The Independent Online
Portsmouth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Derby County . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

THE CASCADE of goals coming from Guy Whittingham continued at Fratton Park yesterday, taking Portsmouth closer to the Premier League and all but confirming that Derby County's pounds 9.6m investment will not be similarly rewarded.

Portsmouth have now consolidated their position in second place behind Newcastle and emphasised that in Whittingham and Paul Walsh they have an attacking partnership capable of causing problems for Premier League defences.

Whittingham had just collected his player of the month award when, having already become the club's record scorer for a season, he took only 86 seconds to add his 45th. A foul on Walsh just outside the area saw Bjorn Kristensen swing the kick into the middle of the area Whittingham treats as his preserve. A thrusting header and Portsmouth were chiming.

The dual threat of Walsh and Whittingham, enterprisingly supported by Mark Chamberlain, was a nightmare for Derby. Walsh's tight control and acceleration have too often flattered to deceive but these days he has the confidence that comes when playing for a team prizing his skills. Here he was forever turning defenders while Whittingham looked for the resulting openings. The lead was doubled in the 30th minute when a run by Chamberlain, again through Derby's vulnerable left, ended with a pass across the area for Walsh to prod in. It might have been the fourth.

By the time Derby restored some faith in themselves, the outcome was already decided. The replacing of Mark Pembridge with Mark Patterson added some purpose and stability to their midfield but by comparison with Walsh and Whittingham, Marco Gabbiadini and Paul Kitson were predictable and their finishing unreliable.

Derby's recovery fell away when, after 73 minutes, Chamberlain's corner was forcefully headed low into the crowded goalmouth. Walsh and Whittingham, inevitably, pounced together but Walsh got the final touch. He also got a standing ovation when eventually allowed to leave the field to tend his hard-won bruises. This Portsmouth side are brave as well as proficient.

Portsmouth: Knight; Awford, Butters, McLoughlin, Symons, Daniel, Neill, Chamberlain (Aspinall, 82), Walsh (Lawrence, 80), Whittingham, Kristensen.

Derby County: Taylor; Round, Nicholson (Stallard, 82), Coleman, Short, Pembridge (Patterson, 45), Sturridge, Kuhl, Kitson, Gabbiadini, Simpson.

Referee: R Groves (Weston-super-Mare).