Nine points from seven games may appear a modest start to the season but Portsmouth can take significant satisfaction from the Premier League table this morning.
A position in mid-table bodes well for the rest of the campaign considering they have already played all four of England's Champions League representatives. Now, in addition, an awkward trip to Uefa Cup qualifiers Blackburn Rovers has been negotiated and yesterday's win suggests a new-found resilience to the south coast club.
Nwankwo Kanu's expertly taken first-half strike was enough to ensure their first three points on the road this year. But for all Portsmouth's cosmopolitan attacking options, performances like these rely on sound foundations and the burgeoning central-defensive partnership of Sol Campbell and Sylvain Distin promises just that.
Blackburn rarely looked like equalising and finished the match in dispirited fashion, slumping to a first league defeat of the season and their first in 12 games dating back to April.
"Nine points is a terrific total for us from the games we've had," said Harry Redknapp, the Portsmouth manager. "If you're going to pick up points away from home you've got to be strong defensively and you need strong characters. I honestly wouldn't swap my back five with any other team in the country."
Despite a midweek trip to Greece, which brought the unexpected Uefa Cup defeat to Larissa, Blackburn had started with purpose and might have been two ahead inside 10 minutes. First, Roque Santa Cruz sent David Bentley free down the right and the Paraguayan striker headed his cross against the crossbar.
Then, from the opposite flank, Morten Gamst Pedersen fashioned an opening for Benni McCarthy that flew wide. They were to prove Rovers' only chances of the afternoon.
Portsmouth were denied midway through the first half by Brad Friedel who did wonderfully well to block Kanu's close-range shot.
Kanu could hardly believe he had missed out and was therefore much relieved, a minute later, to put his side ahead. Typically for the Nigerian, this chance looked much harder. Pape Bouba Diop's header over the Blackburn defence left him plenty to do but he rounded Friedel and waited for Christopher Samba to commit himself before passing into the net.
Thereafter, the away team were content to drop deep and rely on the likes of Kanu and John Utaka to profit on the break. It was a tactic that almost worked when Sulley Muntari's flick sent Sean Davis through on goal. The midfielder, though, failed to capitalise, sending an aimless centre across the penalty area.
While Portsmouth would have been delighted with the cushion of a second goal, the one they had always looked sufficient. So it proved, and Mark Hughes, the Blackburn manager, was left to contemplate four days in which his side's bright beginning to the season has been undone by two uncharacteristically poor displays.
"We started well but didn't score and once they went ahead their back four was rock-solid," Hughes said. "We perhaps lacked our usual intensity and maybe Thursday had something to do with that but we aspire to being a team who can play on several fronts so that's no excuse."
Goal: Kanu (25) 0-1.
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Ooijer, Warnock; Bentley, Savage, Dunn (Tugay, 56), Pedersen (Roberts, 79); McCarthy (Derbyshire, 56), Santa Cruz. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Mokoena.
Portsmouth (4-1-4-1): James; Johnson, Campbell, Distin, Hreidarsson; Davis; Utaka (Pamarot, 89), Diop, Muntari, Kranjcar (Taylor, 86); Kanu (Mwaruwari, 68). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Nugent.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: Portsmouth Diop, Muntari, James.
Man of the match: Campbell.
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