Not pretty but highly effective for Appleton
Michael Appleton saluted his Pompey grinders after clinching a maiden Fratton Park league win this season.
Wes Thomas’ 89th-minute winner capped a 2-1 success over Scunthorpe and a magnificent debut from the Bournemouth loanee.
For the Blues, it was a League One victory on home turf at the fifth time of asking in the current campaign.
An open and entertaining first-half from both sides – which produced a 1-1 scoreline – was replaced by a far tighter affair after the interval.
In the end, Pompey snatched all three points at the death.
Appleton admitted that second-half display would not have got the pulses racing of the 10,995 fans present at Fratton Park.
Nonetheless, he was delighted with how his side closed down the game to claim a morale-boosting win.
He said: ‘I thought we were the best team and I cannot remember Mikkel (Andersen) having a save to make.
‘I actually quite enjoyed the second half because we were grinding it out.
‘I quite liked the way the lads stuck at it and stayed in the game.
‘The biggest thing I stressed to them was I thought we would create chances.
‘And we actually did create five or six chances in the second half.
‘Wes and Ash (Harris) collided with each other when it looked harder to miss, Muzzy (Dumbuya) had a chance, Wes scored and Izale (McLeod) hit the post.
‘But that second half was how I wanted it. We knew we had to get a clean sheet after the break and that, if we did, we would win the game.
‘We knew we would get opportunities, especially going down towards the Fratton end.
‘I wanted it to be a bit scrappy because at times we were a little bit too open and a little bit too fluid.
‘Sometimes you have got to go and get that first win under your belt.
‘Now they have done that, hopefully, next time they can come back here with more confidence.
‘If you win games your confidence is up, you start passing the ball better, you start having a touch of the ball better. There was a lot of pressure on the players and they stood up to it to be fair.’
It had appeared Pompey were going to be left ruing Brian Howard’s 30th-minute penalty miss.
The opportunity was awarded to the hosts following Niall Canavan’s clumsy challenge on Thomas when the scores were level.
Brian Howard stepped up ahead of McLeod for spot-kick duties – and saw substitute keeper James Severn produce a brilliant save.
And Appleton is unsure if the Blues skipper will be given the chance again in the near future.
He added: ‘Brian was the designated penalty taker but I am not sure if he is going to keep them after that! In saying that, it was a good save.
‘But I am sure there will be a fight for the ball if we get one tomorrow.
‘To be honest, I leave it to the players. I just say “whoever is the one then make sure – before we go out – everybody else knows, too”.
‘They have got to take responsibility. If Izale is strong enough I am sure he might be picking the ball up tomorrow against Yeovil if we get one.’