NEWPORT County AFC must wish they could play at Fratton Park every week.
Big crowd, big-match atmosphere, good pitch, a clean sheet and a win – what could be better?
Last season’s 2-0 win at Portsmouth was followed by a 1-0 victory on Saturday thanks to a superbly executed away performance capped by Andy Sandell’s late free-kick winner.
It earned County a first three points of the League Two campaign and allowed everyone to start looking up the table rather than down.
The Exiles defended well for the most part and frustrated the promotion favourites all afternoon, refusing to be bullied out of the game and picking up six yellow cards in the process.
Both boss Justin Edinburgh and match-winner Sandell admitted that the result was also down to a touch of fortune with Pompey missing several good chances.
Kevin Feely had hit the bar for County early on but Ryan Taylor really should have put Andy Awford’s side ahead when he found himself with the freedom of the 18-yard box only to fire wide midway through the first half.
Craig Westcarr was wasteful with a couple of good opportunities after the break, while new County stopper Joe Day did well to deny Jed Wallace.
And the winning goal was a very soft one to concede from the hosts’ point of view as Sandell’s set-piece curled beyond everybody in a packed penalty area and into the bottom corner on 84 minutes.
But the stats, with County recording six shots on target to their opponents’ two, and the fact that Day had little to do for long periods suggest that Portsmouth can’t feel too hard done by.
Not that Edinburgh and his players will care one way or the other.
Since the start of the season the manager has argued that his side hasn’t got the points that their performances have deserved.
If the situation reversed itself on Saturday then perhaps justice has been done after they dropped points from winning positions against Morecambe and Burton and somehow came away with nothing from Mansfield.
Match-winner Sandell said: “Some of the games we’ve played this season we’ve dominated and not got the result we deserved but this time it’s turned around and we got the three points.
“We probably didn’t deserve to win it but we’ll take it!
“We like coming to Fratton Park,” he added.
“It’s always one you look for on the calendar. It’s a great stadium and it’s always a fantastic atmosphere to play in front of 16,000 fans.
“I’m sure the young players here want to play in games like that week in week out and they coped well with that pressure.”
The goal was a big moment for the club captain, who lost his starting place to Ryan Jackson against Burton last week, but he admits that he’s got nobody to blame but himself for being benched.
“I didn’t think I’d get on, let alone come on and get the winner so I’m delighted,” said Sandell, who replaced Robbie Willmott with only ten minutes left on the clock.
“I nearly scored straight away but with the free-kick I just put it in a dangerous area and if you do that you’ve always got a good chance of it going in.
“It’s been frustrating for me not being in the side but it’s my own fault,” he added.
“When I’m not in the side I’m not a very nice person to be around so hopefully I won’t be on the bench for too much longer.”
Portsmouth: Jones, Devera, Chorley, Robinson, Shorey (Barcham, 85), Dunne, Hollands (Atangana, 77), Westcarr, Wallace, Holmes (Storey, 72), Taylor
Subs not used: Brezovan, Ertl, Awford, Butler
Booked: Devera, Chorley, Wallace, Dunne
County: Day, Jackson, Feely, Jones, Hughes, Willmott (Sandell, 80), Minshull, Chapman, Byrne, Zebroski (O’Connor, 66), Jeffers (Jolley, 66)
Subs not used: Pidgeley, Yakubu, Flynn, Klukowski
Booked: Hughes, Byrne, Chapman, Minshull, Sandell, O’Connor
Referee: Lee Collins
Attendance: 16,191 (641 County)