Lee Petchey's take on 1-0 victory at Fratton Park
On a day that traditionally celebrates relationships, there could be no sight more fitting than a late Jed Wallace strike as Portsmouth dismissed visitors Exeter City by a goal to nil.
The midfielder made amends for an atrocious penalty miss minutes earlier as he dispatched the coolest of finishes past Christy Pym to chalk up his 13th goal of the season and enter double figures in Pompey’s league campaign.
While Fratton Park played host to a rather clichéd wet and windy afternoon, the downpour dictated play.
The Grecians were in no mood to afford Portsmouth the time and space to utilise on-loan youngster Josh Passley and tested the leniency of referee Patrick Miller twice before Ryan Harley was cautioned for up-ending Ryan Taylor in the least romantic of fashions.
With regimented cries of ‘Blue Army’ booming from an impressive turnout, Dan Butler pulled a hopeful ball back towards the edge of the box and Passley was first to pull away from his marker and crash a curling effort past a rooted Pym and onto the crossbar.
Exeter could be accused of over-complicating matters in their search for the opening goal. Alex Nicholls struck a powerful drive at Paul Jones early on, but their game was peppered with hesitation before the impressive Liam Sercombe wilfully witnessed his deflected effort dealt with in a reasonably comfortable style by Pompey’s number one.
Half-time brought an ounce of respite as far as the rain was concerned, and this had a wholly positive effect on the game.
The hosts saw their star man Wallace step up to the plate with two decent strikes in quick succession before Paul Tisdale’s men squandered opportunities through Sercombe and Tom Nichols.
With one win in 11 previous to Saturday’s tie, the Fratton faithful were understandably cautious as the clock ticked on. A nervous calm lay over the ground until James Dunne’s long-range shot came thumping back into the six-yard box via the woodwork, prompting an aural eruption of hope and confidence.
Twenty minutes remained when Exeter were gifted a golden opportunity to break the deadlock, but Christian Ribeiro failed to poke the ball home from four yards.
It was then the defender’s reckless challenge on Matt Tubbs, just moments later, that afforded Pompey a chance from the penalty spot. Despite appearing to make contact outside of the box, Miller handed the Blues’ top scorer Wallace a chance to notch from the spot.
Protests from City players delayed proceedings and the penalty, in a somewhat just manner, was blazed high into the Fratton End.
Both sides carved out a couple of half-chances in a match almost destined to be labelled Pompey’s third goalless draw from four league games.
The very image of ‘one of those days’ came as Arron Davies' effort clipped the top of Jones’ crossbar following exceptional hold-up play from Clinton Morrison.
Cue the hero-to-zero moment.
As added time approached, Tubbs’ pass into the centre found Wallace, and the midfielder embarked on a mazy, disorientating dash between the visitors’ defence before curling his strike past Pym and in to the bottom right corner.
His failed spot kick a distant memory, Wallace had won the hearts of a 13,000-strong crowd as he gift-wrapped and delivered an agonisingly overdue three points.
The win pulls Andy Awford’s side clear of Oxford and level with Cambridge, with a reasonably short visit to Abbey Stadium up next.
Pompey, meanwhile, will be hoping that this confident, exciting performance wasn’t just a Valentine’s Day treat.