BILLY Bodin scored the only goal on a memorable day for United in front of more than 15,000 supporters at Portsmouth.
The young Welsh winger struck on 27 minutes but the Yellow praise was shared all over the pitch, especially at the back, where Krystian Pearce and Anthony O’Connor were magnificent.
United boss Chris Hargreaves opted for a major shake-up in his team selection after the 1-0 loss at Oxford last weekend. The first reshuffle came in defence, where Dale Tonge returned at right-back, O’Connor shifted into the centre and Aaron Downes was bumped down to the bench.
Jayden Stockley was partnered by Elliot Benyon in attack, as Hargreaves switched to a conventional 4-4-2. Captain Lee Mansell had been nursing his back all week and was deemed only fit enough to be a replacement.
Karl Hawley was the other man to miss out, with Shamir Goodwin making his full debut on the right wing and Bodin returning to the other flank. New loan striker Aidan O’Brien was also among the substitutes.
The two Pompey changes came on the wing, where Jed Wallace and Ricky Holmes were brought into freshen things up for a side that won narrowly at Wycombe in midweek. Andy Barcham and Wes Fogden both dropped down to the bench.
The Gulls won a free-kick just outside the penalty area within the first two minutes and Kevin Nicholson immediately sized up a tasty left-foot curler that flew inches over Trevor Carson’s crossbar.
United continued their bright start in difficult muddy conditions at Fratton Park and it was important for Yellow heads to clear from a horrible overnight stay in a local hotel, which was flooded in the early hours, forcing the whole squad to evacuate and move to new accommodation.
Pompey gradually established their footing in the game and United’s midfield anchor of Damon Lathrope was soon scurrying across the engine room to dampen home momentum in front of the impressive crowd on the south coast.
Stockley soon switched the play back up the other end with an instinctive shot off his left side, prompting a decent save from Carson, who was able to parry the ball clear of Benyon sniffing for the rebound.
A dangerous cross from Romain Padovani then had the Yellow defence scrambling and it needed a timely clearance from Pearce to prevent Ryan Taylor testing Michael Poke in United’s goal.
Moments later, Bodin opened the scoring to the delight of a huge contingent of travelling fans. Joss Labadie was the catalyst, bursting into the box before a clever cut-back to the onrushing forwards.
Stockley was first to have a try but when his attempt was thwarted, Bodin instantly lashed the ball past Carson for his first goal of the season, and with his unfavoured right foot. It was an excellent finish from the Welshman and credit also to Labadie, who was wearing the skipper’s armband in the
absence of Mansell.
Portsmouth looked to respond with a whipped cross by Marcus Painter and O’Connor threw himself at the glancing header from Padovani to deflect the ball wide of the post, and keep the Yellow advantage intact.
Labadie was soon threatening the home goal again, smashing the ball toward the corner, only to be denied by a decent block from Ben Chorley. The subsequent corner was headed narrowly wide by Pearce.
The ebb and flow continued with a free-kick for Portsmouth finding Holmes lurking at the near post and Tonge earned his corn with a tremendous challenge to clear the danger, keeping the Gulls in front at half-time.
United started the second period with the wind in their backs but the first real attack came from a Holmes dink into the box, comfortably cleared by the Gulls. Poke then came to the fore with assured handling after a Wallace cross.
Holmes was causing real problems from the flank and raising the noise levels inside Fratton Park, but O’Connor did a fine job of blocking an effort from Jake Jervis after the ball was delivered into the box.
Portsmouth were enjoying a strong spell of possession but Goodwin showed the right attitude with some terrific defensive work on the right to relieve the pressure. Pompey manager Richie Barker made the first change on the hour, removing Jervis for Patrick Agyemang as a new forward option.
The Gulls were under siege but without Poke making a significant save, although a dangerous cross from Nicky Shorey forced Pearce into producing a marvellous block under huge pressure from Agyemang.
Both managers then turned to their bench, with Fogden replacing Padovani for Pompey and Hargreaves introducing the steel of Mansell for the hardworking Goodwin on the right flank.
The substitutions seemed to calm down the tempo on proceedings, much to United’s pleasure with the clocking ticking away. The rhythm was disrupted again with Tom Cruise coming on for Bodin, and Barcham was introduced in place of Painter for Pompey.
It was an obviously defensive move from Hargreaves, who headed into the final 10 minutes with the focus on protecting his lead, although O’Brien was also brought on for Stockley to freshen up the forward line.
Portsmouth won a succession of corners in the final minutes and the biggest threat came from a Holmes delivery that fell nicely for Chorley, but he thankfully showed a defender’s poise by lifting his shot well over the bar.
The Yellow Army rose in unison to encourage their heroes over the line but United needed a wasteful finish from Fogden to confirm three massive points would head back along the coast road to Devon.
Portsmouth [4-4-2]: 40 Trevor Carson; 15 Daniel Alfei, 5 Joe Devera, 26 Ben Chorley [capt], 14 Marcus Painter [7 Andy Barcham 79]; 11 Ricky Holmes, 8 Romain Padovani [19 Wes Fogden 73], 17 Nicky Shorey, 35 Jed Wallace; 20 Ryan Taylor, 32 Jake Jervis [23 Patrick Agyemang 63].
Substitutes [not used]: 1 Phil Smith [GK], 6 Sonny Bradley, 13 Johnny Ertl, 31 Therry Racon
United [4-4-2]: 1 Michael Poke; 2 Dale Tonge, 5 Krystian Pearce, 29 Anthony O’Connor, 3 Kevin Nicholson; 17 Shamir Goodwin [7 Lee Mansell 73], 6 Damon Lathrope, 18 Joss Labadie [capt], 10 Billy Bodin [21 Thomas Cruise 80]; 19 Jayden Stockley [22 Aidan O’Brien 82], 26 Elliot Benyon. Substitutes [not used]: 4 Aaron Downes, 9 Karl Hawley, 12 Jordan Chapell, 13 Martin Rice [GK].
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 15,474 [741 away].