Shrewsbury 2 Pompey 1

Connor Goldson's fluke winner for Shrewsbury. Picture: Joe Pepler
Connor Goldson's fluke winner for Shrewsbury. Picture: Joe Pepler

The decisive moment was branded ‘world class’ by Shrewsbury’s official Twitter account.

You see, match-winner Connor Goldson ‘spotted Jones off his line and lifted the ball over him and into the net’.

It seems our eyes betrayed us on 72 minutes. We got it wrong, every single one of us.

Not so much a fluke then but actually a touch of genius from a central defender positioned 30 yards out.

It seems we have misjudged the standard in League Two, albeit a level there is a growing concern among Pompey fans their club will continue to inhabit next season.

Still, regardless of the goal being an authentic, fully-fledged attempt as the Twitter feed would like people to believe, Pompey lost.

Of that there is no doubt.

Harsh on Andy Awford’s men who, in truth, didn’t deserve to fall to defeat – they certainly warranted a point from their trip to Greenhous Meadow.

Not enough to win mind but hardly worthy of a loss in such unfortunate and freakish circumstances at a venue where Micky Mellon’s men have not lost so far this season.

Yet irrespective of the cruel manner of their downfall, Goldson will be inscribed in the footballing annals as weighing in with the all-important winner.

Those present, including 835 away followers, will know the real truth behind a Blues performance which provided more encouragement as they bid to emerge from their current lull.

Awford once again utilised the 4-4-2 system, he employed the same starting XI and also named an unchanged substitutes’ bench as he attempted to build on the morale-boosting defeat of Stevenage in the week.

None of the tinkering and over-complicating to have previously attracted criticism during the early stages of the campaign.

This was Pompey stripped and laid bare, presented with simple instructions from the manager and his backroom staff to eke out the best of their talents.

Realistically, at present this side is not equipped for a sustained bid for an automatic promotion spot, although the ability is there to challenge for the play-offs.

Clearly a contrast to Shrewsbury, who destroyed Bury only days earlier and appear genuine top-three contenders in what has developed into a congested battle at the top.

Nonetheless, Saturday produced a competitive and gutsy Blues display, defensively sound with attacking inspirations and plenty of decent performances among the starting line-up.

Granted, the hosts did dictate possession for sizeable spells, their 3-5-2 system allowing Ryan Woods to sit deepest of the central midfield three and prompt.

Mellon has created a side who play football with patience, capable of building slowly from the back before attacking down the flanks, particularly through left wing-back Mickey Demetriou.

Yet despite probing away at the Blues throughout, the Shrews didn’t truly test Paul Jones sufficiently to claim they deserved victory ahead of the Capital One Cup visit of Chelsea.

As it was, Pompey took the lead on three minutes, representing only the third goal the hosts have conceded at home in all competitions this season.

The build-up involved a stunning save from Jayson Leutwiler to somehow keep out Paul Robinson’s header from Ricky Holmes’ pinpoint left-wing cross.

The Shrewsbury keeper flung himself to his left to improbably claw out the defender’s attempt for one of the finest saves supporters will witness this season.

Yet from the resulting corner the visitors did break the deadlock through a helping hand from Demetriou.

Westcarr delivered from the right and the wing-back held his arm aloft, above Danny Hollands, and handled inside the penalty area.

There could be no arguments, although, much to the ire of Awford and Hollands afterwards, referee Dean Whitestone decided against booking the Shrewsbury player for the offence.

Jed Wallace stepped up to confidently net, taking his season’s tally to seven goals, while the visitors had a surprising lead.

It also represented a first league goal on their travels since August 23 when Craig Westcarr bagged the only goal of the game against Oxford – a run of 463 minutes.

Within 10 minutes, however, Mellon’s men were level following poor defending from a set-piece.

Bobby Grant’s delivery from 25-yards out was blocked and the ball fell to the unmarked James Wesolowski on the edge of the area to drive home through a ruck of players. It was disappointing from Pompey, who failed to react swiftly enough to close down the Shrewsbury midfielder and as a result their advantage was swiftly cancelled out.

As the first half progressed, the hosts largely controlled possession, although failed to provoke too much danger in the pitch’s final third.

Marshalled by the experience and fight of Ben Chorley and Robinson, the backline stood firm and continued to remain unflustered after the break.

Tellingly, behind them Jones barely had a save to make as the contest began to head to what appeared to be an inevitable draw.

Indeed, Pompey would have been delighted with a point to add to the three against Stevenage during what has unquestionably been a poor points return over the past two months.

Then on 72 minutes came the freak moment which was to decide the fate of the fixture.

Goldson picked the ball up, made 
his way forwards down the right 
before hitting a right-foot cross which sailed over Jones and into the far top corner.

There can be no criticism aimed towards the Blues keeper over the goal, it was a fluke strike which defied logic and ability, ultimately being the match-winner.

Shrews substitute Liam Lawrence headed an attempt from Nigel Atangana off the line late on to deny his former employers as they pushed for an equaliser but there was to be no successful comeback.

So Pompey’s miserable away record continues, albeit the latest blow delivered by a fortuitus effort from the opposition captain.

Regardless, a defeat is a defeat for a team clearly in need of strengthening in several departments during the January transfer window.

Yet that necessity should not be allowed to detract from a performance which on Saturday deserved more.