Grecians stretch their unbeaten run to 10 games to move into play-off places
Exeter City moved into the play-off places for the first time this season as David Wheeler scored the only goal in a 1-0 away win at Portsmouth.
It was City’s 10th victory on the road this campaign – an away record that no team in the Football League can better – and the eighth clean sheet in 10 matches.
City and Portsmouth both named unchanged teams for the match. The Grecians went into the match looking to extend their unbeaten run to 10 games in the hope of ending the day in the play-off places for the first time this season.
The Grecians won on their last visit to Fratton Park in September 2015. Goals from David Wheeler and Arron Davies that day gave City their first victory at Portsmouth’s home ground in 92 years.
The game started off brightly with a number of chances for both sides in the opening 20 minutes. Captain Jordan Moore-Taylor created the first chance for City as he took a free-kick quickly and lofted a pass up to David Wheeler. Unfortunately, the Grecian winger could not bring the ball under control and it bounced into the path of Reuben Reid who was flagged offside.
A minute later Reid got the ball at his feet in the box, but 37-year-old David Forde was equal to the effort in the Portsmouth goal.
Michael Smith then headed a good chance wide for Pompey, before Watkins drilled a shot inches wide of the post.
Carl Baker then had a couple of efforts in quick succession, the second saved by Christy Pym, before the chances started to dry up. Portsmouth boss Paul Cook was an animated figure on the touchline as he showed his displeasure with some of the passage of play and the decisions that went against his team.
And it was City who ended the half on top as Watkins headed a Ryan Harley cross wide and then sent an overhead kick wide of the mark.
However, the second half was only minutes old when City took the lead. The goal came from a bustling run forward from Reid. He was brought down 30 yards from goal, but the referee waved away the appeals for a free-kick and the ball bounced through to Wheeler in the area and he placed a side-footed finish into the top left corner of the net for his fifth goal in as many games.
Portsmouth went close to getting an equaliser in the 71 minutes as a cross from the left was half cleared and fell on to the boot of Edna Stevens, but his shot went through a crowd of players and into the grateful arms of a well-placed Pym.
City then could have made it 2-0 when Craig Woodman swung a cross into the six-yard box, but Watkins glanced a header just wide of the mark.
Back came Portsmouth though and Pym had to be alert to tip a Conor Chaplin cross over his crossbar as the home side flooded men forward with a few minutes of the match remaining.
Naismith then had an optimistic penalty appeal turned down as he went to ground in the box following a shoulder charge from Jack Stacey.
The former Rangers winger then tried his luck again as he fired a shot from just outside the box, but Pym again got down well and held the effort.
And the City keeper was in the right place once more in the fifth minute of injury-time to save another shot which was set up by Pompey keeper David Forde who went up for two corners late on in the match.
Portsmouth (4-4-2): Forde; Evans, Clarke, Burgess, Stevens; Naismith, Doyle, Rose, Baker (Roberts, 59); Smith (Lowe, 59), Chaplin. Subs not used: O’Brien, Davies, Hunt, Bennett, Linganzi.
Booked: Clarke, Forde
Exeter City (4-2-3-1): Pym; Stacey, Brown, Moore-Taylor, Woodman; James, Taylor; Wheeler, Watkins, Harley; Reid (McAlinden, 80). Subs not used: Olejnik, Tillson, Simpson, Oakley, McAlinden, Croll, Sweeney.
Attendance: 17,195 (1,010, away)