Assistant manager Joe Gallen hailed a “strong performance” from Portsmouth as they won 1-0 at Oxford to strengthen their position in the play-off places.
Pompey moved fourth in Sky Bet League One following the hard-earned victory at the Kassam Stadium, where Harvey White broke the deadlock early in the second half with a fine header from Callum Johnson’s cross.
Portsmouth boss Kenny Jackett watched the match from the stand as he recovers from an operation.
His number two Gallen was in charge in the dug-out, and afterwards said: “It was a fantastic performance from the players, they showed a lot of tenacity and we had a good intensity to our play.
“I thought we deserved to win, but one win is not enough and we need to get on a run of wins.
“But this is a big win, because Oxford have some good players and a very experienced manager.
“Kenny picked our team and the formation and he wanted to go back to a 4-4-2, so that’s why we had Ronan Curtis playing up front.
“We wanted to pass the ball to the front two quickly and they were a good outlet for the team.
“The manager wanted a freshness to the front two, and I think we had that.
“It’s a strong performance from us and it puts us back in the mix.
“Kenny was at the game, and he was on the phone to get his instructions through to us on the touchline.
“He’s not ill – he’s 100 per cent – if you’d heard him on the phone, you’d know that!”
Gallen also saluted the night’s matchwinner.
“Harvey White looks young but he doesn’t play young, he plays like a much more experienced footballer. It was a lovely goal.
“To be honest, I didn’t see Oxford’s late surge coming. I didn’t feel there were chances or goals coming from Oxford, so I was disappointed that we had to call on Craig MacGillivray to make some saves right at the end.
“But Craig’s been very consistent for us and shot-stopping is his forte, and he did well.”
Oxford boss Karl Robinson said: “The two teams cancelled each other out in the first half, it was a bit of a stalemate.
“They got away with what should have been a penalty for us, and Cameron Brannagan was probably lucky for us to get away with a swinging arm that the referee didn’t see.
“For 25 minutes at the start of the second half Portsmouth were the better team, and it was a fantastic cross and a great goal, but then we came strong at the end.
“But they are very well organised.
“This run we have been on is immense and we’re in this race (for promotion), I believe that even more now than before this game.
“Portsmouth are in the top four and they were no better than us.
“We have big games coming up and we have to challenge ourselves to be better. We’ve got to make sure we don’t let this result knock our confidence and that’s my job to ensure that.
“We ended with the best two chances of the game at the end.
“My main disappointment is that we didn’t play better in the first 25 minutes of the second half, but you have to admit, it was a wonderful cross for the goal.
“My main thing now is making sure our confidence isn’t dented going into the next match.”