Luton 1 Pompey 2

Matt Tubbs. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Tubbs. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jez Beford in action for the Hawks against Sutton United. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Poole switch on cards for Pompey talent

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First came a moment of quiet reflection in the aftermath of another afternoon of drama.

Paul Cook, silent and pensive in the centre circle at Kenilworth Road, soaking up a win in the subdued tailwind of the frenzied finish moments earlier.

The Pompey fans had departed joyously. Down the stairs, through the residential gardens and turnstiles which access the away stand at Luton’s quirky home.

They are all smiles again. Loving life on the road, embracing the vibrancy. Cookie is their king.

And the man at the centre of it is delighted to give them that hope. Let them revel in it is the view, with the caveat his feet are firmly planted on ground zero.

‘I look like a tactical genius,’ Cook enthusiastically croaked, as the more recognisable zest returned for his post-match verdict. ‘I’m not.’

The Pompey boss was referring to a first change to his league line-up - the decision to omit Matt Tubbs from his starting 11 in favour of Jayden Stockley.

It was a move based, partially upon the conviction the striker could be introduced to feast upon the gaps appearing in Luton’s back line, as limbs became weary late on.

Of course, that was exactly what happened.

‘I knew he’d score,’ the Pompey boss smiled when pushed on his thinking behind the decision.

The glint was back in the eye again, and the sentiment was delivered with the jesting tones we’ve quickly come to associate with the Scouser.

Cook and his staff are getting it all spot on right now. The wave of euphoria is being rode on a back of a brand of football being celebrated by the faithful. What’s not to like?

The winds of change can rip through clubs at the most unexpected moments, though, and the Pompey boss knows it.

But they say fortune favours the brave. He who dares, Rodders, and all that.

And when it’s built on a framework of controlling possession, as the Blues did from the outset once again on Saturday, the chances are things will go your way.

It certainly did after eight minutes, as the visitors took the lead with the kind of moment which told you a first win on the Hatters’ patch in 23 years was on its way.

The impressive Luton captain Scott Cuthbert delivered a performance which showed why he’s keeping Steve McNulty (League Two’s Franco Baresi - just YouTube him) out of the team.

That came, however, after he caught Luke Wilkinson’s clearance straight in the midriff. Gareth Evans accepted the gift by gleefully dispatching his finish past the exposed Elliot Justham.

So the pattern was set. Pompey hitting 60 per cent possession early on and looking comfortable.

But just a little bit too comfortable.

And the wake-up call arrived after 14 minutes when Luton levelled with just about their first foray into the visitor’s penalty area.

Josh McQuoid surged. Michael Doyle and Nigel Atangana converged. And Pompey’s man-of-the-match Frenchman dangled an inviting leg for the Luton attacker to go over.

No debate about the spot-kick then, and barely as much discussion about Luton’s impressive marquee signing pulling his side level as he emphatically sent Brian Murphy the wrong way from 12 yards.

That saw the tide turn in the home side’s favour on an afternoon which delivered entertaining fare, and an occasion which brought truth to that old ‘good advert for

League Two football’ cliché Luton boss John Still spoke of after the game.

Don’t disrespect the opposition was the lesson to be learnt after Morecambe.

Pompey didn’t quite do that, but they took their foot off the gas with things all a bit too straightforward before the leveller.

There was nothing straightforward about Christian Burgess’ short headed backpass to Murphy, which almost gave Luton the lead as they stole the impetus.

Murphy surged out of the box to join the head tennis, but saw his effort drop to Ryan Hall. The tricky Luton man dallied for a second, however, and allowed Ben Davies to avert the danger.

Stockley then had the first of a couple of moments to show his finishing prowess as Pompey regained a foothold before the break.

He latched on to Roberts’ through ball moments before the whistle, but gave Justham the chance to set himself and win their duel.

The other arrived mid-way through the second half with Roberts again the architect, as he came into the equation after a quiet 45 minutes.

His first touch belied him, however, forced him wide and his effort to win a penalty off Cuthbert was half-baked.

You could almost hear the murmurs from the 1,000-plus away fans. Tubbs would have taken one of those.

He would have probably taken the chance which fell to Luton’s eye-catching Cameron McGeehan, too, as Burgess and Matt Clarke collided nine minutes after the restart.

Mackail-Smith benefitted from the mistake and his weight of pass to the midfielder was perfect. Fortunately, for Pompey, McGeehan was just off target.

With Luton more than contributing to the spectacle, the game had the kind of atmosphere, ebb and flow which made it a pleasure to observe. No parking the bus here.

But Pompey’s fitness and triple attacking change did see the home side slip into reverse as Cook went for the jugular.

Exactly the kind of chance you want to fall to Tubbs’ predatory instincts arrived with 14 minutes left.

But with the expectation of seeing the net billow, a scuffed shot was sent into the advertising hoarding.

It mattered not a jot in the last minute, of course.

Conor Chaplin, who’d pepped things up with his introduction, took his shot early after bursting through and the arch poacher did the rest.

Tubbs was off, arms outstretched in celebration. Can he play in a 4-2-3-1 formation is one debate. Can he finish isn’t up for question.

So the win was sealed and the feelgood factor continues.

Pompey now have seven points and two wins on the road. It took until December 20 to accumulate the same return last season. And February 21 for the second league win.

But Cook was adamant in his assertion it was a lucky success, and the stats, for what it’s worth, tell of an even encounter.

Other managers will wonder where such fortune was when they needed it.

Guy Whittingham went gung-ho, ala Cook, against Oxford United on the opening day two seasons ago and got smashed 4-1. Where’s the logic?

Better to be a lucky manager than a good manager. But best of all to be both.