Pompey 2 Watford 0

Marko Futacs bags Pompey's opener against Watford  Picture: Barry Zee
Marko Futacs bags Pompey's opener against Watford Picture: Barry Zee
Dion Donohue. Picture: Colin Farmery

New boy’s bitter-sweet Pompey experience

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Michael Appleton is currently awaiting his January transfer window fate.

Fitting then that Marko Futacs should be making such a telling contribution for the Blues.

Steve Cotterill’s final signing for the club arrived at Fratton Park on a free transfer following a successful trial spell.

That’s a pool Appleton could well be dipping his toe in once again during this month.

Certainly if Pompey’s financial concerns are not rectified very soon.

As it stands, the Blues boss is unsure whether he can even add loanees to his small squad.

It makes the freebie market ever more palatable, unquestionably a case of needs must. In Futacs, though, it seems Pompey have unearthed one of those rare gems.

Described as a ‘gamble’ upon his south coast entrance by Cotterill, the Hungarian struck against Watford yesterday.

That’s two goals in his first two starts and has ensured Pompey have finally unearthed their goal touch.

Like his full debut at Leicester on Saturday, Futacs was once again an impressive performer against the Hornets.

What’s more, he backed it up with a goal.

The decisive moment came in the 54th minute when Liam Lawrence and David Norris took a quick corner.

Norris swung in a cross and it was 6ft 5in Futacs who crashed home a powerful header past the seemingly-impenetrable Scott Loach.

Hayden Mullins added a late second, driving the ball under the body of substitute keeper Jonathan Bond.

Yet by that stage Appleton’s men were already effectively home and dry during an impressive second-half performance.

That hold was strengthened by Loach’s straight red card on 83 minutes after he was adjudged to have handled outside of the area as he came out to meet Futacs.

It was a drastic attempt to silence the tall striker, whose physical presence and hold-up play wreaked havoc on occasions.

Futacs could even have grabbed a second deep into six minutes of injury-time, smacking the crossbar with a thunderous effort.

At 21, there is clearly more to come, yet how Pompey could do with plenty more bargains like Futacs during such uncertain financial times.

Still, on the flip side, the presence of Andrew Andronikou among a crowded home directors’ box does at least suggest a change of ownership is in the offing.

We can all hope, particularly Appleton, who has confessed he has already drawn up a shopping list.

Pompey held a minute’s applause in memory of Len Phillips before kick-off.

It was a gesture well received by the home fans towards the Fratton legend, whose family also had 20 guests present.

With Greg Halford and Joel Ward suspended, Appleton was forced to use every resource of his playing squad.

That meant recalls for Tal Ben Haim and Kanu, having not made the match-day 16 since November.

Ben Haim was asked to slot in at right-back, with Aaron Mokoena moving across to partner Jason Pearce in the centre of defence.

As for Kanu, he took his place on a bench which also contained Ryan Williams and Hermann Hreidarsson.

With Luke Varney and Ricardo Rocha still injured, in addition to those suspended, that was it as far as players Appleton could call upon.

Of his 20-man squad, those fit for purpose were included in yesterday’s squad.

Meanwhile, Erik Huseklepp came in on the left flank, with Liam Lawrence reverting to wide on the right in place of the suspended Ward.

Unsurprisingly after his impressive full debut at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, Futacs also kept his place, partnering Dave Kitson in attack.

When the match kicked off, Pompey put early pressure on the Hornets goal.

First, Huseklepp produced a vicious effort from long distance which took a deflection and bounced just wide of the post.

Huseklepp saw another shot deflected wide moments later, while Mullins’ attempt from outside of the area looped over the bar after striking a Watford player.

In the 23rd minute, a good build up saw Kitson lay the ball into the path of David Norris, who drove a left-foot shot just wide from 25 yards out.

The clash dipped into a lull for a short time but on the half-hour mark Loach was drawn into his first save of the match.

Huseklepp’s low cross from the left deflected off Lee Hodson and forced the Watford keeper into a scrambling stop.

Fortunately for the visitors, the ball bounced past the lurking Kitson with nobody else around to follow up.

In Pompey’s next attack, Loach produced a magnificent flying save to fingertip Kitson’s drive around the post.

In the 43rd minute, Ben Haim’s shot was pushed out by Loach and Kitson wastefully blazed the follow-up over the bar from the edge of the area with the goal gaping.

Kitson also had a great opportunity moments after the break, meeting Joe Mattock’s cross only to see his header comfortably gathered by Loach.

The Watford keeper then magnificently tipped Lawrence’s drive from long distance around the post.

Yet from the resulting corner, Pompey did have their lead.

Lawrence played a short pass to Norris and his cross was headed home by Futacs.

On the hour mark, Loach thwarted Norris with another superb stop, following excellent work from Mattock coming in off the left flank.

As Pompey piled on the pressure, Mullins collected Huseklepp’s pass and drove an effort agonisingly wide of the near post.

Loach was given his marching orders seven minutes from time when he and Adrian Mariappa appeared to take out Futacs.

However, it was for handling the ball outside of the area which the Watford keeper was to see red for.

Then, on 87 minutes, Mullins made sure of victory with a low drive to give Pompey all three points and maintain Appleton’s promising start to life on the south coast.