Pompey 3 Dagenham & Redbridge 0

Kyle Bennett, centre, celebrates scoring in the 4-0 win at Colchester last month Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss pinpoints key promotion moment

2
Have your say

Find a seat, take a deep breath, exhale and relax.

Not a chance.

The euphoria sweeping across Fratton Park has left but a handful of stragglers in its slipstream.

An irresistible force has begun to engulf all in its rampant path with its tantalising promises of success and triumph.

Much of it is Paul Cook’s fault, of course, daring to provide the Fratton faithful with the first shoots of hope.

These may unquestionably be early days, yet on Saturday the supporters began to lift their eyes away from the floor and focus on the emergence of a potentially glorious horizon.

Man-of-the-match Kyle Bennett fires Pompey into a 2-0 lead at Fratton Park against Dagenham & Redbridge  Picture: Joe Pepler

Man-of-the-match Kyle Bennett fires Pompey into a 2-0 lead at Fratton Park against Dagenham & Redbridge Picture: Joe Pepler

In terms of first impressions, it appears their beloved football club is beginning to stir from its comatosed slumber.

Admittedly the visit of Dagenham & Redbridge represented a mere 90 minutes, a duration which will not make or break a third season in League Two.

The first match of a campaign can be as misleading and wildly inaccurate as a breathtaking loan spell from a player desperate to sign.

Rarely does the subsequent marriage represent the sweet courtship once that ring is firmly on the finger.

Indeed, it would be folly to judge the outcome of a 46-match season on the basis of a home match against the Daggers.

Particularly an opposition containing the erratic likes of Nyron Nosworthy and Josh Passley, who stuttered and stammered their way through a Blues loan sentence last term.

Yet such feelings of optimism simply cannot be repressed, particularly considering the level of display witnessed by a crowd of 16,948.

In truth, for those present it was nigh on impossible not to be knocked off their feet by Saturday’s feel-good flood.

Afterwards there were smiles, yes smiles, sported by a beleaguered group of supporters weather-beaten by bold words and sparse action from a variety of managers and players since the Premier League demise.

Outside the top flight the Blues have never finished above 13th spot since 2010, regardless of their Football League setting.

Therefore they can be excused for becoming more than a little animated when a display such as the one against the Daggers is served up.

Forget logic and reasoning – on Saturday you could close your eyes and smell the belief wafting through the famous old ground.

For Cook’s debut as manager conjured up one of the most complete performances any Pompey fan will have been fortunate to savour during many a year.

Granted, this was no promotion decider, but was lip-smackingly delicious – and tasty enough to suggest this may finally be the year. Finally.

In recent times there have not been false dawns as such at Fratton Park, rather pulling a hamstring out of the blocks to render themselves non-starters.

Not since a 3-0 triumph over Blackburn Rovers in August 2006 had the Blues collected a victory on the opening day of a campaign.

That was until Cook’s overhauled side achieved the same scoreline on the same ground nine years later amid the traditional first-day south-coast sunshine.

It wasn’t merely two goals from Kyle Bennett and one from Gareth Evans who heaped on the optimism over what lies ahead. It was the manner in which the result was achieved.

The hosts controlled the match through bossing possession, displaying a patience and maturity throughout in their attempts to pick apart the Daggers.

Encouragingly, they failed to descend into panic upon a 0-0 half-time scoreline after 45 minutes of dominance during which keeper Mark Cousins was not tested anywhere near enough.

Not to fear, however, as the second half yielded three goals – and Pompey’s season was up and running.

Cook had granted debuts to nine players in his first Pompey starting line-up, among them Bennett and Evans.

The only players from last season were Nigel Atangana and Matt Tubbs, who suffered mixed fortunes during the game that unfolded.

Atangana was outstanding in a holding midfield role alongside skipper Michael Doyle, breaking up play and launching attacks at will.

It was upon his dummy in the second half that the Fratton faithful were inspired to begin a chorus of ‘ole’ as the hosts continued to pass the ball around.

Only cramp denied Atangana the full duration, Danny Hollands replacing him after 68 minutes.

As for Tubbs, it was simply not his day as he continues to adapt to a lone striker role. It would be harsh, though, to write him off on the basis of one match.

Cook’s biggest call was, of course, the decision to omit Jones from his starting XI, bringing an end to 173 consecutive career appearances.

The signing of Brian Murphy on Friday ahead of the noon deadline prompted his elevation into the team, much to the surprise of many.

Pompey’s boss had already ominously warned of the need for increased competition in the goalkeeping ranks, with Michael Poke loaned to Eastleigh.

Now Jones has lost his place to a player previously with one Football League appearances since December 2010.

Not that the identity of the goalkeeper had any bearing on the result, as Cook’s favoured 4-2-3-1 system overwhelmed the Daggers to stroll to a first victory of the campaign.

The breakthrough arrived in the 51st minute when Bennett’s left-wing corner was headed home at the far post by Evans.

The former Fleetwood man, who netted twice in pre-season, was once again part of the attacking midfield three behind Tubbs.

Yet it was Bennett’s day and on 62 minutes Enda Stevens sent in a throw from the left which the diminutive winger allowed to run across him inside the penalty area before unleashing a ferocious shot past Cousins.

Proceedings were wrapped up in the 74th minute when Gary Roberts won possession of the ball before feeding Bennett, who surged forward and crashed a 25-yard right-foot effort home.

How Pompey fans celebrated upon the first tentative step into the new season.

Keeping their feet on the ground, though, is going to be rather tricky.

Back to the top of the page