Norwich 0 Portsmouth 1 '“ Neil Allen's match report

A glimpse at the future resulted in hankering for a return to the past.

Sunday, 6th January 2019, 11:21 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 2:31 pm
Pompey celebrations after their last-gasp victory at Norwich. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey have been achingly absent for too long, seven seasons to be precise. On Saturday evening, Carrow Road provided an intoxicating reminder.

The curiously rotating big screen in the corner between the Barclay Stand and South Stand, the press room offering chicken curry delivered from Delia Smith's adjoining restaurant and bar.

Club logos embroidered into leather dug-out seats and attendances crashing through the 23,000 barrier.

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This is the Championship, albeit presently sprinkled with Premier League aspirations for hosts Norwich.

Granted, there was last season's venture to Cardiff City, yet a Carabao Cup fixture attracting 6,592 never supplied a true reflection of the setting.

Kenny Jackett's men, League One leaders since September, are pursuing promotion and the right to be permitted entry to a level previously inhabited during the 2011-12 campaign.

On the occasion of a third-round FA Cup tie, an irritant of a competition to many, how that resolve strengthened for those present of Pompey persuasion.

The compelling truth is, during these years of exile, the Blues have never been as delectably close to permanent residence in the Championship.

On Saturday there was a tantalising peek at what potentially awaits '“ and how the 2,493 travelling support basked in that golden vision.

The Carrow Road trip was, of course, marked by a 1-0 victory, triumph in the most dramatic of circumstances as Jackett's troops inflicted a genuine cup upset.

Following elimination at the hands of Notts County, Stevenage, Aldershot, Bournemouth, Wycombe and Luton in recent times, it was an outcome to be savoured for the 2008 winners and 2010 finalists.

Remarkably, it was also a first win at an existing Championship club since a 4-3 success over Doncaster Rovers in April 2012, also generated by a stoppage-time decider.

Incidentally, Saturday's crowd of 23,201 represented the highest attendance the Blues have performed in front of since defeat at Nottingham Forest on the final day of that relegation season.

Faced with negotiating such unnatural terrain, Jackett's largely youthful starting XI stepped up to the task magnificently to overcome a side placed second in the Championship.

They were assisted, unquestionably, by Daniel Farke's decision to instigate eight team changes, with promotion understandably a far more pressing matter than FA Cup progress.

While skipper Grant Hanley's sending off with a mere 15 minutes on the clock following a cumbersome challenge on Ronan Curtis swung the advantage in the direction of the visitors during match proceedings.

Not that the numerical disadvantage over such a lengthy period hampered the attacking motivation of the hosts, keeping the ball wonderfully well as they made light of the perilous situation.

Even hamstrung by 10-men and the desire for rotation, Farke's side were hugely impressive, demonstrating a calibre Pompey must attempt to replicate should they occupy the Championship next season.

Regardless, the League One visitors carved out the game's best goal-scoring opportunities '“ and also Andre Green's 95th-minute winner.

The Aston Villa loanee has endured a frustrating Fratton Park stay, obstructed by the ongoing brilliance of Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis on either flank.

He bristles at the suggestion of the application of a super-sub tag, nonetheless the 20-year-old once more emerged from the bench to provide a goal-scoring input '“ for the third time in his Pompey career.

In the previous round, Green netted during the final minute to clinch a 1-0 victory at Rochdale, thereby securing the club's progress into the FA Cup third round for only the second time in seven seasons.

For the subsequent trip to the Canaries, the winger's entry into Fratton folklore was inscribed deep into time added on. The matter of it emanating from a period of defending made it considerably sweeter.

A clearing header from Ben Thompson initiated the decisive move, the ball then picked up by Brett Pitman, who fed Dion Donohue down Pompey's left and deep in his own half.

Pitched in at left-back for a first appearance in two-and-a-half months following injury, the former Chesterfield man afterwards joked he didn't have the energy to carry the ball too far.

Instead he broke towards Norwich's half before pinpointing a deep left-footed cross-field delivery into the feet of Green, breaking free down the right.

As the winger surged into the box, his first shot was blocked, yet a kindly ricochet allowed a second opportunity, prodding a right-footed finish past Michael McGovern.

Instinctively Green hurtled towards the 2,493 supporters gathered in the away end at the pitch's opposite end, fans who had so impressively dominated the occasion vocally.

From heading for a Fratton Park replay, Pompey strode into a Monday date with the television to uncover their fourth-round opposition.

Certainly a fine day for Jackett to mark his 57th birthday, not that you can imagine the Blues boss staging over-exuberant celebrations for any occasion.

He had opted for just two changes for the Norfolk trip, with Donohue earning selection over Brandon Haunstrup, while Pitman came in for Oli Hawkins, who missed out on the squad completely.

Restored as skipper, Pitman should have broken the deadlock on 16 minutes, with Norwich still reeling from Hanley's sending off a minute earlier.

The in-form Lowe produced a sublime cross from the right, yet somehow Pitman contrived to head the ball over at the far post from four-yards out.

It appeared the simplest of opportunities '“ and wouldn't be until late in the second half before the visitors next genuinely challenged McGovern.

Firstly Donohue's right-footed shot on 77 minutes was parried by the keeper, with a Norwich defender clearing just as Pitman slid in with an attempt to divert the ball into an empty net.

Then McGovern produced a flying stop to deny Lowe's drive just minutes later.

With full-time approaching, the Canaries' manager employed rested duo Teemu Pukki and Onel Hernandez from the bench to bolster their threat, while Craig MacGillivray had to keep out Todd Cantwell's header.

The late pressure was ramped up with a stoppage-time free-kick harshly awarded against Donohue as the Blues clung on for a replay.

Then came the counter-attack which resulted in a notable Pompey triumph.

And the Fratton faithful will be hoping they'll be many more victories over Championship opposition very, very soon.