Pompey 5 Barnet 1 '“ Neil Allen's match report
As Paul Cook obligingly posed for photographs with excitable youngsters beside the Fratton end, the inevitable topic was tabled.
‘The kids are so happy Conor Chaplin played today,’ the voice gushed enthusiastically.
With a knowing smile and chuckle, Pompey’s boss acknowledged the lady before heading to his office for the post-match unwind.
People power was never going to successfully dictate Cook’s selection policy on the ever-popular teenager.
Yet on Saturday the lure proved too compelling to resist, particularly once the wilting alternatives had been evaluated.
Noel Hunt was sidelined with a groin strain, Michael Smith spurned his opportunity at Accrington, while Curtis Main is tentatively feeling his way back from a 20-stitch facial wound.
The outcome a first start of the campaign for Chaplin – fittingly Barnet forming the opposition.
It was in September 2015 when the teenager was granted a first League Two start under Cook against Martin Allen’s side.
He netted twice in a 3-1 triumph over the Bees, who had initially taken the lead, while referee Darren England ensured they finished the Fratton Park encounter with 10-men.
On Saturday the scoreline differed, yet plenty of similarities remained, including the aforementioned match official, as the Blues cantered to a thumping 5-1 victory.
Chaplin’s contribution of a 34th minute leveller was deservedly overshadowed by the ever-inspirational figure of Gary Roberts.
Nonetheless, the 19-year-old remains a rich goal-scoring talent, handily also equipped with the glorious ability to lift Fratton Park during his pitch presence.
Chaplin’s confidence is impregnable at present, an untouchable who can truly commit no footballing crime, albeit discounting that ill-advised injury-related Tweet while sat in the Morecambe stands.
His mere selection in place of Smith had effortlessly escalated Fratton Park morale in the hour heading into Saturday’s kick-off.
As ever, the striker didn’t disappoint – and once more it was Barnet on the receiving end.
Not that Chaplin should be allowed to distract supporters from an overall result in which so many others also warrant star billing.
This was not the one-man show witnessed in the previous Fratton Park outing against Wycombe when he claimed man of the match from the bench.
Against the Bees, Pompey oozed class across the pitch, while the substitutes netted a goal and an assist between them to emphasis their key impacts.
It contrasted with that lacklustre Accrington showing when even the mighty Chaplin, yes even he, was found wanting following an introduction from the bench in a 1-0 loss.
Barnet were on the receiving end of five different goalscorers, four of which contributed during a second-half which also produced a missed penalty.
Roberts was the culprit, John Vickers brilliantly flinging himself to his left to deny the spot kick, yet he remained Pompey’s invigorating spirit.
The 32-year-old is revelling in the form of his Pompey career, finally relieved of injury deadweight and allowed to soar.
He represents the player many anticipated salivating over upon his Chesterfield arrival, although last term it was provided in glimpses.
On Saturday he took his season goal tally to six, while contributed another two assists – plus the pass to Chaplin which earned the penalty that wasn’t scored.
Unquestionably Roberts is going to be a key figure in the latest hunt for promotion and, at present, is galvanising the side with magnificence.
In the build-up to Barnet’s visit, the ever-eloquant Danny Rose described the importance of last weekend’s Accrington defeat being perceived as a blip.
Certainly it now deserves such a label as the Blues tore through Allen’s side after the break with a ruthless swagger.
And with it arrived a fifth win in six and four straight victories at Fratton Park.
Currently Pompey encouragingly possess a consistency for winning and, of course, for scoring goals.
Granted, there would have been a few doubts creeping in when John Akinde netted from the penalty spot on 27 minutes.
Tom Davies rose to clear Ryan Watson’s free-kick from the left only to succeed in making contract with both head and hand.
Former Blues striker Akinde’s spot kick was unconvincing, likewise David Forde’s attempt at saving, yet the visitors had the lead.
Certainly Allen would not have anticipated finishing the match with a 5-1 defeat, yet once Chaplin levelled the hosts surged ahead.
It was Roberts who carved out the leveller, barging through to win back the ball on the edge of the area before prodding a left-foot pass.
Chaplin did the rest, with a calm left-foot finish from the angle in front of a jubilant Fratton End.
The draw remained until the break, yet the second half saw Pompey step up their performance in devastating fashion.
On 50 minutes arrived the goal of the game, Roberts twisting and turning Michael Nelson to leave the defender flailing on the floor, before prodding a shot past the keeper in the same flowing move.
Barely six minutes later and Roberts fed Carl Baker down the right, the midfielder shaping to cross right-footed to cleverly take out two defenders before cutting inside and curling a left-foot shot into the far corner.
Forde noticeably left his box to race into the opposition half and join in boisterous celebrations with almost all his team-mates.
Then on 64 minutes, Roberts put Chaplin through down the right-hand side of the penalty area only to be clipped by Bira Dembele.
A spot kick was obvious, although the red card was not, with Chaplin afterwards admitting the punishment was harsh when a yellow would suffice.
However, Roberts’ fourth penalty of the season was saved.
Substitute Milan Lalkovic made it 4-1 on 78 minutes, curling in his maiden Pompey goal from just inside the area.
Finally, two minutes into stoppage time, a wonderful flowing team goal resulted in Kyle Bennett slipping in Rose for his first for the Blues.
Back to winning ways and smiles all round – particularly among those captivated by those Chaplin scoring charms.