Crawley 1 Pompey 2 – Neil Allen’s match report

Brett Pitman. Picture: Neil Marshall
Brett Pitman. Picture: Neil Marshall
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Goalscorer, skipper, now free-kick taker and the subject of a fresh Pompey song.

Brett Pitman’s Pompey impact has been swift – and delectably optimistic.

Admittedly, his involvement has centred on nothing more than dress rehearsals ahead of the forthcoming weekend’s League One curtain-raiser.

Yet the summer recruit is daring to hint that he is the calibre of striker to have eluded Paul Cook and many of his predecessors during the post-Premier League existence.

It wasn’t merely a return of two goals at Crawley on Saturday which demonstrated rich promise – it was the manner of their arrival.

In a Pompey display largely lacklustre, particularly during the opening 45 minutes, Pitman lit up the occasion with separate moments dripping with class.

Certainly the contribution was unbefitting a sodden Broadfield Stadium encounter which represented the seventh and final friendly of the Blues’ summer.

For large parts, Kenny Jackett’s men struggled to sparkle against the League Two outfit, despite a noticeable improvement after the break.

They were also trailling to Thomas Verheydt’s third-minute header, which handed the hosts a deserved half-time lead.

Yet Pitman, signed from Ipswich earlier this month, demonstrated the quality the Fratton faithful are banking on reaping goals on their League One return.

The first was a leveller in the 55th minute after Mark Connolly had clumsily bundled him over from behind while the striker was attempting to kill the ball on his chest.

Pitman took the free-kick himself and, from around 23 yards, drove right-footed shot into the top right-hand corner of the net.

It was a stunning strike from the skipper, who can now be expected to be on frequent dead-ball duties this season, should the trajectory suit.

The decisive second goal was created through excellent link-up play with substitute Milan Lalkovic.

The winger so out of favour last term is steadily establishing himself as Jackett’s go-to man from the bench – and at Crawley he once again made an impact.

Combining with Pitman in the left-hand channel of the penalty area in the 75th minute, he squeezed through a pass which gave the striker a glimpse of goal.

Pitman did the rest, clipping a smart angled left-foot shot past the advancing Glenn Morris to seal a 2-1 victory for the visitors.

So a winning end to the pre-season programme ahead of a league opener with Rochdale on Saturday.

It was also largely Jackett’s first XI, minus Christian Burgess, who joined Matt Clarke on the sidelines with a slight calf problem.

That earned Jack Whatmough a recall alongside Tom Davies in the centre of defence, while Carl Baker again impressed in a central midfield role with his use of the ball and eagerness to receive possession.

Still, the warm-up is over, now it’s onto League One – with Pitman spearheading the attack.

Crawley: Morris; Young, Lelan, Yorwerth, Connolly, Evina, Boldewijn, Bulman, Randall (68 mins Payne), Roberts (80 mins Lewis), Verheydt (70 mins Harrold). Subs not used: Mersin, Arthur, Cox, Blackman, Djalo, Clifford, Tajbakash, Sanoh, Camara.

Pompey: McGee, Evans, Davies, Whatmough, Holmes-Dennis, Naismith, Rose, Baker, Bennett, Pitman, Chaplin (62 mins Lalkovic). Subs Not Used: Bass, Talbot, Main, May, Lowe, Kabamba, Close, Haunstrup.

Attendance: 1,603 (778 away)