Pompey 4 Fleetwood 1 – Neil Allen’s match report

Brett Pitman gave Pompey the lead against Fleetwood after 40 minutes Picture: Joe Pepler
Brett Pitman gave Pompey the lead against Fleetwood after 40 minutes Picture: Joe Pepler
Bradley Lethbridge. Picture: Colin Farmery

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The chief destroyer bore a curious resemblance to an Adam Ant tribute act savaging blue rare steak.

A chaotic vision to rank as intriguing rather than particularly fearsome.

Nonetheless, with added bite required, Brett Pitman ruthlessly sank his teeth into Fleetwood.

Certainly the second goal was a thing of breathless beauty, unbefitting the dishevelled appearance of its artist at the easel.

With six goals in eight Pompey league games, the 29-year-old hardly represents an unlikely hero – although as the fixture progressed he bore the demeanour of one.

Bloodied and battle-scarred, on Saturday Pitman’s gutsy contribution inspired Kenny Jackett’s men to a 4-1 triumph.

In the process of breaking the deadlock, he had received the hefty boot of Cian Bolger to the face while heading home Nathan Thompson’s cross.

A period of patching up was required off-field, Pitman returning sporting a numberless shirt and thick white strip across his nose.

Alas, the flow of blood struggled to be negated, prompting a mouth delivering the vampiric impression of having heartily enjoyed his latest midnight feast.

Still, the determination of the skipper to maintain an on-pitch presence is to be admired – and similarly the superb outcome.

Jackett continues to utilise the arrival from Ipswich in a role behind the main striker with spluttering results.

However, a highly-impressive early-season goal return demonstrates his effectiveness is not being hampered by such instructions.

Pitman’s latest two to his tally highlighted his broad range of finishing talents, an ability which sets him aside as a genuine 20-goals-a-season candidate at League One level.

The first arrived on 40 minutes, a far-post header on the move from Thompson’s right-wing delivery to kick off the contest.

His second sealed the 4-1 scoreline, collecting the ball on the left flank before taking three touches and unleashing a right-foot shot.

From 25-yards the ball rocketed into the far corner, crashing against the inside of the post for added dramatic effect.

It was a stunning strike and – with blood caked around his mouth – Pitman was fully justified in accepting the plaudits with arms outstretched.

Similarly, the standing ovation which greeted his 86th-minute exit for Oliver Hawkins was just as warranted, his painful exploits acknowledged.

Yet there had been a set-back at the start of the second half when Fleetwood levelled. Thankfully, it proved nothing more than a brief hold up.

All credit to Devante Cole, though, whose viciously-struck right-foot shot screamed into the top corner on 52 minutes.

Teed up by a headed pass from Lewie Coyle, even some members of the Fratton end applauded its technical excellence.

Cole is the son of former Pompey player Andy, a team-mate of watching duo Dejan Stefanovic and Sean Davis from the 2006-07 campaign.

His father last netted at Fratton Park in January 2007 during a 2-1 FA Cup win over Wigan. A decade later his son was threatening the destination of the points.

Still, such was the excellence of the Blues’ second-half display, they merely shrugged off his contribution to comfortably claim victory.

Jamal Lowe’s double, sandwiched in-between Pitman’s goal, would prove crucial – for the player just as much as his club.

The winger was the main culprit of some wasteful finishing at Northampton in the week, while also spurned chances in the previous home game to Rotherham.

He approached Saturday’s fixture without a League One goal and, curiously, having never scored with his header in his entire career since the age of eight.

Fitting then that the non-league recruit should put pay to such unwanted statistics.

The first would arrive barely five minutes following Cole’s strike – and from an unlikely source.

Dion Donohue, on at left-back for the injured Damien McCrory, delivered a corner from the right and there was Lowe at the far post to plant a header into the net.

He had put in overtime on the training ground on Thursday, attempting to improve his heading skills from deliveries provided by goalkeeping coach John Keeley.

It hadn’t taken long to pay dividends – and Pompey were back in the lead.

The manner of his second goal on 70 minutes was just as surprising, purely through the improbability of it.

Conor Chaplin pushed the ball into Lowe’s path down the right channel, but as he tore into the penalty area it appeared he had run out of space, with the byline beckoning.

Then suddenly he lashed a right-foot shot from the most implausible of angles to somehow find the far top corner of the net.

It was a wonderful strike and Jackett’s justification for retaining him in the side after the Sixfields loss was emphatic.

The Blues boss had made only one change to that side which defended so disappointingly and lacked a cutting edge in attack in the 3-1 defeat.

That consisted of Ben Close replacing Adam May in midfield alongside Stuart O’Keefe for a first league start since May 2016.

Having made the previous eight line-ups, the manager felt it was time to hand May a breather, easing him out of the 18-man squad completely.

Instead Close was entrusted with a starting berth – and shone with his ability to maintain possession and an effective use of the ball.

It was largely simple, yet enabled the team to dictate the second half long before Kyle Dempsey’s dismissal for a second yellow card with five minutes remaining.

The contest had ended well before that numerical disadvantage and had no impact on the result.

The lasting legacy to the face of Pitman is yet to be determined, however, afterwards Jackett unsure of the extent of the forward’s injury.

Regardless, he had demonstrated a commitment to the cause and goal-scoring prowess which could provide the backbone to this Blues side for years to come.

There are goals in this team – and a Prince Charming prepared to put his face on the line to yield them.