A nightmarish Yorkshire evening - how Portsmouth avoided televised humiliation in last Harrogate FA Cup clash

For 10 minutes the FA Cup was toasting another televised upset, while the under-fire Kenny Jackett faced another pile on for his departure.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 11:00 am

It was November 2019 and Harrogate Town from the National League were threatening to follow in the footsteps of Aldershot by inflicting humiliation on the former winners.

The moment arrived on seven minutes through Mark Beck, capitalising on the League One visitors struggling to adjust to the challenges of a 3G pitch.

For a time, the Fratton faithful were contemplating a humbling on a bitterly cold North Yorkshire evening.

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Earlier, two floodlight failures had jeopardized the fixture, with referee Anthony Backhouse declaring a third occasion would prompt the game to be scrapped.

As it was, the FA Cup first-round fixture kicked off 55 minutes late. Many associated with Pompey wished it had never taken place after Beck’s intervention.

Then Brandon Haunstrup, the left-back playing on the right in an emergency, cut inside and registered a 17th-minute leveller with his maiden career goal.

Ronan Curtis’ spectacular shot from long range effectively settled the occasion shortly before half-time.

Brandon Haunstrup helps spare Pompey's blushes with the leveller in the previous FA Cup encounter with Harrogate in November 2019. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/PinPep

Pompey had survived a scare to earn progress into the second round, yet it had proven to be an uncomfortable evening.

Certainly Christian Burgess, who would later be crowned The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season, posted his worst display of the campaign.

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He wasn't the only member of Jackett’s men who struggled to come to grips on an artificial playing surface so often decisive in Harrogate’s National League fixtures.

The Blues had prepared for the anticipated culture shock by training at Furze Lane, not that it told on a tough evening in which few emerged with any credit.

That was two years ago, yet seven members of the Harrogate starting XI still remain, along with manager Simon Weaver.

Alas their pitch has departed, having been torn up to meet Football League criteria following promotion at the end of that 2019-20 campaign.

Last term they finished 17th in League Two – they visit Fratton Park on Saturday positioned seventh and in the play-offs.

Beck, their goalscorer against Pompey, has since left for a loan spell at York, while keeper James Belshaw, beaten twice that night, is now a regular at Bristol Rovers.

Survivors from that Blues starting XI are Sean Raggett, Lee Brown, Curtis and John Marquis.

Only Raggett and Curtis can be certain to line-up in the rematch two years later, with Brown and Marquis hampered by injury recently.

Now led by Danny Cowley, Pompey will be keen to avoid another awkward FA Cup tie against the Sulphurites – yet at least this occasion will be in grass and played under reliable floodlights.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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