Andy Cannon proves potent Portsmouth conduit in Birmingham victory as Kenny Jackett has decisions to make to face Tranmere
Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey’s 3-0 Carabao Cup victory over Birmingham City…
OFF THE MARK IN STYLE
Despite not netting in pre-season, Ellis Harrison insisted he wasn’t worried.
But as a striker, it would have been a slight thought at the back of his mind.
Add that to the fact his team-mates quipped Harrison fired blanks during the summer programme.
Those jokes won’t be able to be made now, however, as he opened his Pompey goal account superbly.
Harrison was convinced his 30th-minute header had crossed the line when it was headed onto the underside of the crossbar.
Despite Birmingham’s best protests, the marksman was never in doubt he’d broke his Blues duck and he savoured the moment.
And the quality of his second shouldn’t go underestimated. Peeling off the visitors’ defence, Harrison got into a fine position to meet Ronan Curtis’ cross and head home with aplomb.
In truth, the 25-year-old should have taken home the match ball moments later when he was denied by visiting keeper David Stockdale from close range.
But the fact his good pal Lee Brown squandered the follow-up with the goal gaping gives Harrison the upper hand when handing out flak.
It wasn’t just the summer arrival Ipswich’s goals which impressed, though.
His perpetual pressing out of possession didn’t go unnoticed by the Fratton faithful as Harrison ran himself into the ground.
That’s the first thing supporters appreciate from any player, so even if the Newport-born ace goes through a lull spell in the final third, he’s unlikely to cop too much criticism.
Cannon the conduit
It’s been a tough seven months for Andy Cannon.
After arriving from Rochdale in January, he managed just two appearances before a prolonged quad injury kept him out for three-and-a-half months.
Unable to impact the business end of last season’s failed League One promotion bid, Cannon’s been determined to make up for lost time over the summer.
The 23-year-old impressed Kenny Jackett during pre-season – and it’s easy to see why.
Making a first Blues appearance since January 19, Cannon underlined the qualities he’ll bring to this term’s Championship charge.
He played the furthest forward out of Pompey’s three midfielders, acting as the conduit between the the engine room and the front men.
Given his lengthy absence, Cannon maybe took slightly longer than he’d have liked to show his prowess.
But in the second half, the Ashton-under-Lyne talent displayed the verve and pep he was brought to Fratton Park for.
His low centre of gravity and ability to swiftly spin away from defenders is an attribute no-one else at PO4 has.
That was a key quality of Ben Thompson during his scintillating loan spell last campaign.
While it’s far too early to place Cannon in the same category as the Millwall man, Pompey have missed a similar sort of player.
Kenny Jackett has never complained he has the majority of players available.
A selection headache? That’s when there’re too many of his troops on the treatment table and the boss has limited numbers to select from.
But Jackett will have decisions to make when Pompey host Tranmere on Saturday.
John Marquis will likely be up for selection again after missing the Birmingham tie to be with his partner who’d gone into labour.
Naturally, you’d expect the £1m-plus recruit to regain a starting berth given his exploits of scoring 26 goals for Doncaster last season.
But Harrison's fine performance against Birmingham means he'd feel aggrieved to lose a spot in the XI.
Ross McCrorie, meanwhile, will enter the fray after serving his one-match suspension following his Shrewsbury dismissal.
But with Joe Gallen hinting the 4-3-3 system will likely remain against Rovers, there’s a strong argument the Rangers loanee wouldn’t fit into the system.
Plus it’d be a severe punishment for Ben Close, who grasped his chance and continued his barnstorming goalscoring form from last term.