Contrasting fortunes for Portsmouth’s transfer targets who got away

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The deflection was more obscene than wicked, alarmingly switching trajectory and direction to wrong-foot the stunned Blackburn keeper.

With a mere one minute on the clock, Sean Longstaff had opened the scoring in Tuesday’s 4-2 FA Cup success at Ewood Park.

Former Pompey target Sean Longstaff challenges Jorginho on his full Premier League debut. Picture: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Former Pompey target Sean Longstaff challenges Jorginho on his full Premier League debut. Picture: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

His maiden Newcastle goal – arriving 72 hours after presented with a first Premier League start, the opponents on that occasion being Chelsea.

Meanwhile, Mo Eisa has failed to make four of Bristol City’s last five squads, while is without an appearance in their eight most recent fixtures.

He has totalled 25 minutes of Championship football, with a sole start arriving in the Carabao Cup against Plymouth.

Contrasting fortunes for Kenny Jackett’s summer targets, who came so agonisingly close to sealing Fratton Park moves.

Longstaff’s loan was aborted on the day of his scheduled arrival in July, Toon boss Rafa Benitez leaping into action following second thoughts.

Eisa was the exhausting transfer story of the summer, with Pompey at one stage confident of succeeding in their £1m pursuit.

Instead, the striker became the Robins’ sixth-summer signing, recruited for £1.5m by Lee Johnson, the son of selling club Cheltenham’s manager, Gary.

In the duo's Fratton Park absence, Jackett has masterminded a team which has resided at the top of League One since September.

Yet, at the time, missing out on Longstaff and Eisa represented massive blows to his pre-season squad strengthening.

‘Portsmouth’s loan bid for Longstaff was blocked by Newcastle – he was definitely going to sign at that point,’ said the Newcastle Chronicle’s Lee Ryder.

‘However, Rafa felt he could save the club some money by keeping him as a first-team squad player.

‘Longstaff was impressed by the Portsmouth fans and the club, it was pretty much a done deal until Rafa stepped in. Yet, with not that much money to spend on his own squad, he pulled the plug.

‘The lad was on his way to Fratton Park, he had accepted the challenge, then it was called off.

‘Since then he’s had to bide his time, but Rafa has been as good as his word, promoting the midfielder into the first-team when the time has required him to do so.

‘Injuries to Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame, while Ki Sung-Yueng’s call-up for international duty with South Korea, has not left many central midfielders.

‘That created an opportunity for Sean, who made his Premier League debut at Liverpool on Boxing Day, coming off the bench.

‘He may have been on the pitch for only 17 minutes, but in a nice little moment jinked past Fabinho and Virgil Van Dyke in front of the Kop. Sadly it was left out of the Match of the Day highlights!

‘Longstaff was then handed a maiden league start against Chelsea last weekend, rubbing shoulders with Eden Hazard, Willian and N'Golo Kante.

‘In a 5-4-1 system, he played in midfield and certainly held his own against some elite opposition as the Toon lost 2-1. Then came Tuesday night’s goal at Blackburn during another start.

‘Hull and Birmingham last month enquired about taking him on loan, but Rafa told them the same as he did Portsmouth in the summer.

‘Once Shelvey and Diame are back it’s going to be very difficult for him to be involved, although you never now, he may get a run before the season ends.

‘However, Rafa is big on senior players. He’s not against putting young players in, but while Newcastle are in a relegation battle it’s hard, he has no choice but to hold off.

‘The fans like Longstaff, it’s a local boy coming through and you want to see your academy producing players, Newcastle are no different.’

The 21-year-old Longstaff has now made five appearances for Newcastle this season, of which four have been starts.

He spent the duration of last season on loan at Blackpool in League One, scoring eight goals in 45 appearances.

Moving onto Eisa, he was hotly pursued by a number of clubs following 25 goals during a maiden Football League season.

He had arrived at Cheltenham in July 2017, following non-league spells with Dartford, Leatherhead, Corinthian and, finally, Greenwich Borough.

The leap from League Two to the Championship, however, has unsurprisingly not proven straight forward.

With the Robins presently sitting in seventh spot, the 24-year-old has six appearances, of which five have come from the bench.

‘Eisa came in for a couple of appearances when he first signed, but hasn’t featured too much since,’ said Gregor MacGregor, Bristol City reporter with the Bristol Post.

‘I have asked manager Lee Johnson why that is and basically it has been put down to requiring learning the practical side of the game. Some players need many months to adapt.

‘The manager also pointed out how it can take some time to settle, the Swedish winger Niclas Eliasson being a prime example, taking a year to come good.

‘The manager also recently addressed the possibility of sending Eisa out on loan during this window. Apparently several clubs are in for him, so they must decide on the best solution.

‘Considering he is playing so little, I would think it makes sense him going somewhere.

‘During his early appearances, Eisa was basically used as a second striker, but then was out for a short period with an ankle ligament injury. Since then Johnson has settled on Jamie Paterson in that position.

‘In addition, Kasey Palmer has joined from Chelsea on loan and scored five minutes into his debut against Bolton last weekend, after coming off the bench. He’s now ahead of Eisa.

‘From what I have seen, I’ve been quite impressed with Eisa, he does have a spark.

‘Johnson has been at pains to point out that Eisa remains a good prospect in the long-term. He has moved up six divisions in 18 months, which is just crazy, so it’s taking a bit of time to get up to speed.

‘The fans are a little perplexed, he was expected to be given more of a chance, but at the same time you cannot argue with the team’s progress at present, they’ve got some real momentum.’

Certainly the careers of Eisa and Longstaff could today be panning out differently had Pompey succeeded in that summer pursuit.