Ex-midfielder praises Portsmouth's battling attitude at Stevenage but predicts 'difficult season' ahead
Alan McLoughlin believes Pompey should take heart from the way they overcame adversity at Stevenage to progress to the next round of the Carabao Cup.
However, the former Blues midfielder insisted there’s a lot of hard work ahead as he predicted a ‘long, difficult season’ for Kenny Jackett and his side.
Pompey’s 2020-21 campaign got off to the worst possible start as they found themselves 2-0 down at the Lamex Stadium with just 10 minutes on the clock.
Ronan Curtis halved the deficit on 21 minutes, before the defensive errors that ultimately led to Boro’s lead re-emerged to hand the hosts a third goal just before the half-hour mark.
Gareth Evans pulled a second goal back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time from the penalty spot.
Then John Marquis struck six minutes into the second half to get Pompey back on level terms.
The Blues were unable to complete the comeback in normal time, instead seeing off the side that finished bottom of League Two last season on penalties.
Substitute keeper Craig MacGillivray – a half-time replacement for Alex Bass – proved the hero as he saved three of Boro’s efforts from the spot.
The keeper rightfully received the plaudits following his heroics as the Blues escaped a humiliating defeat.
McLoughlin, who was at the game as a pundit for BBC Solent, said the whole team deserved praised for their never-say-die attitude.
But not one to mince his words, Macca added there remained much to be concerned about.
He told BBC Solent after the game: ‘It’s never an exact science, football.
‘And certainly it (the win via a penalty shoot-out) won’t satisfy the Portsmouth fans that things are on an upward curve really in terms of the performances.
‘But certainly they found a way to get back into the game, which is encouraging – they just didn’t lie down and roll over.
‘They found a way back into it.
‘I certainly think there’s a lot of things to work on, it’s going to be a long, difficult season.
‘But there were some positives.
‘I thought Bryn Morris in the second half, although not a great first half, grew a little bit more in confidence – as did Tom Naylor.
‘They passed the ball forward quicker, they were more precise, there was better link play from Gareth Evans, and Ronan Curtis was a real focus of the attacking play down the left-hand side with support from Lee Brown.
‘And John Marquis had his one opportunity and will be delighted with an emphatic finish.
‘Overall, they won’t paper over some of the cracks that were there, but certainly they’ll find some inspiration and spirit that they’ve come back from adversity and got themselves into the next round.’
The Blues’ next game is against Colchester in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday, September 8.
Their first league game is at home to Shrewsbury on Saturday, September 12.