How Portsmouth boss Danny Cowley's switch-it up masterstroke and introduction of influential midfielder changed the game against Wimbledon

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Pompey battled back from going a goal down to claim a 2-1 win over AFC Wimbledon at Fratton Park yesterday.

The awarding of a contentious penalty saw Ollie Palmer hand the Dons a surprise lead after 24 minutes.

Danny Cowley’s Blues, who had previously picked up just one point after conceding the first goal in the league this season, levelled through the returning Michael Jacobs on 63 minutes.

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Then, just as it appeared the previous Saturday’s battling win at Wycombe would be quickly followed by a frustrating home draw against the Dons, man-of-the-moment Marcus Harcus grabbed the winner on 89 minutes – his seventh goal in 11 outings.

Here, Pompey writer Lewis Mason takes a look at the key moments which shaped the Blues’ first come-from-behind League One win this term

Switch it up

Initially adopting a 4-4-2/4-1-2-1-2 diamond formation, the second-half introduction of Reeco Hackett marked a Danny Cowley rethink.

Pompey had made a blistering start, with George Hirst, Michael Jacobs and Marcus Harness all guilty of missing golden first-half opportunities.

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Danny Cowley, right, celebrates Pompey's win against AFC Wimbledon with Mahlon Romeo     Picture: Joe PeplerDanny Cowley, right, celebrates Pompey's win against AFC Wimbledon with Mahlon Romeo     Picture: Joe Pepler
Danny Cowley, right, celebrates Pompey's win against AFC Wimbledon with Mahlon Romeo Picture: Joe Pepler

But Cowley decided to act eight minutes after the restart, with Hirst making way for Hackett as the Blues facing an uphill battle.

His introduction prompted the hosts to revert back to Cowley’s favoured 4-2-3-1 system, which would ultimately see them win after being in a losing position for the first time this term.

Pompey had blown Wimbledon away in a blistering opening 15 minutes or so - a lot of that down to the interchangeability between Jacobs, Harness, Hirst and Ronan Curtis in the attacking third.

But with Hackett introduced, the home side now had more mobile ball carriers in the front four positions, with Curtis leading the line, Harness central in behind and Jacobs and Hackett now operating in the wide areas.

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Utilised in his more natural wide left berth, Jacobs - who was making his first start for Pompey since April - looked at ease, and his driving, albeit unchallenged, direct run and shot got Cowley's boys back into it after 63 minutes.

Harness, again lively in the Blues’ initial pulsating start, was having a lot of impact operating between a high role on the right-hand side while also drifting central.

But sticking to a role just in behind front man Curtis after the second-half system switch, the former Burton man looked more settled and began to make a greater impression.

And it was no coincidence that Harness would have the final say.

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His 20-yard shot from a central position on the edge of the area found the corner of the net via the post as Cowley's willingness to change his game plan proved a telling move.

Attacking interchange

Pompey's pulsating start warranted an early lead of at least a goal - but wasteful finishing would prove costly.

So much of that early brightness came from Wimbledon's inability to cope with the Blues’ proactive attack.

Hirst, making his third consecutive start with John Marquis remaining absent, was partnered by Curtis through the middle, while Harness and Jacobs were operating at inside right and left positions respectively.

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But it was the interchangeability of that quartet - particularly the bright Jacobs and Harness - which was a catalyst behind that blistering opening from Pompey.

Their attacking fluidity was perfectly exhibited inside the opening 12 minutes.

First Jacobs, initially operating from the left side, picked the ball up in the right channel before teeing up Hirst – but his fourth-minute shot was blocked brilliantly by energetic Dons defender Paul Osew.

Then, it was the former Wigan man’s turn to be sent through on goal down the right channel following Harness' masterful flick.

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But Jacobs' attempt at a lofted finish, which was smothered brilliantly by opposition keeper Nik Tzanev, left a lot to be desired.

Admittedly, after Wimbledon's contentious penalty opener from former Hawks man Ollie Palmer after 24 minutes, Pompey's early fizz fell flat up until Cowley opted for a system switch.

But, with better finishing, the Blues could have been two or three goals to the good before the Dons' spot-kick.

And with a personnel of Jacobs - now back in the picture after a period of being overlooked - Harness, Hirst and Curtis, it could provide some exciting attacking promise moving forward.

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Morrell boost

Fresh from his battle with Manchester City and Belgium ace Kevin De Bruyne on the international stage, there were a few surprised faces when Joe Morrell was named on the bench following his latest exploits with Wales.

The diminutive midfielder did not look out of place sharing the spotlight with established names such as De Bruyne, Axel Witsel and Thorgan Hazard when the Welsh and the Belgians drew their World Cup qualifier in Cardiff during the week.

So to see him named amongst the substitutes, when fellow international Gavin Bazunu came straight back into the side for deputy Alex Bass, came as a shock.

Morrell's time would arrive just after the hour, though, against Wimbledon – and once again his influence was felt.

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On occasions, the Welshman provided some much-needed forward drive from his deep-lying midfield role alongside the dependable Shaun Williams.

He also displayed an impressive range of passing, with diagonal balls being sent left and right proving crucial to starting Pompey attacks.

Then, just as it appeared the Blues would have to settle for a frustrating point, Morrell's pinpoint and perfectly weighted pass was taken in his stride by Harness, who then grabbed the all important winner.

A great way to end a great week for the Wales international.

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