Marcus Harness is arguably Portsmouth's most talented player - now the challenge is to light the touchpaper like Jamal Lowe

It was a wonder strike that any Premier League player would have been proud of.

Friday, 2nd October 2020, 6:00 am
Marcus Harness celebrates scoring for Pompey against Colchester. Picture: Joe Pepler

A solo effort against Sheffield United which would undoubtedly have made the shortlist for Match of the Day's Goal of the Season in any given year.

And a moment of quality that convinced Pompey to swiftly make their move.

When Marcus Harness lashed home a thunderbolt to give Burton a 2-1 friendly win over the Blades in July 2019, it was the catalyst for the Blues to ramp up their interest.

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Amid Wigan's persistent attempt to sign Jamal Lowe, the Blues had identified and successfully recruited his replacement.

At the time, Pompey insisted Harness' arrival did not spell the end for Lowe on the south coast.

In reality, though, everyone knew it was only a matter of time.

And exactly two weeks later, Lowe left for the DW Stadium after a protracted transfer saga.

Certainly, Harness would have known he had a significant void to fill upon his arrival.

In Lowe's second full season at Fratton Park, after being snapped up from non-league football by Paul Cook, he transformed himself into Pompey's talisman.

Jamal Lowe celebrates scoring in the Checkatrade Trophy final - one of 17 goals he bagged in 2018-19 for Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler

In 2018-19, Lowe finished as the Blues' 17-goal top goalscorer, with one of his strikes coming in the Checkatrade Trophy final triumph over Sunderland at a sold-out Wembley.

And as Harness returns to Burton for the first time on Saturday, the Blues will be hoping he can have a similar sort of influence this term.

As raw talent goes, there aren't many, if any, currently better at Fratton Park.

While Ronan Curtis and Alex Bass have made the headlines for attracting interest from Brentford and Crystal Palace respectively this summer, it's understood the one player the Blues have received the most enquiries about is Harness.

What’s more, team-mates also hold him in the highest regard. One even believes he could perform in the top half of the Championship.

Comparing their achievements, Harness' maiden campaign at Pompey was more productive compared to Lowe's first full term.

In 2017-18, the former Hampton & Richmond man bagged eight goals in 50 appearances.

Harness, meanwhile, plundered nine times in 37 matches. And had last season not been curtailed, there have been a couple of goals on his tally, no doubt.

But it was 2018-19 when Lowe lit the touchpaper, having had time to adjust to how Kenny Jackett wanted to play.

In the Pompey boss’ 4-2-3-1 system, there's plenty of emphasis on ensuring the wide men flourish. That's indeed what Lowe did.

At times, he was given the freedom to almost play as a second striker and encouraged to get across the near post when crosses were coming into the box. He finished with 17 goals in 55 games and was rewarded with a move to the Championship.

Now the challenge is for Harness’ performances to follow in a similar trajectory.

Amid a lacklustre start to the season by the Blues, the former Aldershot loanee has been one of their better performers.

There was a superb double in the 2-0 win over Colchester in the EFL Trophy, while he was arguably the Blues' best performer in the abject 2-1 loss to Wigan – despite being surprisingly substituted.

In truth, it was a complete shock when the fourth official raised his number to be replaced by Ellis Harrison on 58 minutes.

Polite and unassuming off the pitch, there’s still a lot of unlocked potential on it.

And should Harness produce exploits akin to Lowe, then he’ll go a long way in helping transform Pompey from early-season strugglers to promotion contenders.

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