Millwall 2 Portsmouth 1: Neil Allen's verdict - Magnificent Fratton faithful steal the show as Blues suffer Carabao Cup exit

They sang for Ben Thompson to sign, they sang Jed Wallace’s name in tribute – those Pompey fans just sang and sang and sang.

Tuesday, 10th August 2021, 9:44 pm
Ronan Curtis heads the ball under pressure from Millwall defender Ryan Leonard in Pompey's Carabao Cup encounter. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

As Danny Cowley’s side tonight wilted following a bright start, the 2,000 Fratton followers present dominated Millwall in their own backyard.

The consequences of a 15-month absence for supporters has been well documented – and for a Carabao Cup tie the visiting supporters made up for lost time magnificently.

Pompey lost 2-1, obviously the most important statistic of the night, to tumble out of the competition at the hands of their Championship hosts.

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Yet off the pitch, Blues supporters were in fine voice throughout. Noisy, continuous, passionate, and effortlessly overhauling the Millwall fans.

Their performance was unquestionably the highlight of the match, particularly considering football has been deprived of its soul for so long.

It mattered not that Cowley’s men were behind from the 26th minute and then played with 10 men for the last 43 minutes. Still they sang.

In terms of the football, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild’s superb finish from outside the box handed Pompey a fourth-minute lead.

It represented the winger’s first goal in just three outings and hopefully can be something to build on after a frustrating start to Fratton Park life.

However, poor defending allowed Millwall to take a 2-1 lead inside the next 22 minutes – and that was enough to claim victory.

Still the visiting support sang, though.

There were repeated calls directed at substitute Thompson to ‘sign him up’, at one point the Millwall man waving acknowledgement in their direction as he warmed up.

While the substitution of Wallace was met with the dusting off of the rendition ‘Super Jed’ from the away section.

Pompey may have lost, the team once again showing fight in the face of their numerical disadvantage to ensure the scoreline difference was marginal.

Yet it was their fans singing at the final whistle to drown out supporters victorious at The Den.

In terms of team selection, Shaun Williams recovered from his back issue to face the club he left for Pompey in the summer.

He swiftly responded to treatment and was one of three changes to Cowley’s side for the trip to The Den.

Johnson and Hackett-Fairchild also came into the side, with Lee Brown, Marcus Harness and Kieron Freeman dropping to the bench.

Also among the substitutes was Michael Jacobs following the collapse of his move to Ipswich.

The 29-year-old hadn’t trained since the end of last week as he prepared to complete his Portman Road switch.

Yet with Cowley insisting the door remains open for the winger, he was named on the bench against the Lions.

Although midfield newcomers Joe Morrell and Louis Thompson are not involved following their arrivals early this week.

It was a cracking atmosphere inside The Den, with 2,000 Blues followers present, and it didn’t take them long to cheer a goal.

Hackett-Fairchild picked up the ball on the right, midway through Millwall’s half and surged forward.

He then cut across the pitch, enabling him to switch the ball to his left foot, and drove in a shot from outside the box which found the far side of the goal.

It was a wonderful strike from the winger in only his third Blues appearance – and how he savoured the moment.

The home fans were stunned into silence, while Pompey set about adding to their lead with a real positivity about play.

Yet it was all level on 21 minutes after Mahlon Romeo launched an attack down the right.

From his delivery, the ball eventually was met by Wallace, whose right-footed shot was blocked by Alex Bass.

Yet Scott Malone was completely unmarked and followed up with a left-footed finish, placing a first-time shot through several bodies and into the net.

Moment’s later, Wallace’s low shot from the right was pushed around the post by Bass as Millwall found their impetus and the fans their voice.

It was 2-1 on 26 minutes, initiated by Ryan Leonard’s surge up the pitch past several Blues challenges.

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His pass into the box picked out Tom Bradshaw, whose shot was superbly blocked by the flying Raggett.

However, it was delivered back into the box by Wallace from the right, with the ball skimming off the head of Raggett and finding George Saville, who netted first time.

It was another poor goal for the visitors to concede having stopped the initial shot and then failing to react to the second phase of the attack.

On 38 minutes, a clash of heads between Ogilvie and Benik Afobe left both requiring treatment, but thankfully they were able to continue.

With half-time approaching, Ronan Curtis cut in from the left, exchanged passes with Marquis, and then fired a right-footed shot wide of the target.

At the other end, Ryan Tunnicliffe was stupidly caught in possession inside his own penalty area by Afobe, whose subsequent shot was beaten out well by Bass.

Cowley made his first change at the interval, with Marquis replaced by George Hirst as the main striker.

Within minutes there were two appeals for handball inside the box from the Pompey fans positioned behind the goal their side were attacking, but waved away by the referee.

The Blues were then reduced to 10 men following Johnson’s challenge on Bradshaw on 47 minutes, earning the right-back a straight red from referee Charles Breakspear.

In the ensuing reshuffle, Freeman was introduced from the bench to replace Ahadme, slotting in at right-back.

On 61 minutes, Williams was given a tremendous reception by fans of his former club when replaced by Jacobs for the Blues’ third and final substitution.

On 76 minutes, substitute Matt Smith got his head to a left-wing cross to head against the inside of the far post.

Thankfully for Pompey, Raggett did enough to prevent Afobe from following up at close range and extending their lead.

There was a glimpse of a leveller for the Blues on 84 minutes when Hackett-Fairchild glided into the box only to initially take too much time and was stopped.

His follow-up effort, while grounded, was then headed off the line by Leonard.

As full-time approached, Bass pulled out a magnificent low stop to his left to deny Smith following another far-post header.

And at the final whistle, the Pompey fans sang and sang and sang.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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