Portsmouth 2 Peterborough 0: Neil Allen's verdict - Boos, cheers, jeers and pantomime villains. Fratton faithful have given Blues its soul back
Any right-minded pantomime villain revels in the animosity of an audience present to witness his dastardly deeds.
Similarly, the Fratton faithful is at its most intimidating when an object of derision is foisted upon them, united and bound by solidarity as it pounces upon the divisive figure parading in front.
Supporters were back on Saturday – as was the lightning conductor that is Nathan Thompson
The explosive combination delivered a wonderful afternoon at Fratton Park as the atmosphere crackled and football’s soul returned.
Danny Cowley’s men won, of course, courtesy of an impressive display over Championship visitors Peterborough, who looked anything but worthy of such a Football League label.
Blues followers agreed, repeatedly enlightening Darren Ferguson’s men with renditions of ‘Championship, you’re having a laugh’ in front of an underwhelming 45 visiting followers.
Pompey’s famous old home had been granted permission to throw open its doors, thereby attracting its highest crowd since March 2020 – and how those 4,077 present made up for lost time.
Triumphing 2-0 certainly contributed to the lively ambiance, as did possessing a common enemy in the returning Thompson, who, ultimately, had to be substituted before seeing red.
Let’s not forget, the right-back once served the Blues with distinction, even heading home a late Wembey equaliser to put them on the path to Checkatrade Trophy final glory.
It’s relatively rare in the modern era for Pompey followers to set upon a former club servant with such relish, yet it’s merely part of sideshow which accompanies Thompson.
As a player who basks in antagonising opposition fans and players – as former Oxford United man Alex Mowatt will testify – Fratton Park couldn’t have invited a more appropriate house guest for its grand re-opening.
It would take just eight minutes for boos focused on his every touch, accompanied by a rendition of ‘We’ve seen you before’.
Meanwhile, his battle with John Marquis was intriguing, with the pair both booked on the hour mark following a skirmish while chasing a ball over the top which resulted in Thompson body slamming the Blues striker.
The defender should then have been dismissed when he clumsily brought down his adversary 11 minutes later – yet instead his own manager initiated a tactical withdrawal.
Oh how the Fratton faithful mocked such an ignominious departure, with particularly harsh comments clearly audible from the South stand as he made his way to Peterborough’s dugout.
By doing so, Thompson missed being present on the same pitch as his younger brother, who was introduced from the bench just four minutes after his exit.
Louis Thompson linked-up with Pompey on Thursday following his mutually-agreed departure from Norwich at the end of the previous week.
While Pompey fans mauled Nathan Thompson, within seven minutes of Louis’ arrival they chanted ‘sign him up’ to head coach Danny Cowley following an encouraging bow.
Certainly contrasting experiences for the Thompson brothers at Fratton’s relaunch party. As ever, the crowd played their part.
Nonetheless, let’s not become distracted by such a sub plot. After all, it was Cowley’s starting XI who impressively provided the foundation for a friendly triumph which elevated sagging morale with timely intervention.
The Blues' recruitment issues have been well documented, a frustratingly-slow process which continues to force their reliance on triallists to supplement a squad worryingly flimsy below the first-team.
As it was, for Peterborough’s visit, Ellis Harrison and Haji Mnoga were ruled out after contracting coronavirus, Gazin Bazunu and Gassan Ahadme nursing knocks, while Liam Vincent, Jayden Reid and Paul Downing are injured.
That prompted a start for Reeco Hackett-Fairchild, while the bench consisted of six traillists, including keeper Dan Gyollai, Thompson and Layton Ndukwu.
Incidentally, Ndukwu is the former Leicester winger who was released following a run-out against the Hawks – only to be invited back again at the tail-end of last week.
Not that Pompey needed their bench on Saturday, such was the eye-catching display against Peterborough for a scoreline which could have been easily more emphatic.
Man-of-the-match Ryan Tunnicliffe turned in an all-action display at the heart of the Blues midfield and it was his 24th-minute strike which handed the hosts the lead.
Posh keeper Christy Pym looked uncertain with his kicking all afternoon when pressured and, of this occasion, his clearance fell invitingly to Tunnicliffe, who steered a first-time right-footed shot from outside the box into an unguarded net.
That advantage was doubled on 40 minutes when Hackett-Fairchild charged down the left and his low cross was deflected into the path of Curtis, with the Irishman curling a first-time right-footed shot into the far corner of the net.
It was a sublime finish from Curtis, who has made no secret of his desire to test himself in the Championship, yet clearly isn’t winding down at Pompey as he awaits potential interest.
Thompson would later brilliantly block Marquis as he sized up finishing into an empty net, while in the second half the striker couldn’t capitalise when put clean through.
Still, Peterborough never suggested they were capable of finding a way back into the match and thoroughly deserved their defeat.
And how the returning Fratton faithful rejoiced in the demise of visitors – and Nathan Thompson.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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