Portsmouth 4 Northampton 0: Neil Allen's verdict - John Marquis the inspiration as rejuvenated Blues run rampant
John Marquis, the striker granted a recall purely because of injury, remains in magical goalscoring form.
As a consequence he is inspiring Pompey promotion form once again following their early-season low.
A double against Northampton, his former club, represented five goals in three outings since Ellis Harrison’s hamstring tear.
Restored to the team at Gillingham as a result, a Marquis barely glimpsed since arriving at Fratton Park has since been in rampant form.
With Kenny Jackett installing a 4-4-2, the striker previously so prolific at Doncaster is now thriving in front of goal.
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Admittedly, for a sizeable part of the second half against the Cobblers, Pompey’s boss did revert to a 4-2-3-1 – yet his side were 3-0 up by that stage.
Marquis’ brace, coupled with a first League One goal of the season for the recalled Ronan Curtis, ensured the game was effectively decided after 50 minutes.
It was left for Marcus Harness, who had been relatively quiet, to make it 4-0 late on with a header from Andy Cannon’s cross.
Another eye-catching result to accompany Saturday’s Stadium of Light triumph and suddenly this Blues team is unrecognisable from their early-season ills.
Marquis in a 4-4-2, Harness pushed up into attack, Cannon operating in centre midfield, Ryan Williams back – the pieces have dropped into place.
That’s now three successive triumphs in League One for the Blues as they consolidate themselves in fifth place.
At the heart of it has been Marquis’ goals, kickstarting an engine which previously spluttered so frustratingly.
Jackett, understandably loath to change a winning side following successive triumphs on the road at Gillingham and Sunderland, was forced into an alternation against the Cobblers.
With Michael Jacobs sidelined by the knee problem sustained at the Stadium of Light in that 3-1 win, a recall was handed to Ronan Curtis.
The Republic of Ireland international has been in and out of the team of late, having failed to find early-season form.
However, with Jacobs potentially missing for up to six weeks, Curtis has the opportunity for a lengthy run in the side.
That represented the only alteration to last Saturday’s team, with Rasmus Nicolaisen continuing to find himself on the bench.
Curtis’ promotion into the starting line-up ensured a call-up to the bench for youngster Haji Mnoga.
His presence ahead of Paul Downing and James Bolton was once again damning on the experienced defensive pair, who find themselves consistently omitted.
Meanwhile, Ellis Harrison remains sidelined with the grade one hamstring tear sustained in the recent defeat to Doncaster.
However, he has this week stepped up his recovery outside and may have a chance for involvement against Charlton on Saturday.
In a low-key start to the match, neither side were offering much of a threat as they attempted to find some fluidity.
On 12 minutes, though, the Blues did win the game’s first corner when Cian Bolger was forced to head behind following Curtis’ free-kick down the left.
Curtis’ flag kick was headed back across goal at the far post by Sean Raggett, but Fraser Horsfall got there ahead of Ryan Williams to block and thwart the danger.
The visitors should have scored on 16 minutes following a wonderful piece of play from Ryan Watson.
He took the ball off Naylor 25 yards from the Blues’ goal and embarked on a surging run past Jack Whatmough and into the box with just Craig MacGillivray to beat.
However, Watson panicked - and proceeded to drag a left-footed shot well wide of the target from just 10 yards out.
Pompey were beginning to knock the ball around nicely, but frustratingly were lacking accuracy with delivery from both flanks.
Jackett’s men were struggling to make an impact inside the Cobblers’ penalty area and, on 36 minutes, Curtis dragged a shot side from the edge of the box.
The quiet Harness then saw an attempt deflect for a corner as the Blues appeared to be stepping their game up with half-time approaching.
At the other end, Sam Hoskins cleverly rolled the ball across and Watson galloped onto it with a first-time right-footed shot which flew well over.
The deadlock was finally broken on 39 minutes, through Marquis.
Williams cut inside and drove in a left-footed shot from outside the area which Jonathan Mitchell pushed out.
There was the former Cobblers striker to apply the finish, with a telling deflection off Bolger into the far corner to make it 1-0.
Moments later, Marquis had a glimpse of a second when Harness slipped him through, only to fire a left-footed shot straight at the keeper.
On 42 minutes, Bolger collected the game’s first booking when he grabbed Cannon around the neck and pulled him down as the midfielder surged past him.
Within a minute of the restart, Raggett’s mistake inside the box gifted possession to the visitors, while the defender then clumsily crashed into Hoskins while trying to make amends.
MacGillivray was called upon to make a save and then, in the chaos, Ricky Korboa crashed a shot goalwards which was somehow headed clear by the grounded Whatmough.
Yet within four minutes Pompey were 3-0 up and well in control.
Firstly, Curtis’ header from a right-wing Callum Johnson cross was brilliantly saved by Mitchell, with Marquis pouncing from close range to net.
Then, on 50 minutes, Curtis, from the edge of the box, curled in a delightful right-footed effort from the edge of the box into the far bottom corner.
Northampton were staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat with 40 minutes still to play and the hosts still eager for more punishment.
Curle made his first substitution on 58 minutes, with Danny Rose replacing central midfielder Christopher Missilou.
On 61 minutes, Harness was booked for obstruction and, from the resulting free-kick, Alan Sheehan’s left-footed shot was brilliantly pushed around the post by MacGillivray.
Curtis had another opportunity when Williams’ pass deflected his way, but he took an extra touch before screwing a right-footed attempt well wide.
The scoreline was wrapped up on 83 minutes when Cannon did superbly to wriggle down the byline from the left and his cross was headed home from four yards out by Harness.
And suddenly this Pompey side is a very different proposition.