Portsmouth 6 King's Lynn 1: Neil Allen's Verdict - Ruthless Blues prove prolific talents run deep after FA Cup demolition
From the moment the ball crashed off Tom Naylor’s right boot, the occasion was decided.
No nervy moments, no tactical brainstorming required, no inspired substitution necessary. The second-round tie’s destiny was set after 30 minutes – this would be no FA Cup upset.
At the same stage last season, it took Brett Pitman’s last-gasp winner to dispose of Altrincham, accompanied by a shushing celebration directed towards the upper tier of the South stand at Marie Curtis.
It was six years ago when Andy Awford’s hapless side were eliminated at Aldershot, representing the only time the Blues have suffered defeat to non-league opposition in a competitive match.
Alan McLoughlin, who was captured by dressing-room cameras angrily admonishing the players afterwards, was at Fratton Park on Saturday, this time in co-commentator duties for Radio Solent.
The 6-1 outcome over King’s Lynn did not flatter Pompey. Had it not been for Archie Mair, the scoreline would have been even more crushing.
As it was, six different scorers were registered, while Ronan Curtis hit the bar, Rasmus Nicolaisen struck the post and Cam Pring saw another fizz across the line after deflecting off the woodwork.
The scoreline was as comfortable as it suggests. Pompey are League One’s leading scorers for an excellent reason – they possesses a palpable ruthlessness.
The Linnets’ response to falling behind after one minute and 48 seconds was excellent, certainly for a sustained period their attacking instincts were admirable.
Sonny Carey went close with a header, Adam Marriott drew a diving stop from Alex Bass, while Simon Power flashed a shot just wide of the post.
Step forward skipper Naylor, however.
The 29-year-old, who has been in uncharacteristic scoring form of late, conjured up a sumptuous strike he regards as one of the finest of his career.
It represented a fifth of the campaign for Naylor, matching his total from the previous two Pompey seasons combined. Impressively, he has played just 19 games this term.
Effectively it was game over from that moment, King’s Lynn’s encouraging spell was banished. From that moment, it was a case of how many the Blues would register.
In recent months we have witnessed the devastation Pompey’s attacking options can wreak when they manage to click. Saturday was another grand example.
For the fourth time in their last 15 fixtures, Kenny Jackett’s side racked up four goals or more in a match.
In this instance it was National League opposition, a factor which should not be overlooked, nonetheless it was another brutal display from the rampant hosts.
Jackett’s Pompey teams have rightly earned criticism for being functional and mechanical, capable of grinding out narrow wins without the need for a flourish or swagger.
Not so this season, it seems. Such is their collective goal-scoring might in these early days, even centre-halves Nicolaisen and Sean Raggett got in on the act against the Linnets.
League One leading scorer John Marquis wasn’t needed, granted a late cameo, while eight-goal Ronan Curtis failed to net before his 59th-minute withdrawal.
The goals instead were provided from elsewhere in a side which tore apart their visitors with a new-found freedom barely savoured during Jackett’s previous three campaigns at the helm.
Dismiss the standard of opponents if you will. Regardless, it was another impressive demonstration of the Blues’ attacking potency – despite four outfield changes in the interests of rotation.
Andy Cannon, Marquis, Jack Whatmough, Lee Brown and Craig MacGillivray were handed roles on the bench for the second-round fixture, with Nicolaisen, Pring, Ben Close, Alex Bass and Ryan Williams coming in.
In truth, Williams was the sole new face who can be considered as a regular starter at present as Jackett sought to grant more first-team minutes to fringe players.
The result was a 6-1 triumph and a place in the third round of the FA Cup for third successive season
Just four of Saturday’s side can expect to line-up against Blackpool for the return to action on Tuesday night, while Williams may face a fight. Pompey’s strength in depth is clearly heartening.
There was even a maiden goal for the club from Jordy Hiwula, his sublime curling shot 10 minutes from time perhaps surpassing Naylor’s first-half attempt in terms of quality.
His first-team opportunities have been rare since joining as a free agent past the transfer window’s closure, yet the strike was a magnificent reminder of the former Coventry man’s talents.
Regardless, there remains plenty of attacking considerations for Jackett at present, while Michael Jacobs is edging towards his return from a knee problem.
On Tuesday night, Pompey failed to pose a significant threat in the final third against Oxford, with barely a shot on target in the 1-1 draw, despite some encouraging approaching play.
Yet how they fired against King’s Lynn as they took their tally to 38 goals from their last 16 fixtures in all competitions.
The landslide began in the opening two minutes, with the towering Nicolaisen heading home Cam Pring’s right-wing corner with effortless ease.
Then, following a few scares, Naylor increased the lead on the half-hour mark galloping onto Ronan Curtis’ pull-back from the left to crash a rising half-volley which found the top corner, via the bar for dramatic effort.
King’s Lynn’s goal led a charmed life for the remainder of the half, somehow avoiding further damage, although Mair did magnificently push Curtis’ thunderous 30-yard shot against the bar.
On 52 minutes it was 3-0 after Raggett connected with Curtis’ left-wing corner through an angled far-post header for his third in five matches.
The goals continued, this time through man of the match Marcus Harness, who fired a low left-footed shot into the far corner having been fed by the industrious Ellis Harrison.
Substitute Dayle Southwell did pull one back for the visitors on 68 minutes – just five minutes after entering the action – with a well-taken finish from the angle.
However, moments later Pring was taken out by purported Pompey target Ross Barrows as he crossed from the left, his delivery itself nearly somehow finding its way into the net.
Referee Will Finnie pointed to the penalty spot and it was Harrison’s turn to get himself on the scoresheet and make it 5-1.
It was left to substitute Hiwula to contribute to the final act. Positioned on the left of the penalty area, he curled in a wonderful right-footed shot to settle the match 6-1.
He turned towards the crowd to milk the moment, yet no-one was present during these curious times.
They will be for Pompey’s next home visit, though, against Peterborough on December 5. And hopefully witness plenty more goal moments from this free-scoring team.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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