Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey’s 2-1 victory over Northampton in the EFL Trophy…
Harness again displays volley prowess
It was a goal that garnered more than one million views on Twitter.
Marcus Harness’ volley during the warm-up ahead of last week's League One clash against Rotherham was lapped up by football fans across the world.
From Soccer Am to ESPN to England international James Maddison, the sumptuous finish certainly dazzled.
Doing it during shooting practice is one thing – but to display the prowess in a game is another.
That’s exactly what Harness did, though, as he booked Pompey’s spot in the third round of the EFL Trophy.
When Gareth Evans’ cross was cleared only as far as the winger, he had only one thing on his mind; to get his head over the ball and go for goal.
Harness’ poise and technique were perfect, as was his timing to cleanly connect with the dropping ball and find the top corner.
Cobblers keeper Steve Arnold had a fine evening between the posts, with saves from Brett Pitman and John Marquis ensuring the Blues’ win wasn’t more emphatic.
But there was nothing he could do about Harness’ strike. Like everyone else inside Fratton Park, he was a mere spectator who could only admire the strike.
It was a deserved goal for Harness. He was Kenny Jackett’s chief attacking threat, with his performance similar to why the Fratton faithful were purring at the beginning of the season before his thigh injury.
Certainly, wide men Ronan Curtis and Ryan Williams will be wary of the competition they’re facing to keep their starting spots.
Mc is back for festive period
It was a return that wasn’t entirely surprising but perhaps somewhat unexpected.
Nevertheless, naming Ross McCrorie in Pompey’s starting XI was a boost for Kenny Jackett.
The on-loan Rangers man had missed the past four games with a hamstring injury having limped off against Southend last month.
And while the Blues won every match without him, McCrorie being back to full fitness is undoubtedly a welcome fillip.
He gave drive to the engine room and his penchant to sally forward from deep poses Northampton problems.
On one occasion, he charged past three players before having a shot blocked while he won Pompey a free-kick just outside the box with another.
Before his setback, McCrorie was playing right-back but Brandon Haunstrup’s filled in adeptly during the Scot’s absence.
It’ll be interesting to see whether McCrorie is restored back into defence for the visit of Peterborough on Saturday or features more in the middle of the park.
Regardless, with the festive period approaching and Pompey having to play seven games in 29 days, the Scotland under-21 international will have a significant part to play.
Naylor being readied for Posh return
While Ross McCrorie and Sean Raggett were handed their first outings since recovering from their respective injuries, Tom Naylor was not risked.
The skipper’s been out since suffering a hamstring setback in the FA Cup win at Harrogate last month.
The crunch clash against Peterborough this weekend has always been the date earmarked for his return – and he looks on course.
Anton Walkes has deputised in Naylor’s absence, tasked with policing the engine room next to Ben Close.
With Kenny Jackett ringing the changes against Northampton, it was obvious few, if any, of those who started will also feature from the outset against the Posh.
With Walkes remaining in the starting XI, albeit in a left-back role, it leads to the conclusion that Naylor will be fit to start against Darren Ferguson’s high-flyers.
The ex-Derby man was back in training on Monday morning, with Jackett not opting to risk his captain for Northampton’s visit.
And won’t Pompey need their enforcer against a Peterborough side with the most potent attack in League One.