Sheffield Wednesday 3 Portsmouth 3 - Neil Allen's verdict: Blues toast new blessed union as striking double act light up pulsating Hillsborough encounter

The wedding party rolled up to Hillsborough, resplendent in a creme 1960 Daimler.

Sunday, 31st July 2022, 9:00 am
Updated Sunday, 31st July 2022, 9:24 am

Having sealed their blessed union, the home of Sheffield Wednesday represented the next stop for the happy couple, albeit with supporters having long since drifted away.

Accompanied by two bridesmaids, the bride and groom’s arrival to worship at a very different church was a curious sight for the scant post-game crowd.

Still, hours earlier, we were gathered to witness the coming together of a partnership of another kind as the League One season kicked off in thrilling fashion.

It remains to be seen whether Colby Bishop and Joe Pigott are a match made in heaven and, similarly, what the future holds.

Nonetheless, Pompey’s new strike pairing produced second-half displays to toast as Danny Cowley's men came within nine minutes of claiming a remarkable opening-day victory.

The Blues fell twice behind against the Owls, yet fought back to establish a 3-2 lead by the 81st minute – until Fisayo Dele-Bashiru thumping finish earned a share of the spoils.

Certainly nobody present for the opening 45 minutes would have anticipated such an outcome, such was Darren Moore’s side’s swaggering dominance, albeit ridiculously with just a slender 1-0 half-time advantage.

Colby Bishop netted on his Pompey debut in an encouraging 3-3 draw at Sheffield Wednesday. Picture: Malcolm Bryce/ProSportsImages

Indeed, until that point, Bishop was anonymous, while little was going right for Pigott on their Blues bows following July arrivals.

What unfolded, however, was an eye-catching second half from a fledgling double act which had previously spent just 45 minutes together on a football pitch for the Blues.

Bishop netted once, potentially twice if you wish to debate whether the ball had already crossed the line when Michael Jacobs headed home.

While Pigott showed his all-round talent by producing two magnificent crosses from the right to supply the ammunition for both goals.

They were the driving force behind a heartening 3-3 draw which suddenly offers tantalising encouragement for a campaign largely devoid of Pompey promotion optimism.

Even Cowley, usually such an upbeat and infectiously positive speaker, has avoided publicly declaring ambition for 2022-23, on occasions even branding his team underdogs in this sixth season in League One.

Regardless, following a flurry of six recruits in 13 days – including Bishop and Pigott – belief has been building, culminating in Saturday’s fine point at one of the promotion favourites.

As ever, it’s important not to become intoxicated by one day in Pompey’s fledgling season, giddily proclaiming a Championship destiny based on 45 minutes in the first fixture.

Similarly, for those at the interval gloomily forecasting relegation and branding the latest striker signings as ‘flops’, let’s not drown in hysteria. The absurdity can be exhausting.

Still, there’s every reason for the Fratton faithful to buoyed from Saturday’s outcome, with Cowley's men maintaining the heart, fight and character they demonstrated during the second half of last term.

They ended that season with just three defeats from the last 18 matches, including a convincing 4-1 loss at the home of the Owls on a final day which had Cowley seething.

Of that side, Gavin Bazunu, George Hirst, Hayden Carter and second-top scorer Marcus Harness are the chief departures, prompting another summer of rebuilding overseen by the head coach.

As a consequence, five debutants were named in Pompey’s starting XI, plus a second Blues bow for Marlon Pack, almost 12 years after his last outing for the club he supports.

Josh Griffiths, Joe Rafferty, Michael Morrison, Pigott and Bishop were all given the nod, with the 34-year-old Morrison selected in place of the injured Clark Robertson.

The veteran centre-half returned to his former club with just 45 minutes of pre-season friendlies under his belt, partnering Sean Raggett, whose own fractured pre-season involved having an injection on Wednesday to resolve an ongoing back issue.

Meanwhile, Spurs loanee Dane Scarlett occupied a bench which contained fellow newcomers Josh Oluwayemi and Zak Swanson.

It set up an intriguing curtain raiser at a venue the Blues would not have wished to visited on the opening day – and in the thick of a point were Bishop and Pigott, the new-look strikeforce still in its infancy.

Pompey had fallen behind in the eighth minute after the mercurial Barry Bannan split the Blues’ defence to put Josh Windass in down the right-hand channel.

He calmly pulled the ball back from the byline to pick out unmarked left wing-back Marvin Johnson, who finished first time high into the net to make it 1-0.

The Blues spent the remainder of the first half struggling to enjoy possession and chasing a vibrant Owls team, albeit with both sides barely delivering a shot on target.

Then Hillsborough was stunned when man-of-the-match Marlon Park forced his way to the right-hand byline and stood up a delivery headed home by Connor Ogilvie from 10 yards out.

The 2,135 visiting supporters were still celebrating when, two minutes later, Dele-Bashiru restored the Owls’ lead.

Raggett’s poor clearance fell straight to the midfielder and, 25-yards from goal, took a touch before unleashing a right-footed drive which somehow bounced and disappointingly beat Griffiths at his near post.

Then, on 58 minutes, Pigott popped up on the right and clipped in a cross met by the head of Bishop on the edge of the six-yard box which was clawed onto the bar by keeper David Stockdale.

Jacobs followed up with a diving header on the line to ensure the ball ended up in the net amid suspicions it would have entered anyway.

Improbably, Pompey took a 3-2 lead with the game’s fourth goal in a blistering 14-minute spell.

On 64 minutes, Curtis held the ball up down the right and laid it back to Pigott, who calmly took a touch before delivering a right-footed cross towards the six-yard box which was met by the head of Bishop.

Inevitably there was a late twist when, with Ogilvie off the pitch to receive treatment for a head injury, an Owls left-wing corner was swung in and, after half cleared, Dele-Bashiru pounced to crash an unstoppable right-footed effort into the top corner.

There was still time for Dominic Iorfa to kick substitute Scarlett in the head with a high foot, with no penalty given, while Lee Gregory received his marching orders, capping a pulsating match.

An excellent start for Pompey – and their newest coupling.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

Whether you're gazing out over the Mediterranean or spending this summer at home, take advantage of our 50% discount on an annual sports or regular digital subscription, from just £25!

We will be on the ball with all the latest Pompey news, match coverage, off-the-pitch features, and analysis from Fratton Park all year round.

Purchase your annual digital package and use promo code SUMSP50 at checkout.