Southend 0 Portsmouth 3: Neil Allen's verdict - 1,000 days undefeated as brilliant Blues' EFL Trophy run continues

Such has been Pompey’s EFL Trophy dominance this term, it has taken two group matches to progress.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 9:43 pm
Pompey's players celebrate John Marquis' opener from the penalty spot in their EFL Trophy victory over Southend. Picture: Nigel Keene/ProSportsImages

Holders, non-playing finalists and now competing at the knock-out stage with a game to spare.

What’s more, it has been 1,002 days since last defeated in the often-maligned competition.

Latest opposition Southend were certainly no match for Kenny Jackett’s much-changed side as their remarkable record was stretched further.

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The scoreline finished 3-0, yet, in truth, that flattered the League Two strugglers, who somehow avoided an avalanche of goals.

Pompey dictated play from beginning to end, driven on by Ryan Williams’ industry and skill and Ronan Curtis’ goals.

The latter, recalled to the side after making his 100th appearance at Burton on Saturday, netted twice in a customarily energetic display. No doubt with a point to prove.

John Marquis was the other scorer, from the penalty spot, as Jackett’s team, surprisingly operating with a back three containing debutant Rasmus Nicolaisen, eased to a comfortable triumph.

The Blues boss can be encouraged that, having made 10 changes and rested Pirelli Stadium hat-trick hero Marcus Harness, his side could put on such a show.

A nod of respect to this assembled Pompey squad, although the startling lack of quality demonstrated by Southend should not be underestimated.

Still, the club which last lost in the EFL Trophy on January 9, 2018 against Chelsea under-21s continue to prove unconquerable.

The sole survivor from the 4-2 success at Burton was Ryan Williams, with the Blues squad rotated to give players match minutes.

Among the alterations was Alex Bass, making his first appearance since the Carabao Cup defeat at Stevenage

Ben Close was given his first start – and second appearance – of the campaign and also the captain’s armband, while Andy Cannon was named in the side.

Ronan Curtis and John Marquis, who had both been dropped at Burton, returned to the team to give it a strong first-team look.

Notably, though, Jackett opted to employ a system with three centre-halves, consisting of Paul Downing, debutant Nicolaisen and James Bolton.

That meant Haji Mnoga and Cam Pring featuring as wing-backs.

Meanwhile, there was extra ammunition on the bench, including Marcus Harness, who scored a hat-trick in the Blues’ last match.

Ellis Harrison and Michael Jacobs also represented attacking options for Jackett to call upon, should he desire.

Within the game’s opening minute, Cannon fed Close inside and he rattled off a right-footed shot which just flashed wide of the far post.

It was a reminder of the goalscoring threat he can pose from the midfield area as he seeks to dislodge Bryn Morris on a regular basis.

Barely a minute later, Lewis Gard played a pass straight to Marquis and he slipped into ball to his right for Williams.

However, just as Close did, he fired a right-footed shot narrowly past the far post.

Nicolaisen should have given the Blues the lead on five minutes following a corner delivered from the right by Pring.

His left-footed cross found its way to the Dane a matter of yards out, but he could only divert the ball over the bar when it had a goal written all over it.

The Blues were looking strong and when Curtis’ booming clearance was headed straight to Williams, the winger burst into the box.

However, his left-footed shot from the angle was blocked at the near post by keeper Mark Oxley and another opportunity hadn’t been taken.

At the other end, on 15 minutes, Nicolaisen collided with Harry Phillips to earn the hosts a free-kick which was fired by Tom Clifford into the wall.

Pompey were given the chance to take the lead from the penalty spot on 20 minutes, when Mnoga was bundled over after collecting Marquis’ pass.

The striker finished comfortably, rolling the ball into the net, sending the keeper the wrong way in the process to make it 1-0.

Mnoga then charged forward and, with nobody pressing, had the confidence to fire in a left-footed shot, which was straight down the throat of Oxley.

The Blues had a scare on 28 minutes when Clifford’s free-kick from the right was met with a Timothee Dieng header, yet directed straight at Bass.

Bass took a clattering when collecting the ball ahead of Matt Rush on 35 minutes, a challenge which appalled Marquis, who immediately called for the match officials to take action.

However, Bass was able to continue - while no action was taken against the Southend striker.

Pompey spurned another chance when Williams dispossessed Gard and fed Marquis, but his right-footed shot was blocked by the legs of Oxley.

The visitors did extend their lead on 40 minutes, when Williams’ clever flick allowed Curtis to drive forward.

The winger’s eyes lit up with the goal ahead - and his right-footed shot from the edge of the area deflected off a defender and past Oxley to make it 2-0.

With half-time approaching, Pring whipped a dangerous cross in from the left and Mnoga galloped onto it and flashed a shot across goal when he should have scored.

Southend made a change at the interval, with Dieng replaced by youngster Kenny Coker.

They were forced into another substitution on 52 minutes, when Gard had to be stretchered off, with Oli Coker introduced.

Jackett’s men were continuing to waste goal-scoring opportunities, the latest being Pring at the far post following a delightful lofted cross by Curtis.

Arriving at the back, the loanee from Bristol City connected with a left-footed shot which fizzed across the face of goal when it would have been easier to net.

It was 3-0 on 76 minutes when Curtis crashed a right-footed effort from 20-yards to give the Blues another goal, which was fully deserved.

In the final few minutes, Bass saved well from Rush, then Richard Taylor went close from the resulting corner.

But there was to be no consolation for Southend as the unbeatable Blues maintain their EFL Trophy progress with a swagger.