Rangers loanee serves notice of his Portsmouth importance as Jackett gives clues places still up for grabs in his starting XI

Pompey writer Jordan Cross looks back to see what we garnered from the warm-up win at Stevenage as the countdown to the season gathers pace.

Monday, 22nd July 2019, 1:30 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd July 2019, 3:57 pm

Tasty Display from Big Mac

In all honesty, this wasn’t the most insightful of pre-season warm-ups. Or the most enjoyable.

But what was abundantly clear is Pompey have a player on their hands in Ross McCrorie.

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The 21-year has ostensibly been brought in to provide a screen for the back four in Jackett’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.

But McCrorie is clearly capable of more than that, as highlighted by one driving run in the first half which turned defence into an attacking opportunity as he powered forward 60 yards with the ball, before being up-ended on the edge of the box.

At 6ft 3in, the Rangers loanee takes no prisoners and has the frame which means he is unlikely to be physically dominated.

Ross McCrorie powers forward at Stevenage. Picture: Joe Pepler

In a new-look partnership, his attributes dovetailed well with the guile of Ben Close alongside him.

On the afternoon, there was nobody who to get near the level of McCrorie’s performance as he laid down a tantalising marker for the new campaign.

Options Open

The team-sheet at Stevenage provided the most intriguing moment of Saturday afternoon.

The most fascinating aspect was the use of Tom Naylor as a central defensive partner alongside Paul Downing.

With Naylor making the move back that allowed Jackett to have a look at Ross McCrorie alongside Ben Close in the middle of the park, with their showing a plus point.

Naylor was steady enough, although one misjudgement allowed Emmanuel Sonupe a run on goal, and he gives Jackett another variable to consider ahead of the League One curtain-raiser at Shrewsbury.

Elsewhere, Anton Walkes linked up with Lowe down the right, Lee Brown and Ronan Curtis probed down the left and Brett Pitman was looked at in the 10 position behind Ellis Harrison.

Jackett has historically kept his tinkering to a minimum in pre-season, but trying different partnerships suggests his starting XI hasn’t quite fully crystalised in his thoughts yet.

Out to Make a Marc

It may have been just a 25-minute cameo, but all eyes were on Marcus Harness as he made his Pompey bow.

But he showed in his performance there’s plenty of attacking intent in his game.

One run stood out as he drove forward at the Stevenage defence, checked and then hit a shot which was deflected narrowly off target three minutes from time.

He floated around behind Ellis Harrison after replacing Brett Pitman, popping up in all three of the attacking positions in Pompey’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

Naturally, fans will be keen to see how he shapes up on the right in the event of Lowe’s exit for Wigan.

But it was interesting to hear Jackett talk afterwards of how the signing represents a step towards avoiding a repeat of the January recruitment issues which have hindered the club in the past.

Harness’ arrival is a move towards getting work done early to protect Pompey’s position, and, in the event of Lowe remaining, the club have an asset who gives extra depth and insurance.