Portsmouth's FA Cup victory at Harrogate comes at a cost as power cut typifies Blues' season so far

Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey’s 2-1 victory over Harrogate Town in the FA Cup first round...

By Will Rooney
Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 4:45 pm
Sean Raggett was forced off injured during Pompey's FA Cup win at Harrogate Town. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/PinPep
Sean Raggett was forced off injured during Pompey's FA Cup win at Harrogate Town. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/PinPep

Victory comes at a cost

Pompey are a step closer to that much sought after third-round tie.

A meeting against National League North side Altrincham in the second stage at Fratton Park means you’d almost expect the Blues to be in the hat when the Premier League sides enter the historic competition.

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But the victory at Harrogate Town come at a cost with two regular starters limping off injured inside 32 minutes. 

Tom Naylor was forced off with a hamstring problem, which is a hammer blow for the Blues.

The skipper usually battles on through knocks and niggles he picks up during games, but clearly his setback was too much for him to continue. 

Then Sean Raggett was the next to exit – this time with an adductor problem.  

Undoubtedly, you can’t help but think the 3G pitch played its part with their injuries.

There was plenty of question marks around what sort of ramifications the playing surface could have in the build-up to the game, with Ellis Harrison also not being risked having suffered a back strain on Friday.

Then factor in the delayed kick-off time, which interrupted the warm-up and perhaps muscles weren’t quite as prepared as they’d usually be.

While the Blues advanced into the next round, you can’t help but worry what sort of effect it will have on the League One campaign if Naylor and Raggett are both confined to the treatment table for a prolonged period.


Job done

It wasn’t pretty, nor was it particularly impressive – but Pompey got the job done.

The artificial surface posed problems for the Blues in the early stages as they tried to acclimatise to their surroundings.

The ball zipped around that little bit quicker and bounced a fraction higher compared to traditional turf.

Clearly, Harrogate had an advantage given their familiarity with the 3G pitch.

For the opening 15 minutes, it was the potential upset the BT Sport cameras had hoped for when they pitched up at Wetherby Road.

Mark Beck’s opening goal in the seventh minute had the home fans rocking as they started to believe a giant-killing was on the cards.

But slowly Pompey started to adapt and get a foothold into the game.

Brandon Haunstrup equalised in brilliant fashion, netting his maiden goal on his 50th appearance.

Then Ronan Curtis would bag the match-winner four minutes before half-time with a superb 30-yard strike.

In the second half, the Blues had to revert to a more direct style, although that meant John Marquis was starved of service.

That led the hosts starting to get the upper hand as the second period wore on, although Craig MacGillivray was rarely called into action.

In truth, it was a lose-lose situation for Pompey no matter what the result.

If they’d have crashed out to their non-league hosts, the Kenny Jackett-out brigade would have been chanting for his head.

And with the Blues just edging past Harrogate, it still leaves large contingents of fans unconvinced.


Power cuts typify season so far

It was a problem that was well out of both Pompey’s or Harrogate's control.

A power cut before kick-off plunged the game into doubt, with home manager Simon Weaver admitting it was very close to being postponed.

And while the tie did go ahead, it really did typify the campaign so far.

It’s been stop-start for the Blues as matches have been cancelled because of international breaks, Victorious Festival and Bury being expelled from the league.

As a result, Kenny Jackett’s men haven’t been able to gather any real impetus.

If Pompey had been due another 500-mile round-trip to north Yorkshire again next week, that would have really been a tough pill to swallow.

Instead, the Blues now have another weekend off, with Fleetwood postponing this weekend’s League One fixture because of international call-ups.