Stevenage 0 Portsmouth 1: Neil Allen's verdict - Rangers' Ross McCrorie provides tantalising taste of midfield talents

Ross McCrorie has been one of the more well-received recruits during a summer likely to see Pompey deprived of two leading lights.

By Neil Allen
Saturday, 20th July 2019, 11:48 pm
Ronan Curtis heads home Jamal Lowe's cross to earn Pompey a 1-0 victory at Stevenage. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ronan Curtis heads home Jamal Lowe's cross to earn Pompey a 1-0 victory at Stevenage. Picture: Joe Pepler

And at the Lamex Stadium it became glaringly apparent just why the Scot is held in such high regard, on both sides of the Scottish border.

Kenny Jackett’s desire to field his loan capture from Rangers saw him crowbar Tom Naylor out of his favoured midfield role for Saturday’s trip to Stevenage.

All of the ex-Burton man’s 52 starts during his maiden Blues campaign arrived in the centre of midfield, a season which earned him the players’ player of the year.

Yet on the occasion of Pompey’s latest friendly, Naylor was curiously reassigned to a centre-half role, partnering Paul Downing.

Conventional central defenders Sean Raggett and Christian Burgess watched from the bench as Pompey’s new-look rearguard collected a 1-0 victory.

The game largely lacked a pulse, such was its dormant nature in front of a sparse crowd inside a stadium with two stands remaining closed.

Naylor, though, can be proud of his display, as can the outstanding performer during the insipid proceedings – McCrorie.

Paired with Ben Close in the two holding-midfield positions, the Scot was a dominant, thrusting presence, demonstrating combative characteristics always welcome.

He had been given leave of absence by Jackett from the previous weekend’s trip to the Hawks, as did another of Saturday’s starters, Jamal Lowe.

As a consequence, it represented the first opportunity for many of the Fratton faithful to witness the talents of a player whose previous Pompey outing was against UCD.

What unfolded was a superb all-action display from McCrorie, lighting up a mundane match settled by Ronan Curtis’ header.

It was largely lacklustre stuff from Jackett’s men, who had Brett Pitman operating at number 10 and wantaway Lowe on the right of the attacking three.

If victory over the Boro proves to be Lowe’s final appearance before his long-anticipated switch to Wigan, at least he left with one final winning contribution.

The decisive moment arrived on 64 minutes after the winger was fouled down the right flank.

Lee Brown played the ball inside to Lowe, who clipped a cross to the far post, where it was headed home by Curtis for the only goal of the game.

Stevenage keeper Paul Farman had barely been tested through the encounter, similarly Craig MacGillivray was not challenged in a drab affair.

A moment of quality from Anton Walkes almost extended the Blues’ advantage when his clever lob rattled the crossbar with the keeper beaten.

There was also a second-half unveiling of new signing Marcus Harness, who proved positive in his approach.

As it was, Curtis’ goal settled it – and McCrorie has already set the bar encouragingly high.

Pompey: MacGillivray, Walkes, Naylor, Downing, Brown, Close, McCrorie, Lowe, Pitman (65 mins Harness), Curtis (84 mins Cannon), Harrison.

Subs Not Used: Bass, Raggett, Haunstrup, Dennis, Evans, Burgess.