Classy Pompey Off The Mark

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 11 August 2019

Pompey earned their first three points of the season with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Tranmere at Fratton Park.

Perhaps surprisingly, Kenny Jackett decided to stick with the same eleven that started the League Cup tie against Birmingham on Tuesday and the decision paid off.

Whilst the new style of play is a work-in-progress, it's much better to watch than "Jackettball" with the 4-3-3 formation and the high pressing game yielding plenty of chances for Pompey.

The first of those came when Ronan Curtis shot at Scott Davies having been played through by the impressive Andy Cannon. There were plenty of crosses into the box but the Blues lacked that little extra quality to undo a stubborn Tranmere defence.

Tom Naylor almost broke the deadlock with a thunderous volley that Davies managed to parry away and it would take an even better strike to beat him as Ben Close beautifully struck the ball into the top corner from distance. Cancel the goal of the season awards as this pearler has surely won it already.

The pressure continued in the second half as Anton Walkes blasted the ball over the bar having been teed up by Marcus Harness and John Marquis' goal was ruled out for a supposed foul in the build up.

Cannon's shot crashed against the post and a second Pompey goal was ruled out, this time for Curtis being offside before slotting the ball home.

The settler arrived late into the match when Paul Downing's header from a corner was cleared off the line only for Naylor to fire home the loose ball.

There should have been a third goal only for Downing to inadvertently block Brett Pitman's volley on the line and Lee Brown, on his birthday, was dismayed to see what would have been his first Pompey goal disallowed by the linesman's flag.

Incidentally, Anchorman star Will Ferrell commented after the game that he thought our players ran offside too many times having watched the game alongside the Eisners.

Overall, it was a comfortable victory that should have resulted in more goals despite having to contend with yet another poor referee in Scott Oldham. The predictions about Tranmere being toothless up front came true as their biggest threat was giant centre back Manny Monthe who missed a header each half in an otherwise comfortable afternoon for Craig MacGillivray.

It might not have been so comfortable had Walkes not made two important challenges in each half that would have resulted in big chances for Tranmere and he continues to divide opinion as his work on the ball continues to frustrate.

The rest of the back four performed well and there's a feeling that Downing is going to be one of those understated signings who arrived with little fanfare and yet could have a massive impact on the side, especially given who he has been signed to replace.

As for Jamal Lowe's replacement, Harness continues to excite with his lively performances and his decision making should get better as the season progresses. Ellis Harrison was always going to find it difficult to reproduce his performance from Tuesday and will most likely lose his starting place to Marquis for the next match at the Stadium of Light.

One player who should keep his starting position is Andy Cannon as he produced some quality forward passes and always harried the opposition. It could be some turnaround for him given his bad luck with injuries last season and he deserved his standing ovation when he was rightfully substituted due to fatigue.

However, this match will always be remebered for that stunning strike from Ben Close and the three points should settle any early-season nerves before Saturday's journey to Sunderland for the latest episode in that particular saga.

Pompey Player Ratings

Craig MacGillivray: 6 - Comfortable.

Anton Walkes: 7 - Two really important challenges despite some frustrating moments.

Christian Burgess: 7 - Has continued his form from tail end of last season.

Paul Downing: 7 - Got in the way of everything, including a shot from his own team mate!

Lee Brown: 7 - Will get his goal one day but a solid performance nonetheless.

Tom Naylor: 8 - Scored and did his job with little fuss.

Ben Close: 8 - Superb goal and all-round quality display.

Andy Cannon: 8 - Man of the match. Key player in Pompey's pressing game and not afraid to get stuck in.

Marcus Harness: 6 - Lively and will only get better.

Ronan Curtis: 5 - A frustrating afternoon.

Ellis Harrison: 6 - Worked hard but chances were a premium.

Substitutes

Alex Bass

Sean Raggett

Brandan Haunstrup

Ross McCrorie

Gareth Evans

Brett Pitman (Cannon 68): 6 - A good option to bring off the bench.

John Marquis (Harrison 46): 6 - Unfortunate to have his goal ruled out but always looked a threat.

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