Pompey 1 Bournemouth 2: Jordan Cross’ match report

Gary Roberts put Pompey ahead in the first half Picture: Joe Pepler
Gary Roberts put Pompey ahead in the first half Picture: Joe Pepler

It started on Saturday morning with reams of national column inches and on-line media attention to digest.

And it culminated at ten-to-five as a sellout Fratton Park rose to proudly acclaim their unbowed heroes.

In between and after, the television cameras were trained on PO4 with an array of pundits to narrate that Pompey parable which is so well known around these parts.

The wider audience needed reminding, however, and Bournemouth’s rise 52 miles along the south coast provides the perfect juxtaposition to give the story context.

Now, though, Pompey’s rebirth is a cause for celebration and the spirit of its people in replacing the shifting sands with solid foundations is afforded admiration.

As an exercise in how to win friends and influence people this was perfect.

The upset would have been ideal for the BBC execs looking for a game to match their ‘anything could happen’ sales patter.

Nonetheless, this ticked plenty of the magic-of-the-Cup boxes to justify their selection of the match as their feature fourth-round encounter.

Bournemouth were languishing in League Two and on the brink of liquidation when Sol was lifting the Cup in 2008. Check.

Two administrations, a financial meltdown and meteoric rise later and the roles are reversed. Check.

Now this south coast derby offers the perfect platform to highlight all of the above. Oh, dear. Big, fat cross..

The ‘don’t call it a derby’ was how one Twitter wag termed the meeting, a reference to the geography making it a stretch to do so - not a bitterness from Pompey at the Cherries’ progress, as some interpreted it.

The constant mention of it as such was inevitable and of little consequence.

What did matter was the occasion matched all the bluster. And it did just that.

Bournemouth’s footballing principles under Eddie Howe are well established in the game. Pompey’s less so under Paul Cook.

So those virgin eyes taking in Cook’s men for the first time were taken by the manner in which the team 58 places down the football ladder found their feet first.

Marc McNulty’s seventh-minute drive flew narrowly wide and served notice of his intent to show his quality can still shine alongside esteemed company.

It was followed by a 25 yarder which had Cherries keeper Adam Federici diving full stretch to keep it out, as Pompey took the ascendancy.

Pressing high up the pitch, winning the ball back at source and dominance of possession is not a new sight to the Fratton faithful this season.

Doing that against one of the game’s chief exponents of the same arts is, however, and marked another high for this side.

But that bar was lifted to an unprecedented level two minutes before the interval.

What was witnessed will live long in the memory, as Paul Cook’s men served up an extended spell of possession play.

That had soon developed in ole football, with the ball switching patiently from back to front and Pompey passing like Cook had a joypad in his hand and was orchestrating the move from his technical area.

The fantasy climax was reached as McNulty and the livewire Kyle Bennett combined to see the ball threaded into the path of Gary Roberts.

Fratton Park held its breath as Roberts held his nerve, before delivering the final brush stroke to one of the great Pompey goals in recent memory.

It was a moment which will long be remembered by the majority of the 18,901 crowd. A shame, though, a wider audience will not appreciate it from Match of the Day’s clipped highlight.

For those older fans who weren’t present think Leeds against Southampton in 1972. For the younger, go for the best you’ve ever scored on Fifa 16.

A goal of such majesty deserved to define the occasion. But a certain hometown lad had other ideas.

Before that, there was a chance to extend the lead nine minutes after the restart.

Bennett’s position as a main player in the threat Pompey were offering, saw him deliver a defence-splitting pass of deftness and weight no doubt admired in both dugouts.

Roberts was clear, but a slight stumble as he was forced wide led to he shot arrowing across the face of goal in the shadow of the Fratton End.

It took the 62nd-minute introduction of Gosport’s Matt Ritchie, along with Marc Pugh, to swing the pendulum back to Howe’s side.

Ritchie’s passion for Pompey is obvious, so much so the Cherries ace absent-mindedly referred to the club he loves as ‘we’ in his post-match interview.

He’s got a funny way of showing it, though, as the extra presence, control and energy he offered turned the tide Bournemouth’s way.

Two goals in 12 minutes broke Pompey’s resolve, as headers from the dangerous Josh King and Pugh denied a result they warranted - and the Beeb the upset they craved.

It’s an outcome which will be quietly welcomed by the Blues management team, however.

A performance was served up to be proud of, with a result which sees a Cup exit and puts paid to the prospect of further fixture congestion.

For all the talk to the contrary, a run into the latter rounds would offer only distraction from a league campaign which demands total focus as the direction it’s headed hangs in the balance.

You only had to hear the hero of 1992, Darren Anderton, talk of the impact that glory run to the semi-finals had on promotion hopes to be reminded of that.

The acclaim was to continue long into the night, however.

Pompey know they are getting something right when Adrian Durham, a vocal critic of the club in the past, and his talkSPORT colleagues speak glowingly of the Blues.

For the regular visitors to Fratton it’s easy to take the atmosphere it serves up at its best for granted.

Those who sample it infrequently are more taken, and there were plenty of those present for the occasion who fell into that category.

That was just one tune being played among the symphony of praise. The progress off and on the pitch others.

So, the plaudits were forthcoming and the hosts for the occasion graciously accepted the kind words.

Pompey’s day in the spotlight couldn’t have gone any better.