THE FA Cup 1st Round concludes on Monday night and Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) has dug deep into the televised encounter between non-league Harrogate and League One outfit Portsmouth.
Harrogate v Portsmouth | Monday 11th November 2019, 19:45 | BT Sport
Portsmouth will embark on a near 10-hour round trip to National League side Harrogate Town for Monday’s televised FA Cup tie but despite the journey time, the team and under pressure manager Kenny Jackett may welcome some rest bite from a poor start to their league campaign.
These two sides are performing very much against expectations during the opening months of their respective seasons, Pompey sitting in a lowly 13th place in League One despite being tipped for promotion in summer, with Harrogate currently fifth in the National League and continuing to ride the wave of positive momentum following the club’s switch to full-time in 2016-17, which resulted in promotion and then a sixth-place finish in their return to tier five last time out.
Pompey’s fall from grace is well documented, quite literally paying the price for winning this competition in 2008 with a squad they could not afford and eventually suffering three relegations to League Two following two spells in administration. Some off-field stability in recent years has been a huge relief for the Fratton Park faithful but the lack of progress on it means patience is waring thin with Jackett who, now in charge of his second season at this level with the club, should be getting much more out of a play-off quality squad.
John Marquis, a near £2m summer signing from divisional rivals Doncaster, scored only his fourth goal of the season in the 4-1 win over Southend which underlines Pompey’s problem – failing to convert the second-most shots per-game of any League One side (15) into a decent goal return. Add to this the team’s Expected Goals For (xGF) number of 1.63, second only to the prolific Peterborough, then it's little wonder Pompey fans are frustrated.
That failure to kill games off has proven costly, the Blues conceding stoppage time goals in three of their last five matches, dropping five points in the process. Unless Jackett can get Pompey’s season going, the board may well call time on his tenure of rather turgid football.
There are however positives, with summer signing Sean Raggett settling in well at centre-back and ‘keeper Craig MacGillivray recently being called up to the Scotland squad. The latter, despite this tie being played in international week, is likely to play against his former team for whom he debuted at 19 years-old.
Harrogate Town’s manager Simon Weaver has been in charge now for over 10 years, steering the club from the doldrums of the National League North to just a few games away from the Football League in 2018/19.
Of course, the job stability is much improved when your Dad owns the club (Irving Weaver took over Harrogate in 2011) but Weaver Jr now has just short of 500 games under his managerial belt since successfully applying to an advert in the Non-League Paper in 2009 to take up a Player/Manager position at the Sulphurites.
Harrogate's start to 2019/20 has been a solid one and they will almost certainly keep the match competitive, with the experience of the likes of Scott Brown (playing for Accrington in League One last season) and Jon Stead (who has scored a goal every three games during his career in the FA Cup) guiding a relatively young team through the tie.
With Pompey having recent experience of playing a televised tie against a non-league side in this round just last season, which they negotiated with relative ease in a 4-0 win at Maidenhead, I think they’ll have too much for their opponents who are 39 places below them in the football pyramid.
With these two sides not enjoying many goal filled games between them in their respective leagues (Pompey sit 18thin average goals per game table, Harrogate 16th), throwing in Under 4.5 Goals alongside an away win looks a good way to go at 21/20 with Betway.
Jackett will know he is likely to be shown the door should his side be knocked out in front of the TV cameras so will surely have his men fired up for a potential banana skin.
Harrogate v Portsmouth – Portsmouth to win and Under 4.5 Goals (21/20 Betway)