Harrogate Town 1 Portsmouth 2: FA Cup dream ended by Pompey despite flying start

There was to be no FA Cup fairy tale for Harrogate Town despite them making the perfect start to Monday night's first round proper clash with League One Portsmouth.

Monday, 11th November 2019, 10:56 pm
Updated Monday, 11th November 2019, 10:57 pm
Mark Beck heads Harrogate Town into an early lead against Portsmouth. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Mark Beck's early header put Simon Weaver's team in front against the 2008 winners of the competition, a team who currently sit 40 places higher up the English footballing pyramid.

Yet, Pompey's quality eventually shone through and they sealed their progress courtesy of two stunning strikes from outside the penalty area.

It looked at one stage as if floodlight failure might cause the postponement of the fixture, however when proceedings did eventually get underway Town were able to dream of a famous upset, albeit rather briefly.

With just seven minutes on the clock George Smith’s left-wing free-kick was met by Warren Burrell, helped back across goal by Jack Muldoon then nodded home from close range by Beck.

With Pompey clearly struggling to get to grips with the artificial playing surface, Town continued to play the better football, only to be pegged back within 10 minutes of breaking the deadlock.

Visiting right-back Brandon Haunstrup drove infield and stroked a fine equalising goal beyond James Belshaw and into the bottom corner of the home net.

Undeterred, the underdogs were soon back on the front foot and Muldoon got on the end of Beck's flick-on and in behind the Portsmouth defence but blasted wide of the near post.

More home pressure was to follow, though it was Pompey who made the next breakthrough four minutes before half-time.

Republic of Ireland international winger Ronan Curtis picked up the ball 25 yards out and sent a screamer dipping over the head of Belshaw to turn the game on its head.

Having got their noses in front, the visitors looked far more assured in the second period, Harrogate needing good saves from Belshaw to thwart Ryan Williams then John Marquis.

Their energy levels understandably diminished following their first-half output, Town were unable to cause Portsmouth anywhere near as many problems after the resumption.

They did manage to apply some pressure to the away goal in the closing stages, but never really looked like getting back into the game

Substitute George Thomson brought a ball down on his chest and volleyed just wide of the mark from around 25 yards out before Beck directed a couple of headers goalwards, though that was as close as Weaver's men were to come to forcing a replay.