Portsmouth 1 Crawley Town 0: Pitman's goal separates sides in EFL Trophy clash

Ellis Harrison and Lewis Young in tonight's clash. Picture by Joe Pepler
Ellis Harrison and Lewis Young in tonight's clash. Picture by Joe Pepler

Brett Pitman’s classy back-to-goal ensured Pompey’s defence of the EFL Trophy began succesully with a 1-0 win over Crawley.

The striker made the difference after his second-half introduction in front of a crowd of 3,784 at Fratton Park.

The effort lit up an evening which saw chances at both ends but little in the way of quality finishing from either side.

Crawley certainly posed their problems as Kenny Jackett opted to go with a strong side with no league action on either of the next two weekends.

The likes of John Marquis, Ellis Harrison, Paul Downing and Gareth Evans were in the starting XI amid six changes from the weekend draw at Blackpool.

The first half saw chances come at both ends in an open 45 minutes of football.

Crawley certainly had their fair share of those, with Ashley Nathaniel-George in particularly causing problems down the left amid the League Two’s bright attacking options.

Alex Bass made two smart stops in the opening to deny Josh Payne and Mason Bloomfield.

The reply came from Gareth Evans as John Marquis’ perfectly-timed pass freed the stalwart but he didn’t take his shot first time, allowing the tackle to come in as he pulled the trigger.

It was Evans who again fired wide from an acute angle in the 30th minute as the lively Ellis Harrison threaded a ball through to him.

Bloomfield headed over 10 minutes before the break, before a lovely ball in from the right from Leon Maloney was just in front of the on-rushing Harrison.

The young winger had a great chance well saved five minutes before the break as Michael Luyambula kept out his half volley from Evans’ cross.

Brett Pitman was introduced at the break for Pompey in place of Evans.

Within two minutes of the restart Harrison was a whisker away from the opener as he headed Brandon Haunstup’s corner just wide, before Bolton did the same a few minutes later.

Naylor freed Harrison with a lovely ball in the 62nd minute but his cutback intended for Marquis was cut out.

Then Bolton curled a 20 yarder just wide three minutes later as the home side pushed forward.

Luyambula produced an outstanding save to keep out Harrison’s header in the 68th minute from Haunstrup’s wicked cross.

But the opener arrived two minutes later with an excellent back-to-goal volley from Pitman to fire home Haunstrup’s corner from six yards.

And it was comfortable from there as Pompey saw out the victory through three minutes of stoppage time.