Crawley 0 Pompey 3

122969_CRAWLEY_PFC_9/9/12''Luke Rodgers get his free-kick over the Crawley defence to score.  ''Crawley Town FC V Portsmouth at Broadfield Stadium, Crawley.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (122969-651)
122969_CRAWLEY_PFC_9/9/12''Luke Rodgers get his free-kick over the Crawley defence to score. ''Crawley Town FC V Portsmouth at Broadfield Stadium, Crawley.''Picture: Allan Hutchings (122969-651)

As the rumours of a bid from the Middle East-based consortium began to circulate, it was somehow fitting that two local boys should combine to propel Pompey to victory in front of a jam-packed old-style terrace.

It was another fine effort that more than 1,600 Pompey fans were crammed in at the Broadfield Stadium – a venue which makes Fratton Park look like the Nou Camp.

But there’s something rather more real about a stadium that was a non-league ground two seasons ago.

Most of those noisy and jubilant supporters have never ventured to the Middle East.

But one thing is for sure, the Middle East is not renowned for having grown men who like to have a disco on the terrace at Crawley when their team is 3-0 up.

Most Blues fans don’t want grand business plans, promises of vast sums of capital being pumped into the club by faceless owners who have only ever seen numbers on a balance sheet and simply don’t get what Pompey means to so many.

We’ve been there, done that – and it didn’t go all that well.

Those same fans aren’t all that bothered what league they play in. If they get a few wins along the way, all well and good.

As long as there are a few pints and some banter, they’re happy.

So if it’s two local lads doing the business on the pitch and showing their pride in the shirt, so much the better.

Which all makes it rather fitting that it was two teenage substitutes with Pompey in their veins who secured the club’s first league victory of the season in convincing style.

Admittedly, Crawley Town had been reduced to nine men by the time Ashley Harris and Adam Webster combined to break the deadlock as the former powered home a precise header from the latter’s pinpoint cross with his first real input after coming on as a substitute.

Until that moment, while Pompey looked a good bet to record their first League One success of the campaign, there were no guarantees it would definitely happen – even when they were handed a two-man advantage.

To be brutally honest, Crawley were poor and Pompey weren’t an awful lot better in a first half that would have had many TV viewers switching off.

Neither goalkeeper had been tested and there was precious little quality on display in an opening period that was somewhere between dull and mind-numbing.

In fact, the only real moments of note surrounded a contentious Darren Deadman red card and yet another injury worry for Michael Appleton in the seemingly cursed area of centre-back as debutatnt Gabor Gyepes limped off to be replaced by Webster five minutes before the break

Moments later, Josh Simpson was the first Crawley man to be given his marching orders and while he claimed his innocence and the home fans abused the official, Simpson had to shoulder some of the blame himself.

Having already tripped Izale McLeod to prevent a counter-attack for his first booking seven minutes earlier, Simpson might well have been advised to stay on his feet and not give the referee the option to send him off.

But with McLeod the victim again, Simpson slid in and even if TV replays suggested the contact was somewhere between minimal and non-existent, the Crawley midfielder was on his way.

If ever there was an open invitation for Pompey to go on and win a game, then this was it.

An overly-physical Crawley side did not look anything like high-flyers with designs on a third straight promotion and their cause was certainly not helped by their indiscipline.

But Pompey were not about to look this gifthorse in the mouth and claimed the win – that could well be a useful platform to build from in the coming weeks – in professional fashion.

As expected, Pompey improved after the break with more confidence about their passing, mainly down to the extra space they had to work with.

Appleton had issued his half-time orders to pass the ball better, make the most of the extra man and most importantly of all, keep 11 men on the pitch with the overly-zealous Deadman’s hand never far away from his top pocket.

Jack Compton finally forced Crawley keeper Paul Jones into action with a fierce free-kick that needed to be tipped over after the break but the glut of subsequent chances still didn’t arrive.

With Hope Apkan the second man to be shown a red card – and nobody could have any complaints at all with his two yellows – it left Pompey 20 minutes to win the game against nine men.

Quite why Akpan – who had been impressive up until that point – was applauded off the pitch so raucously by the home fans is anyone’s guess after effectively handing the victory to Pompey with his second rash tackle of the afternoon.

But the Blues duly obliged with three goals in the final 16 minutes, starting when Harris timed his run superbly to meet Webster’s cross to direct his header in the opposite corner and set the ball rolling.

He’s by no means the finished article but Harris has certainly got something about him that both connects with fans and inspires his team-mates with his impact on a game.

To most, that was the match-winning moment and it was then simply a matter of how many Pompey would win by.

The visitors increased their lead seven minutes from time as Luke Rodgers cracked home a beauty of a free-kick that arrowed over the wall and flew into the top corner to seal the 

But it was apt that the final say should go to McLeod, who was on the receiving end of both some fearsome tackling in this game and some unkind comments from sections of unconvinced Pompey fans after some recent indifferent performances.

Harris again was the architect as he made the most of Crawley’s fatigue, hassled away to win the ball and sprung the former Barnet man clean through on goal.

Whether his confidence was low before the game or not, instinct took over as he rounded Jones with ease and nonchalantly slotted into an empty net.

McLeod may not always catch the eye or be involved in a game in the same way that his workaholic strike partner Rodgers does.

But give him chances in front of goal and he has shown down the years he is a finisher who is more than capable of sticking them away.

All in all, a satisfactory day’s work and while the talk will surely return to prospective owners and the Middle East in the coming days, many will have simply enjoyed a game of football and a Pompey win.