Pompey 2 Macclesfield 1: Match report

Adam McGurk scored a double in Pompey's 2-1 win over Macclesfield yesterday Picture: Joe Pepler
Adam McGurk scored a double in Pompey's 2-1 win over Macclesfield yesterday Picture: Joe Pepler

Ricardo Rocha took to Twitter when reminded of the significance of the occasion.

Crowned the king of Wembley in that memorable Spurs outing, he still possesses the bottle of Champagne enclosed in a red wrapper.

The cork is still intact as it takes pride of place in his Santo Tirso home.

‘Thank you for the great memories, hope @officialpompey can get a win today,’ he wrote.

‘Wish them all the best #pup.’

The passing of those five-and-a-half years had failed to yield a single FA Cup victory, irrespective of the round or league level of opposition.

Not since Rocha was named man of the match in that 2-0 semi-final triumph in April 2010 had the Blues won in the competition.

A procession of defeats to Chelsea (twice), Brighton, Notts County, Stevenage and Aldershot. Yes Aldershot, the first non-league side to beat Pompey in the FA Cup.

Thankfully, Paul Cook’s class of 2015-16 did not join the roll of dishonour as they beat National League outfit Macclesfield Town.

With Rocha long since retired and resettled to his native Portugal, it was left to Adam McGurk to be the newest recipient of those Pompey FA Cup plaudits.

The forward struck twice on Saturday to banish all thoughts of the Blues prolonging their abject run in the competition.

A stuttering, largely unconvincing victory, nonetheless passage booked into the second round.

On that basis it would be harsh to be too critical.

Not that it prevented Cook turning on his team during his post-match address, displaying rare frustration towards his troops.

Come the final whistle he had turned towards the directors’ box and puffed his cheeks in acknowledgement of a job done in the most unrewarding of circumstances.

A stagger rather than a march, a limp instead of a strut, it was often painful to witness the progress over the 90 minutes.

Still, it was a victory and the Fratton faithful would surely take that considering their previous encounters in a competition which has begun to embarrass.

For Cook, however, the stomach was still rumbling, the 2-1 result failing to satisfy his hunger for a fluent Blues display at Fratton Park.

He pointed out the encouraging entry of debutant Marc McNulty from the bench. He had a point, too.

Otherwise the Pompey boss demonstrated his disappointment with a side containing just the one change to that which lost at Notts County the previous weekend.

That defeat was instigated by two poor defensive lapses. There was another against the Silkmen on Saturday, except this time it had no bearing on the outcome.

Well in terms of the result, anyway. It remains to be seen the effect it has on the medium-term standing of culprit Brian Murphy in Pompey’s plans.

Undisputed number one at present with Paul Jones still recovering from a knee ligament injury, his initial six-month contract expires in January.

While he produced several notable saves against the non-leaguers, his error on 15 minutes eclipsed his entire highlights package.

Murphy was involved in mistakes during the Meadow Lane defeat the previous weekend, albeit neither were in the same league as Saturday.

Heading into the fixture against John Askey’s side, with Caolan Lavery unavailable due to Sheffield Wednesday not willing for him to be cup-tied, Conor Chaplin was called into the starting line-up.

It was reward for a player who continued to push for first-team reckoning with two goals and an assist during a behind-closed-doors friendly with Crawley in the week.

That was the only alteration to the team fielded at Notts County, with Friday’s loan recruit McNulty on a bench also containing the fit-again Rommy Boco.

Yet it was McGurk who made the biggest contribution as again he operated centrally behind the lone striker in the 4-2-3-1 system.

The former Burton Albion player had returned to the starting line-up at the Magpies – after seven matches out – and subsequently impressed.

On Saturday he took his tally to five goals in 11 matches during the early stages of his Pompey career, despite it being hampered by injury.

An impressive haul from McGurk, whose versatility and ability to have an influence in several attacking positions is rapidly establishing him as a key performer.

Against Macclesfield it took him under three minutes to make his mark, following a magnificent ball from Kyle Bennett. The winger spotted McGurk’s run across the area and threaded a brilliant pass through the heart of the defence.

The forward did the rest, nudging the ball past Shwan Jalal for the first goal of the game – and an early one at that.

During the next 12 minutes Pompey threatened on the ball, they played with confidence, probed the opposition penalty area and were in fine flow.

Then, on 15 minutes, came the moment which muscled the hosts out of their stride.

Enda Stevens took a throw-in and delivered it in the direction of Murphy, who appeared to have plenty of time to use the ball constructively.

Instead the keeper dithered, taking far too much time before Kristian Dennis closed him down.

Murphy’s clearance cannoned off the striker and into the net from point-blank range. If the goal was calamitous it also proceeded to destroy the Blues’ own game as the visitors began to display more confidenceand enjoy an increase in possession.

However, David Fitzpatrick did step in to clear the ball off the line, depriving Gareth Evans of a goal following good work by Bennett down the left.

Then, on the stroke of half-time, Stevens crossed from the left and in the ensuing scramble up stepped McGurk to drive the ball home and regain the lead for Cook’s men.

The second half saw the match descend into a non-event, played in a flat Fratton atmosphere in front of a crowd of 9,834.

At the least the entrance of McNulty for Chaplin did liven up matters, as the on-loan striker added pace and a greater cutting edge to proceedings.

It was just left to Danny Whitaker to blaze a shot over the bar when well-placed for a Macclesfield leveller in the dying moments. What a chance that was.

Yet Pompey had their win. Five-and-a-half years after Rocha’s finest hour.