Portsmouth FC 2019/2020
Pompey eased into the second round of the Carabao Cup with a dominant display against Birmingham at Fratton Park.
Ellis Harrison headed in his first goals since arriving from Ipswich, with a fine strike from Ben Close sandwiched between.
It was a similar tale to Saturday’s League One game at Shrewsbury on Saturday in terms of the way the Blues dominated the play.
But this time they also managed to find a cutting edge, creating plenty of chances to put their higher-ranked opponents to the sword.
Kenny Jackett made three changes from the side that were narrowly beaten at New Meadow at the weekend.
Harrison made his full debut in place of fellow summer signing John Marquis, whose partner was about to give birth.
Close replaced the suspended Ross McCrorie in midfield, while Gareth Evans dropped to the bench to make way for Andy Cannon.
Pompey made a bright start against a much-changed Birmingham side and Marcus Harness’ cross had to be hacked behind by Geraldo Bajrami before it could reach Harrison.
There were not an abundance of clear-cut chances, but the hosts certainly looked the more dangerous of the two teams in the early stages.
Their opponents did have an opportunity to break the deadlock on 16 minutes, however, when Ronan Curtis attempted to clear a corner and sliced the ball straight up into the air.
It landed right in front of the goal and there was an almighty scramble before the ball was hacked to safety.
But much of the action was taking place at the opposite end of the pitch and a series of corners eventually led to the opening goal.
The first couple of deliveries were nervously dealt with by the visitors, but it proved to be third time lucky.
It eventually found skipper Tom Naylor and his header was blocked by Steve Seddon, only for the ball to fall for HARRISON.
Wes Harding tried his best to punt the ball away before it crossed the line, but referee Neil Hair decided to award the goal.
Birmingham almost found an immediate leveller, though, and a shot from Jude Bellingham was well saved by an otherwise underworked Craig MacGillivray.
Harrison then clashed with Bajrami right in front of the North Stand, leading to a melee that ultimately saw both players booked.
Pompey were still on top and deservedly doubled their advantage thanks to a sumptuous strike on 39 minutes.
An effort from Curtis was blocked by Jake Clarke-Salter and the ball fell kindly for CLOSE to unleash a fine volley that flew into the net.
They almost had a third goal in stoppage-time following a quick break up the pitch, but Curtis’ drive flashed narrowly past the post.
Birmingham City 0
The Blues remained in control once the action restarted, although Curtis was unable to glance Harness’ cross on target.
A third goal did arrive on 54 minutes, however, as Curtis whipped in a pin-point cross for HARRISON to nod home at the back post.
It might have got worse for the visitors, but Hair decided to be lenient with Bajrami – who had already been booked – following a late challenge on Harrison.
Pompey were looking to add to their already impressive tally and were almost rewarded after some fine footwork from Harness and Close.
The move looked to have broken down, but the visitors could not clear their lines and Close teed-up Harrison for a hat-trick attempt.
Stockdale came to Birmingham’s rescue with a smart stop and Lee Brown could only lash the loose ball into the side netting.
The hosts were putting in plenty of effort all over the pitch and Naylor threw himself in the path of Steve Seddon’s shot, with Odin Bailey then firing over.
Jackett made a couple of changes on 77 minutes, with Harrison and Brown withdrawn for Brett Pitman and Brandon Haunstrup.
Brum came close to reducing their deficit soon after, but MacGillivray was equal to Gary Gardner’s thunderous 35-yard free-kick.
Sean Raggett was brought on for Paul Downing for the final few minutes, giving the on-loan defender his competitive Blues debut.
And Pompey passed the ball around comfortably in the closing stages, although another long-range attempt from Gardner had to be pushed over by MacGillivray.
The hosts had long since got the job done, though, and can look forward to a first trip to the second round of the competition since 2015.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Walkes, Downing (Raggett 85), Burgess, Brown (Haunstrup 77); Naylor (c), Close; Harness, Cannon, Curtis; Harrison (Pitman 77)
Goals: Harrison 30, 54, Close 39
Subs not used: Bass, Evans, Maloney, Hawkins
Birmingham (3-1-4-2): Stockdale; Harding, Bajrami, Clarke-Salter; Medina; Dacres-Cogley, Gardner (c), Lakin, Seddon; Bellingham (Boyd-Munce 81), Crowley (Bailey 55)
Booked: Harding, Bajrami, Medina, Bellingham
Subs not used: Trueman, Redmond, O’Keeffe, Burke, Stirk
Referee: Neil Hair
Attendance: 9,913 (1,513 away fans)