Kenny Jackett praised Portsmouth’s resilience as his side overcame a stern examination to progress to the second round of the FA Cup courtesy of a 2-1 win at Harrogate.
The 2008 winners saw kick-off delayed by almost an hour because of two power cuts, and when play did start strong winds and bitter temperatures indicated all the ingredients were in place for an upset.
That looked even more likely when Mark Beck headed the hosts into a deserved seventh-minute lead, but outstanding individual strikes from Brandon Haunstrup and Ronan Curtis spared the Blues’ blushes.
“It was always going to be a difficult game – I’m delighted with the application the players showed,” said Jackett.
“Throughout the game they worked hard trying to get to grips with the opposition. Not sure we were dominant but we found a way to win and there was a lot of character in that early period.
On his side’s slow start, Jackett added: “It looked like one-way traffic coming down the hill, we couldn’t get out, we couldn’t win a header at either end and they’re going to get up a head of steam.
“As the game went on my centre-backs grew in terms of confidence, and we scored two excellent goals.”
Portsmouth will host non-league Altrincham in round two, but the game was almost called off when a power cut at the CNG Stadium prevented supporters from entering the ground before the scheduled 7.45pm kick-off time, with the match eventually getting under way almost an hour later.
Harrogate took the lead after seven minutes when George Smith’s long free-kick into the box caused chaos in the Pompey defence, with Beck heading in at the back post.
The hosts enjoyed the better of the opening stages but Portsmouth equalised against the run of play after 17 minutes. Makeshift right-back Haunstrup cut inside onto his stronger left foot and curled a 20-yard effort inside the far post.
Curtis put the away side in front four minutes before half-time when he collected John Marquis’ pass and fired a stunning half-volley past James Belshaw from 30 yards.
Harrogate found the going tougher in the second half, although Jack Muldoon came close to forcing a replay late on, only to be denied by former Town goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray.
“We got off to a flying start and we were causing them mayhem in their final third but the difference at the end of the day was some devastating strikes from distance,” said Town boss Simon Weaver, whose side sit eighth in the National League.
“I think we can still learn when we reflect properly and see the video.
“Could we have engaged the player on the ball a little bit earlier because they have that quality? The higher up you go, you see that real quality to execute those strikes.
“Our lads have got to aspire to that and they’re all the right age. They’ve stood up to the task.
“Portsmouth dug in and turned up. We’ve got to keep aspiring for more.
“I’m so proud. I thought they were nailed on for looking like League One players tonight so there’s no reason why they can’t drag us over the line.”
On the delayed kick-off, Weaver added: “I was a little bit dumbfounded by that. We were three minutes from it being called off when it went off again.
“The referee pulled us in and said if it doesn’t come back on again, the game’s off.”