Just how seriously Peterborough United were going to take their final League One game of the season was confirmed by the arrival of the teamsheets.
‘Put on a show for the travelling fans’ Posh manager Steve Evans had urged before the match, before deciding that show at Portsmouth would go ahead without star attraction Jack Marriott.
The top scorer was, understandably, left out to protect his impending big money transfer. Idris Kanu was instead given the opportunity to hunt his first Posh goal.
But a game that looked like being a last-day cracker after both teams had secured important Easter Monday successes was now a battle for eighth place with a side dish of a Golden Boot chase.
Pompey skipper Brett Pitman needed just the five goals to catch Marriott and he should have claimed one of them after just seven minutes. The centre forward slipped past Liam Shephard into the Posh penalty area, but his shot was scuffed enabling ‘keeper Jonathan Bond to save.
But Pitman was off the mark a few minutes later when stooping to head home from Pompey’s first corner of the match.
And on 19 minutes Pitman was in again after Jack Baldwin misjudged a header, but Bond was again off his line to save.
It was obvious Posh were going to treat marking opponents as an optional extra though and Pitman was soon volleying over the bar from 20 yards before tapping home his second goal from close range on 26 minutes. Jamal Lowe drilled a shot across goal that found Pitman lurking on the far post to move within three goals of Marriott.
And he should have had his hat-trick just past the half hour mark when he was left free six yards from goal after a backheel from Kai Naismith. Remarkably he blazed over and Marriott, as well as those who took fancy prices on him finishing top scorer in League One, could breathe a huge sigh of relief.
But the Pompey striker was relentless. Pitman next tested Bond from 25 yards and drew a terrific save from the Posh number one before Posh could retreat to the safety of the dressing room. Or maybe not as Evans and his powerfully-built sidekick Paul Raynor wore faces like thunder as they stormed down the tunnel.
Their immediate reaction was to withdraw their most forward players, Kanu and George Cooper, and replace them with Joe Ward and Danny Lloyd. Marriott was left to soak up warm applause from the well-populated (given the circumstances) away end as he indulged in some half-time keepy-ups.
And the game rather fizzled out after the break. The service to Pitman dried up, while Posh huffed and puffed without creating a solitary clearcut chance. Dithering when well-placed by Leo Da Silva Lopes and Lloyd ensured reserve home goalkeeper Alex Bass enjoyed a comfortable afternoon.
The Posh players, many of whom won’t be around next season, were given a friendly enough send off by the visiting fans, although chairman Darragh MacAnthony didn’t join in the goodwill.
He tweeted his opinion before the game had even finished, stating: “Our back five did their best to give Pitman a chance of the Golden Boot with all the chances he’s had today.
“One last abject performance to witness. Aplogies again Posh fans. Onto next season quickly & the ins/outs necessary.”
A pretty neat summary to be fair, although Bond should be exempt from the criticism.
Posh: Jonathan Bond, Liam Shephard, Andrew Hughes, Jack Baldwin, Steven Taylor, Anthony Grant, Leo Da Silva Lopes, Gwion Edwards, Marcus Maddison, George Cooper (sub Joe Ward, 46 mins), Idris Kanu (sub Danny Lloyd, 46 mins).
Unused substitutes: Mark Tyler, Jermaine Anderson, Michael Doughty, Chris Forrester, Jack Marriott.
Pompey: Alex Bass, Nathan Thompson, Christian Burgess, Matt Clarke, Brandon Haunstrup, Stuart O’Keefe, Jamal Lowe, Gareth Evans, Ben Close, Kai Naismith (sub Matty Kennedy, 77 mins), Brett Pitman.
Unused substitutes: Luke McGee, Dion Donohue, Adam May, Connor
Ronan, Conor Chaplin, Oliver Hawkins.
Goals: Pompey - Pitman (12 & 26 mins).
Cautions: Pompey - Lowe (foul).
Referee: John Busby 7
Attendance 18,118 (598 Posh).