October 1998: PORTSMOUTH 2 (Aloisi 59, 68) CITY 4 (Whalley 22, Rankin 32, Mills 33, Beagrie 80)

“IF WE had gone in at half-time six goals ahead, I don't think they could have complained.”

Paul Jewell’s words after a 45-minute demolition display that he described as the best of his managerial reign.

That night on the south coast 22 years ago gave a clear indication of the special season that 1998-1999 would pan out to be for City.

Even if, in typical Bantams fashion, they still nearly allowed their shell-shocked hosts to sneak back into the contest.

The away fans who had made the long midweek trek had already experienced plenty of ups and downs and the campaign was only three months old.

After a poor start of four defeats from the first six games, which saw Jewell’s position come under increasing pressure, a mini-revival had started to lift spirits around Valley Parade.

But that came to a sudden halt in the rain at Cleethorpes as City sunk to a dismal defeat against Grimsby three days earlier.

Jewell had played that down as a “bad day at the office” but the ensuing trip would test the resolve.

City answered their critics in emphatic fashion with a first-half blitz of the Portsmouth goal. Only veteran keeper Alan Knight stood between them and a landslide.

Jewell had restored record signing Isaiah Rankin to the frontline to use his extra pace – and he terrified the Pompey defence.

With Gareth Whalley and Stuart McCall bossing the middle of the park, it was one-way traffic.

Rankin played a major part in City’s opener when Knight could only parry his fierce shot into the path of Whalley, who slid the ball into an empty net.

The former Arsenal frontman then grabbed the spotlight with the second goal just after the half hour.

With his back to goal and centre half Andy Thomson breathing down his neck, Rankin turned his marker on the edge of the Pompey box before unleashing a stinging drive which Knight could not hold.

And a minute later it was 3-0 City when Lee Mills seized on a wayward back-pass from Thomson before rounding Knight for a superbly-taken finish.

A heavy rain shower could not dampen the spirits of the 250 or so City fans who celebrated in the open end. They had witnessed some sensational stuff from their side.

Any doubts that had started to creep back in from the Grimsby loss were swept away with an irresistible performance. Portsmouth could not wait to hear the half-time whistle.

“I don’t think anyone will have taken them apart like we did,” beamed Jewell.

The game looked done and dusted – and just a case of how many more the visitors might rack up.

But the home fans proceeded to lift their team off the floor.

As the strains of “Alan Ball’s Blue and White army” rang around Fratton Park, Portsmouth tried to make a game of it.

City had further chances to increase their seemingly-impregnable lead but did not take them.

And, inevitably, the home side managed to get a toe-hold in a contest that should have been completely out of reach.

Australian international John Aloisi, Portsmouth’s top scorer, pulled on back just before the hour point. Then, as the half reached midway, he struck again to send City nerves jangling.

The volume cranked up further as an unlikely equaliser suddenly beckoned.

City needed something special to restore their control on a cracking contest – and got it 10 minutes from time as Beagrie fired a superb fourth from 25 yards.

The winger would net 15 times in the promotion campaign but none were better than the strike that sealed this victory.

Rankin was withdrawn at that point as Jewell brought on Gordon Watson, whose civil case against Huddersfield’s Kevin Gray over the challenge that shattered his leg had begun only the day before.

“Gordon has a lot of things on his mind with the court case being on,” said Jewell afterwards.

“I had a chat with him before and he was desperate to play in this game with him having played for Southampton. But he is a fantastic professional and he almost had tears in his eyes when I told him.”

It was a fitting end to a memorable night that demonstrated that City were becoming the great entertainers of the division.

PORTSMOUTH: Knight, Thogersen, Whitbread, Thomson, Pethick (Durnin 27), Phillips, Simpson, McLoughlin (Vlachos 15), Igoe, Claridge, Aloisi.

CITY: Walsh, Todd, Moore, Dreyer, Jacobs, Beagrie, McCall, Whalley, Blake (O’Brien 73), Rankin (Watson 80), Mills.

REFEREE: Scott Mathieson