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28 December 2014

Taylor goal earns Blues a point

Pompey brought 2014 to a close with a hard-fought draw at promotion-chasing Luton.

They had to battle back from behind after Luke Rooney had volleyed the Hatters ahead early in the game.

But Ryan Taylor ensured the 1,021 travelling fans had some festive cheer when he grabbed a deserved equaliser before the break.

Andy Awford made five changes from the side beaten by AFC Wimbledon on Boxing Day.

Nicky Shorey replaced the suspended Dan Butler at left-back and was joined in defence by Joe Devera.

There were also rare starts for skipper Johnny Ertl and Andy Barcham alongside Nigel Atangana in midfield.

Ex-Pompey trainee Luke Wilkinson was named in the hosts’ line-up, with former Fratton loanee Paul Connolly on the bench.

Chances were at a premium in the opening stages, with Marcus Bean sending one shot well over, while Paul Robinson made a great sliding block to deny Mark Cullen at the other end.

But Luton broke the deadlock on 13 minutes when Shaun Whalley’s cross was coolly fired home by Rooney.

It was the first decent opening of the half and there were not many more to follow as the game became a cagey affair.

The contest roared into life towards the end of it, however, with Ertl almost grabbing a stunning equaliser.

His dipping volley from the edge of the box was heading for the net until Hatters keeper Mark Tyler managed to palm it over the crossbar.

The hosts then broke quickly up the other end of the pitch and Cullen fired wide after meeting Whalley’s low cross.

But the Blues were level on 36 minutes when Jed Wallace sent the ball into the box and TAYLOR managed to prod it over the line from close range.

They might even have gone in ahead at the break, with Barcham shooting past the post following good work from Atangana down the right.

Half Time: Luton 1 Pompey 1

Pompey looked to build on their impressive end to the first half once the game got back underway.

But it was Luton who were first to threaten and Paul Jones did well to save Cullen’s low drive before pouncing on the loose ball to deny the lurking Whalley.

Just as before the interval, though, there was not an abundance of goal-mouth action to make those watching forget the bitterly cold conditions.

Pompey were struggling to breach a solid Hatters back-line when they ventured forward, although Barcham had an effort blocked and Cullen made a vital clearance.

Jones was not having much to deal with either and should have been more troubled by a Michael Harriman shot that was straight at him.

Robinson then made a solid challenge in the box to halt the marauding Scott Griffiths’ path to goal.

There was a welcome return to action for James Dunne on 76 minutes, with the midfielder replacing Barcham for his first appearance since suffering a knee injury at the start of November.

Then, moments later, Awford brought on fresh legs up front as goalscorer Taylor made way for Craig Westcarr.

But neither of the newcomers were able to grab a late winner as the sides had to settle for a share of the spoils.

Luton (4-2-3-1): Tyler; Harriman, McNulty (c), Wilkinson, Griffiths (Howells 77); Doyle, Smith; Whalley (Lafayette 61), Drury, Rooney; Cullen (Miller 71)
Goals: Rooney 13
Subs not used: Justham, Franks, Connolly, Stevenson

Pompey (4-2-3-1): Jones; Webster, Robinson, Devera, Shorey; Ertl (c), Bean; Wallace, Atangana (L.Holmes 90+2), Barcham (Dunne 76); Taylor (Westcarr 78)
Goals: Taylor 36
Booked: Bean, Westcarr
Subs not used: Poke, Whatmough, Chorley, Storey

Referee: Darren Deadman

Attendance: 10,071 (1,021 Pompey fans)

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