Greg Brown's take on 1-1 draw at Fratton Park
If Pompey’s draw at home to promotion-chasing Burton Albion on Saturday had been a boxing match they would probably have shaded it on points. However, Burton’s late equaliser ensured the points at stake were shared.
The first 25 minutes were a largely uneventful affair with both teams sparring, but not quite finding the space and composure to land a significant body blow. Pompey looked more confident than for some time, knocking the ball around comfortably, refreshingly looking to play it to feet.
Fratton Park debutant Matt Tubbs looked impressive, particularly in the way he was always seeking to find himself space and give his defenders an outlet.
As the half wore on, both teams produced some promising moves that petered out with final balls not reaching their target, but on 28 minutes the game burst into life. Jed Wallace put Matt Tubbs in for, what looked like, would be his first goal for the club, but Burton keeper McLaughlin was off his line smartly to block the shot.
This was the catalyst for Pompey to find a rhythm not seen for a while at Fratton Park. Pompey created several openings with Wallace going close and Tubbs just unable to get on the end of a Webster cross. The Burton keeper nearly gifted Pompey the opener by crashing a clearance into one of his defenders but managed to scramble back to recover the situation.
Pompey soon got the goal their more adventurous play had deserved. Shorey dinked the ball into the lively Tubbs who showed great awareness to nod the ball into the path of a rejuvenated Andy Barcham, whose shot crashed against the far post. However the ever-alert Wallace, following up, make no mistake with the rebound.
Pompey so nearly extended their lead before half-time but Wallace’s cross-field ball to Westcarr in space just eluded him.
Although Burton squandered an excellent chance to equalise just before the break, that would have been harsh on a Pompey side playing more fluently than for some time.
The buzz around Fratton Park at half-time was one of cautious optimism. Pompey had been more than a match for high flying Burton and the start of the second half looked equally encouraging as Webster’s header produced a brilliant save from McLaughlin.
From that point, though, the game became scrappy on a difficult pitch, with Pompey unable to replicate their earlier fluency. The return of the battling midfielder Joe Dunne and the solid foundation of Paul Robinson and Joe Devera in central defence helped ensure what little danger Burton created was soon snuffed out.
However, in the 83rd minute the visitors equalised out of nothing. A slick interchange of passing through the middle ended with Lenihan burying a low shot into the corner of Paul Jones’ net from just outside the box.
Late substitute Paul McCallum, signed on loan from West Ham in the week had the chance to mark his Pompey debut with a goal, but his shot under pressure sailed high and wide into the Milton End.
Some late Burton forays caused a few anxious moments for Pompey fans, but overall when the final whistle blew there was a feeling of an opportunity missed.
Kept in perspective, Pompey can take heart from an encouraging display against a team full of confidence. If they can build on the formula which produced that 20 minute first half spell, and supplement it by landing the knock-out punch when on top, the Fratton faithful can look forward to the visit of Phil Brown’s Southend on Saturday with renewed optimism.