Battling Pools Make Point At Portsmouth
Pools passed a test of character as they hit back with a performance rich in determination to frustrate Portsmouth and earn a fantastic away point at Fratton Park.
Craig Hignett’s side had come under fire during recent weeks, particularly after last weekend’s 5-0 defeat at the hands of Cambridge United but the boss demanded a reaction on the South Coast – and he got one.
Players put their bodies on the line from the off, showed the bottle that fans have been crying out for and earned a creditable draw in the face of often extreme pressure from their hosts.
Hignett was unable to call upon the injured James Martin so Jake Carroll returned at left-back, while Scott Harrison was restored the centre of defence, Lewis Alessandra was recalled and Rhys Oates was handed his first league start of the campaign.
Pools survived an early scare when Carroll was caught in possession by Gary Roberts on the halfway line but the Pompey star could only drag an effort wide after driving towards the edge of the box.
Wallsend-born front man Michael Smith was next to cause a problem for Pools when he escaped the offside trap to get in behind but he loitered too long before shooting and that allowed Carroll to come back with an excellent recovery challenge.
Smith’s height meant he was a focal point for Pompey’s often direct approach and he found space in the area when Carl Baker lobbed the ball in from the left but, thankfully for Pools, he could only send a tame header at Trevor Carson when he really should have done better.
Kyle Bennett exchanged passes with Smith down the right moments later to go through on goal but he drilled a shot a yard wide of the far post as the hosts looked to up the ante.
Bennett then turned provider from the left as his whipped in cross was met by Smith with a glancing header but he couldn’t quite get enough contact on the ball and it fell wide of the right-hand post.
Roberts came closest of all to breaking the deadlock as half time approached when he ran in behind on the left and lobbed an effort over Carson which looked likely to present Smith with a tap-in before some wonderful, last-ditch defending from Harrison saved the day.
There was time for right-back Gareth Evans to fire a shot over the bar after trading passes with Danny Rose but Pools went in goalless at the break following a determined showing.
After a slow start to the second period, Portsmouth began to get on top and Carson had to be alert again at the far post to palm away a dangerous cross from the left.
A rare breakaway from Pools saw Lewis Alessandra gallop in to space on the right and he managed to pick out Josh Laurent with his cross but the midfielder’s header fell wide of the post.
At the other end Carl Baker chopped inside from the right but his vicious shot was deflected over, while Enda Stevens posed a threat from the other flank and his low ball across couldn’t find anyone in blue as it skimmed through the six-yard area.
There was more Carson heroics moments later when another cross from the left was met with a firm header from Smith which the Pools keeper did brilliantly to claw away as it flew towards the goal.
The Northern Irish international produced an ever better save not long after when Michael Doyle struck a powerful low volley from twenty-five yards which ripped through a crowded penalty area only for Carson to react in an instant down to his left with a stunning stop.
And Carson wasn’t finished there because substitute Conor Chaplin was ready to celebrate when he met a cross at the near post and glanced his header towards the top corner where the Pools keeper again palmed it away.
Pompey’s frustration was growing as Pools continued to eat up the minutes; head injuries for Paynter and Liam Donnelly meant the hosts struggled to maintain momentum and there was anger on the home terraces.
As a result there were an agonising eight minutes of injury time for Pools to see out at the end but they dug in and showed even more bottle, with Portsmouth restricted to a shot from distance from Stevens and a wayward Baker shot from distance.
While Hignett’s men did not bring home all three points it was the nature of the performance which drew a warm reaction from the 132 travelling Poolies as the players went to celebrate with them at full time.
Full Time: Portsmouth 0 Pools 0
Booked: Donnelly (76) Bates (82), Featherstone (90)
Portsmouth: Forde, Stevens, Rose (Hunt 94), Burgess, Baker, Doyle, Smith, Roberts (Chaplin 68), Bennett (Naismith 68), Evans.
Subs Not Used: O'Brien, Davies, Lalkovic, Linganzi.
Pools: Carson, Donnelly, Harrison, Bates, Carroll, Featherstone, Hawkins, Laurent, Oates (Deverdics 73), Alessandra (Nsiala 94), Paynter (Amond 95).
Subs Not Used: Bartlett, Pollock, Walker, Woods.