Accrington 1 Pompey 1

Ryan Taylor equalises for Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler
Ryan Taylor equalises for Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler
Fratton Park

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There was a crash and a bang but Pompey couldn’t muster a wallop to knock out Accrington Stanley.

Victory appeared there for the Blues’ taking once Anthony Barry was dismissed following an ugly challenge on Danny Hollands.

With 37 minutes remaining to utilise a numerical advantage to devastating effect, it was the reaching out of a generous helping hand.

Andy Awford’s men had already negotiated an entertaining opening 45 minutes during which the hosts spurned several glorious goal-scoring opportunities.

Amid an open game of football, Ryan Taylor grabbed his fourth goal in five games to level Josh Windass’ 20-yard free-kick which had opened the scoring.

But the visitors scrambled into the break with a rather fortuitus 1-1 scoreline, prompting harsh words from Pompey’s manager in the claustrophobic Crowd Ground away dressing room.

Then on 53 minutes Barry’s ill-advised tackle arrived, earning him a straight red.

The 624 away support settled down to witness a second-half onslaught.

While the home faithful winced at the proposition of a painful rearguard battle.

Instead neither occurred as Pompey sauntered to a draw.

Earlier in proceedings one huge Paul Robinson clearance had shattered panes in a greenhouse situated in a neighbouring garden.

But there was to be no smashing the 10-man opposition’s resolve. They stood up manfully to see out time for a thoroughly-deserved point.

It was the manner of the failure to defeat the Reds which provoked deep disappointment among those of the Pompey persuasion present in Lancashire on Saturday.

As expected in such scenarios, the side fielding 11 players enjoyed greater possession, they retained the ball more effectively and significant pressure was applied on the opponents’ goal.

They weren’t put under any serious threat at the other end of the field, with the Blues defence certainly comfortable.

Standard procedure considering the circumstances.

Crucially and alarmingly, though, during that entire period, Accrington keeper Scott Davies had just the one shot on target to deal with.

Granted there were defensive blocks, attempts going wide, unpredictable ricochets, while Jed Wallace clipped the top of the crossbar in stoppage time.

However, Taylor’s left-foot drive from the edge of the area in the 75th minute which arrowed straight to Davies was the sole meaningful effort the side with the numerical advantage conjured up.

And therein lies the issue for Pompey, particularly if they still harbour faint aspirations for a late surge into the play-off positions.

At the final whistle there was an unshakable feeling Accrington had been let off the hook, particularly when at the mercy of one of League Two’s in-form sides.

Remarkably, boss John Coleman didn’t make a single substitution as he put his trust in the remaining players to dig the team out of the hole Barry had pushed them into.

What’s more, the club with the lowest wage bill in League Two rarely looked like being breached, with their back three largely dominant in the air, while the tireless Piero Mingoia was a bundle of inexhaustible energy and drive.

Even in stoppage time the right wing-back was embarking on lung-busting chases after loose balls.

In contrast, Pompey were patient, they prodded and probed away, yet without any real urgency regardless of time ticking down.

Awford swapped Andy Barcham for Josh Passley for a fourth time in the last six matches to provide more attacking impetus down the right.

He exchanged Wes Fogden for Danny Hollands to give more attacking thrust and energy from the centre of the midfield area.

Finally, Craig Westcarr was introduced for Taylor to operate up front and give the Accrington defenders a different challenge to contemplate.

The back three of Joe Devera, Paul Robinson and Jack Whatmough remained in place, though, in position to deal with the lone Accrington striker.

Irrespective of the substitutions, there was no way through for Awford’s men, perhaps more a result of their own failings in the final third than exceptional Stanley defending.

The visitors finished strongly, in particular that Wallace fierce effort on the edge of the area which struck the bar.

Before then, in the 77th minute, Wallace’s left-wing corner just missed the flying head of Whatmough and then bounced clear off Robinson at the far post before he had time to react.

Moments later Wallace crossed from the right and Fogden, arriving at the far post, couldn’t quite steer it goalwards as the ball instead went out for a goal kick.

Certainly the effort was present, driven on as ever by James Dunne, back in midfield in place of Nigel Atangana following a two-match ban.

The other change to the side which lost at Northampton was Whatmough overcoming his shin complaint to come in for the suspended Ben Chorley.

It resulted in arguably Awford’s strongest starting XI and they contributed to an excellent game of football in the first half.

Accrington keeper Davies twice had to come off his line to block Matt Tubbs inside the penalty area, while Passley saw a near-post shot saved.

Then in the 16th minute, Dunne fouled Kal Naismith and the resulting free-kick 20-yards from goal was crashed into the net by Windass.

Just four minutes later the Blues were level when Davies failed to deal with Butler’s right-wing corner and Taylor was on hand to steer a header into the net.

That equaliser sparked the hosts into life and Andy Proctor should have done far better with a first-time volley past the post following Dean Winnard’s right-wing cross.

Then on 36 minutes, excellent work from Mingoia down the right set-up for Windass who lashed a shot over the bar from eight yards out, with a corner curiously given.

Next, in a counter attack, Windass screwed a shot wide at the near post back across goal, with Naismith somehow also failing to convert at close range.

While the half ended with Rob Atkinson sending a free header at the far post straight at Paul Jones.

Then, eight minutes into the second half came the moment which should have changed the match.

Instead it was very much a case of missed opportunities for Pompey.