Doncaster 1 Pompey 1

Jed Wallace fires in Pompey's leveller in the 1-1 draw at Doncaster   Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace fires in Pompey's leveller in the 1-1 draw at Doncaster Picture: Joe Pepler
Curtis Main in action for Pompey against Reading under-23s in last season's Checkatrade Trophy. Picture: Joe Pepler  PompReading PPP-160510-131550001

Pompey question: Will you attend the Fulham under-21s Checkatrade Trophy game?

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The boos rang out at the Keepmoat Stadium, an all-too-familiar response.

Last season it was the referee who attracted the angry reaction from those Doncaster home fans against Pompey.

Mick Russell had overseen a controversial finale in which David Kitson and Marko Futacs netted in stoppage time to relegate the hosts.

On this occasion, it was the Rovers team itself on the receiving end of their own support vociferously voicing displeasure on the full-time whistle.

Clearly those followers of a club who went into Saturday’s fixture three points clear at the top of the table had anticipated a handsome victory against the Blues.

Except these days this is a very different Pompey team who remain entrenched in the bottom two of that League One relegation zone.

Granted, safety is going to elude them, most likely even before the inevitable points deduction which lurks in the shadows.

Yet the new-found fighting spirit and team togetherness unearthed by Guy Whittingham in recent weeks have ensured the Blues shouldn’t be underestimated.

Certainly opposition fans will be in for a shock if they expect the Blues to roll out and roll over playfully like their side of old.

Doncaster’s supporters discovered this for themselves following the 1-1 draw that few of their brethren would have anticipated.

It’s a result which now means two defeats in the past eight matches have followed the club record-equalling nine successive losses. And it’s a run which accurately reflects the difference this current Blues playing collective has made during a season which has seen 51 players used.

Still, it was a statistic wasted on the Rovers crowd who booed off their table-topping team at the end of Saturday’s fixture, along with the usual expletives.

Obviously, expectations for promotion are high in that part of the country.

As it was, the result meant they extended their lead at the top to four points.

In fairness, there was no suggestion of anything other than a routine win when Whittingham’s men limped into half-time a goal down.

It had been a sloppy and careless opening 45 minutes from the visitors, clearly struggling to terms with an awful playing surface.

Passes were going astray with alarming regularity, the ball was struggling to be wrestled under control and there were spats between team-mates everywhere.

Even the pure basics were letting down Pompey as they struggled to keep possession for a significant period of time through their own profligacy.

As for goal attempts, they managed just the one.

That was Therry Racon’s drive from long distance in the 44th minute which ballooned well over the bar, nestling high among the home followers.

For all their inadequacies, however, the visitors still managed to keep the scoreline down to a one-goal deficit during that wretched first period.

That was provided by Chris Brown in the 37th minute after he inched ahead of Gabor Gyepes at the near post.

David Cotterill crossed from the right and the towering striker poked it home to break the deadlock.

Admittedly, that moment was late in coming, yet Doncaster had long suggested they were capable of grabbing the lead.

In terms of possession on a playing surface lacking any grass, they kept the ball considerably better than their visitors to enable themselves to threaten.

Crucially, Pompey had ensured there was not too much daylight between themselves and the league leaders heading into that interval. Hope still remained.

Another trait of this new-look Pompey, of course, with goals no longer being shipped with uncomfortable ease and through glaring defensive errors. That gift horse had long ridden off into the sunset.

Ricardo Rocha and Gabor Gyepes are solid again and Simon Eastwood has bounced back from his Oldham error impressively.

On one occasion, the former Bradford keeper came magnificently off his line in the 28th minute to thwart Billy Paynter following Cotterill’s through ball.

He is certainly growing into his role with great belief, as the second half would later testify with two superb saves.

Still, one goal difference it was as half-time was indicated – and it was a very different Pompey side who re-emerged from the tunnel.

Whittingham’s men rediscovered their composure on the ball, the heads were up high again and the sporadic bickering had stopped.

They carried with them more of a threat, retaining possession long enough to at least ask questions from Brian Flynn’s men amid an increasingly frustrated home support.

Admittedly, the chances were still not flowing for Pompey, but their play was no longer fragmented and irrelevant in terms of the pattern of the game.

Sure enough, on 75 minutes they did get their equaliser.

Patrick Agyemang bustled his way down the right and pulled the ball back in the direction of David Connolly.

The pass went under the striker’s foot, instead falling perfectly into the path of the on-rushing Wallace, who slotted home.

It was a third goal for the teenager who has become the fulcrum of the midfield since the turn of the year and who continues to offer a bright future for the club.

As for Agyemang, the goals may not flow too freely but his impact in the side since his arrival has been immense, as his assist showed.

There was still time for Eastwood to excel once again, conjuring up a flying save to deny substitute Dean Furman in the 88th minute.

Like Wallace, for so long this season never having a look-in during a variety of Pompey line-ups fielded.

Suddenly, though, Whittingham seems to have uncovered a side with guts, determination and effort.

Just as crucial, a stability created by an unchanged side for the fourth match running is only too obvious in their manner of play.

Of course relegation is beckoning, let’s not get too carried away with unrealistic optimism, but they are going down scrapping all the way.

Certainly, Doncaster wouldn’t have expected to receive a bloody nose and cut eye when taking on the Blues on home soil on Saturday.

Their fans definitely hadn’t foreseen such a result.

It shows the danger of underestimating this current Whittingham side who are proving there is plenty of life and belief left in them yet.