Leeds 3 - Pompey 3

Today saw Pompey's fixtures for the 2017-18 season released

Pompey Talk: Blues fixtures discussed

Many conversations need to be held at Fratton Park over the next few days.

Transfer plans require rubber stamping, contract disputes must be settled, while the future of the youth set-up needs carefully plotting.

Already there has been plenty of talking the talk.

Sadly lacking has been walking the walk.

So how refreshing to yesterday see actions on the pitch speaking louder than any words.

It was something tangible rather than all the bluster.

At Elland Road, Steve Cotterill's shrinking squad pulled off a remarkable 3-3 draw at Leeds.

Twice they fought back from two goals down to leave the home fans booing and venting their full-time ire at referee David Webb.

Blaming the County Durham official is, of course, far too convenient.

Instead, the chief culprit was another gutsy Blues display as they continue to shrug off the at times alarming off-the-field antics.

Today, Steve Cotterill was expecting to hear from Balram Chainrai over his transfer intentions.

The wait has been an agonising one and the Blues boss and fans alike will hope the call is fruitful.

In the meantime, his paper-thin squad has been left to fend for itself.

Home alone for far too long, now the time has come for the parents to return, laden with presents and gestures of their love.

The Blues certainly need strengthening.

Not that anybody needs reminding – it has been said a million times before.

Against Leeds, Cotterill was shorn of Michael Brown through his contract stalemate and robbed of Liam Lawrence due to the expiry of his emergency loan.

A quick reshuffle of his remaining deck and it was the unlikely figure of Richard Hughes who was to be the trump card.

A goal and an assist was the outcome from an appearance which may yet prove to be one last hurrah from Pompey's longest-serving player.

At least he went out with a bang as the visitors secured a last-gasp Elland Road draw.

Then again, that will be dictated by talks scheduled to be had with David Lampitt over settling his contract stalemate.

Regardless, perfect timing for Hughes, whose start yesterday was his first since an August 28 defeat against Cardiff.

He wouldn't have been in the side at all had Brown not been hamstrung by the same contract complaint.

As it was, Cotterill's patched-up side silenced a noisy Leeds crowd by claiming a point in the most dramatic of circumstances.

With the match entering stoppage time, substitute Nadir Ciftci drove down the right flank before whipping in a cross.

Former Pompey defender Andy O'Brien and Leeds keeper Kasper Schmeichel made a hash of the clearance, and the ball ricocheted into the net – long before Kanu came on the scene.

How the crowd booed, directing their disappointment towards referee Webb with renditions of 'You're not fit to referee'.

In among it all, Pompey were celebrating another performance full of grit, determination and character.

It also marked their seventh point from their past three matches away from Fratton Park.

Not bad for a side short of its substitute quota and forced to thrust defender Joel Ward into midfield.

Let's also not forget Hughes, who started the occasion looking for his first league goal in 131 matches spread over eight-and-a-half years.

Ultimately, he and the rest of Cotterill's patchwork quilt side did their club so very, very proud.

Of course, it didn't look that way when Leeds stormed into a 2-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes.

It was the visitors, though, who almost drew first blood.

In a Blues counter attack, David Nugent fed John Utaka down the left channel and he clipped the ball over the advancing Schmeichel.

The keeper managed to get the faintest of touches to nudge it wide of the goal, yet incredibly that didn't even warrant a corner.

Instead, within a minute, the hosts had taken the lead.

Robert Snodgrass swung in a cross from the right which Billy Paynter failed to get a clean head on, and there was Max Gradel to slot home from close range.

On 10 minutes, Simon Grayson's side had a two-goal cushion – Carl Dickinson missing his kick and allowing Jonathan Howson to calmly curl the ball left-footed around Ashdown.

At the other end, Ross McCormack cleared Dave Kitson's header off the line following Utaka's left-wing corner.

Then, on 33 minutes, Nugent reduced the deficit lashing home a spectacular finish from the angle after being teed up by Hughes.

Leeds regained their cushion on 62 minutes when Snodgrass' corner was not fully cleared and Bradley Johnson crashed home a thunderous half-volley from inside the area.

Within seconds, Halford crossed from the right and substitute Kanu squared a pass to Hughes, whose right-foot shot deflected off O'Brien and past Schmeichel.

As the match entered stoppage time, it looked as though the hosts would claim the points.

But then came O'Brien's intervention and gutsy Pompey had the last word.

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