Pompey 0 AFC Wimbledon 0

Pompey striker Marc McNulty on the attack against AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey striker Marc McNulty on the attack against AFC Wimbledon. Picture: Joe Pepler
Adam May. Picture: Colin Farmery

Midfielder aiming to become Pompey regular

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The cries for 4-4-2 were heeded.

But the outcome was the same as more Fratton frustration was served up for Pompey fans.

Whether it’s in a Pompey messageboard, boozer, office or building site the demand has been the same from fans.

In the eyes of the Blues faithful two strikers is the answer to remedying home form which is now seeing Pompey fall down the League Two table.

But things aren’t that simple.

And the fear which has seeped into the players’ performances at Fratton Park was again evident in yesterday’s 0-0 draw with AFC Wimbledon.

It’s still just two league wins on home soil, and that means Paul Cook’s side drop to fourth in League Two after the weekend’s action.

The fact of the matter is Pompey didn’t warrant a greater return from the game than the one they came away with.

Whatever the scoreline this season, Cook’s side have dominated possession and created more chances than their opponents.

The reality that wasn’t the case on a grey afternoon was damning.

AFC Wimbledon carved out twice as many opportunities as the home side in front of the TV cameras, and they edged possession – a rarity indeed this season.

The outcome was something else which hasn’t been witnessed so far on home soil.

The boos from the home crowd on the final whistle, sadly, was the noise of patience snapping.

Cook knows that sentiment can’t be allowed to deepen. He needs the fans to come with him to get this Pompey side out of the division.

The appearance of both Caolan Lavery and Marc McNulty on the pre-match team-sheets sparked the suggestion Cook was to go with a 4-4-2.

That was reinforced by the Pompey boss cheekily alluding to that being his approach in his pre-match press conference on Friday.

There were plenty who weren’t prepared to believe that was the case until they saw it, such has been Cook’s insistence a 4-2-3-1 approach is set in stone.

Sure enough, after a poignant minute’s silence after the Paris atrocities and as part of Pompey’s designated remembrance game, it was clear it was two up top.

And one of those men, Lavery, nearly helped his side to a lead inside 60 seconds as he flashed a drive across goal and just away from the on-rushing Gareth Evans.

Wimbledon’s reply was to put the ball in the net from a free-kick after four minutes, but Pompey old boy Paul Robinson had strayed into an offside position before heading past Brian Murphy.

Evans immediately drove another ball across the face of goal as the game started apace.

Murphy finds himself under the spotlight after errors in recent games, and required a second attempt to get hold of Sean Rigg’s drive as the chances continued to arrive.

The pace of the frenetic opening then relented, but emotions were running high in the stands, as fans gave their support to Lassana Diarra – whose cousin was killed in Paris on Friday – and made their feelings clear about those who carried out the terror attacks.

AFC Wimbledon’s weakness from set-pieces has been noted in recent weeks, but Lavery couldn’t direct his header goalwards after finding a yard of space from Ben Davies 26th-minute free-kick.

There was a shout for a penalty moments later as a novel set-piece routine saw blue shirts grouped together on the edge of the box, before Adam McGurk was grappled to the floor.

Ref Stuart Attwell insisted it was no spot-kick.

The early pace had relented, however, and increasingly the Blues struggled to gain control of the game towards the end of the first half.

First it was George Francomb who found space to hit the byline, but Murphy gathered his effort.

Enda Stevens was then exposed twice in quick succession by the Ade Azeez.

Thankfully, the Dons striker chose the wrong options on both occasions to let the left-back, and his positioning, off the hook.

The muted response to the half-time whistle spoke of how Pompey were struggling for the control Cook places such importance on.

It took six minutes of the second half for the crowd’s spirits to be lifted, as McNulty knocked Robinson off the ball and then checked inside another challenge, before keeper Ben Wilson tipped over his drive.

Christian Burgess then headed at goal from the ensuing corner as Fratton Park found its voice.

Pompey’s first change after 58 minutes then saw Cook ditch his 4-4-2 experiment with the introduction of Matt Clarke for Evans.

Another Burgess header, this time a free one, found itself flying wide of the post as the hosts pushed forward.

McNulty came in from the periphery of the game with 22 minutes left, but the Scot saw Dannie Bulman produce an impressive block as he pulled the trigger.

The frustrations of the home crowd were then put to one side as they served up their 83rd-minute tribute to Bobby Campbell, following his death

The timing of that was in recognition of Campbell’s side storming to the Third Division title in 1983, and it proved a touching and classy act.

A repeat of silverware this season is looking a tougher task at present, with the gap to Plymouth now nine points.

There is time to remedy that, of course.

But maybe it’s about more than throwing two men up top, a move Cook admitted was a reaction to fans’ clamour.

‘There was 16,000 fans who wanted it,’ Cook said of the reasons for the formation switch.

When analysing what makes a successful side it’s a simple truth players are the key. It’s not 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or any other formation.

Those men need to now step up, and show they have the strength for this promotion bid not to be completely suffocated by their home struggles.