Pompey 1 Leicester City 1

David Norris celebrates goal against Leicester at Fratton Park. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
David Norris celebrates goal against Leicester at Fratton Park. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Brett Pitman was on the mark again for Pompey as they earned a draw against Walsall Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey 1 Walsall 1: Jordan Cross’ match report

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All trace of Vladimir Antonov had been removed from the Pompey match-day programme.

His name and the title of chairman had disappeared from the contents page’s traditional roll of honour on Saturday.

Days earlier he had been scrubbed off Convers Sports Initiatives’ (CSI) website.

Too late, sadly. All too late.

The Russian has already left his mark on Portsmouth Football Club.

It now remains to be seen whether it is an indelible one.

Of course, within 24 hours of Antonov’s extradition hearing in Westminster there were brave faces being worn at Fratton Park.

Joint-owners Roman Dubov and Chris Akers were portraying that ‘business as usual’ air in the home directors’ box for the visit of Leicester.

Dubov himself had the previous day turned up to witness his friend and co-owner’s court appearance.

Unsurprisingly, Antonov was not present for the Foxes fixture.

Innocent or guilty, the Snoras Bank saga has left a stain on a club which had endeavoured to repair its tattered reputation.

Trust and transparency has been the buzz word throughout the CSI reign.

Now that welcoming concept has been left in tatters following another black week in the club’s recent history.

The outcome is Pompey’s future has yet again been plunged into familiar uncertainty.

To think Michael Appleton had been in the job less than a week when the scandal initially flared up.

His first and only encounter with Antonov was during his second interview for the Blues job.

Don’t expect them to cross paths any time soon, either.

As the programme and website reflected, the chairman is being kept at arm’s length while he attempts to fight Lithuanian claims of alleged asset stripping.

It promises to be a lengthy process and one which unquestionably impacts upon the football club he became a majority shareholder of on June 1.

Don’t let anybody convince you otherwise.

In the meantime, Appleton must wonder what he has walked into.

Saturday marked the grand Fratton fanfare, his first appearance as manager in front of his own fans.

Instead it was a subdued atmosphere played out in front of just 14,391 supporters, including a large Leicester away following.

An uninspiring opening 45 minutes from his players certainly did little to raise spirits.

But before the match even kicked off, the subdued spirit among supporters milling around the ground was tangible.

These are supporters who have been in this position far too often in recent times.

Supporters left too exhausted to even contemplate the thought of another fight.

They will fight, though, you can be absolutely sure of that.

Judging from the brisk membership trade at the Pompey Supporters’ Club bus before the match, the rallying has begun.

Meanwhile, the product of one of Antonov’s final footballing acts is challenged with repairing matters on the pitch.

As many of Appleton’s predecessors discovered, however, football is often eclipsed by matters off the field at this club.

Still, the 1-1 draw which unfolded represented a decent result on his Fratton bow.

Granted, a lifeless first half certainly left those present unfulfilled.

It had even prompted small pockets of home fans to boo as the sides when in at half-time goalless.

It can only be assumed those same supporters had not been at Vicarage Road the week before.

For that first half was a revelation in comparison and not one warranting such vocal criticism, especially against a side with the quality in their ranks as Leicester.

Nonetheless, the occasion developed into a fast-flowing open match after the interval and a game the hosts should have won.

Appleton opted to grant both loan signings Joe Mattock and George Thorne instant starts for his second match in charge.

The axing of Tal Ben Haim to make way for Mattock at left-back had long been anticipated.

The selection of Thorne was made rather more straightforward after Luke Varney failed a pre-match fitness test on a hamstring problem.

The reshuffle meant a change in system and the ditching of the popular 4-4-2 formation.

Dave Kitson was charged with being the lone striker, with David Norris operating behind him in an advanced midfield role.

In Norris’ case, the formation played entirely to his strengths, releasing him to attack the opposition goal.

Ultimately, the Blues skipper scored one, hit the post and provided the cross for what produced one of the saves of the season.

As it was, only the brilliance of centre-back Ricardo Rocha managed to eclipse him.

Another who was abject at Vicarage Road, in particular when faced with the power and brute strength of Chris Iwelumo, on Saturday he conjured up a defensive masterclass.

Appleton and the Pompey fans wanted a response and they sure got it from the majority of those players.

It was Norris with the sole goal attempt from the Blues during a forgettable first half, half-volleying wide.

After the break, though, both teams stepped up their game considerably.

Had it not been for the excellence of Kasper Schmeichel, the hosts would have run out winners rather than be forced to settle for a point.

On 46 minutes, when Norris crossed from the left, Kitson had all the time in the world to aim a goal-bound header.

Somehow Schmeichel instinctively struck out a hand from point-blank range to divert it for a corner.

But on 68 minutes Pompey did take the lead.

Mullins threaded the ball through to Norris and he unleashed a left-foot shot which deflected past the Leicester keeper.

Just six minutes later, the returning David Nugent levelled.

The Leicester man picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and surged forward before driving home a precise finish which squeezed just inside Stephen Henderson’s right-hand post.

Moments later Norris burst high up the pitch and rattled the post with a fierce drive.

Mullins attempted a follow-up into the unguarded goal, only to see the superb Schmeichel pop up to push it around the post.

And so the match finished all-square.

As for other results, that is down to the courts to decide.

But the damage has already been done by Antonov from being in that position in the first place.