Pompey 1 - Millwall 1

Jez Bedford in action for the Hawks against Sutton United

Hawks boss to call on Pompey duo again

Unquestionably, 2010 has been Pompey's annus horribilis.

Yet for re-born duo David Nugent and Jamie Ashdown, it is a year they may long to last forever.

It has been a remarkable fall and rise during the past 12 months for the Fratton outcasts.

Up for sale, out of contract, surplus to requirements, at the end of last season they couldn't be hurried out of the club quick enough.

Now Blues fans can't imagine life without them after another star turn against Millwall yesterday.

It was Nugent who grabbed the 73rd-minute equaliser to claim a well-deserved point in another eye-catching performance.

For the 25-year-old, it was his sixth goal in his last 12 games – a better return than he managed in the three previous seasons put together.

As for Ashdown, his outstanding stops in goal proved to be the backbone of a useful Fratton point.

Pompey life keeps on getting better and better for David James' former number two as he revels in his new-found first-team responsibilities.

Bewildering then that Nugent was farmed out on loan after not being fancied by a procession of managers.

Baffling too, that Ashdown was not even offered a contract at the end of last season by the administrator and told to pack up his bags.

But there they are, playing starring roles in the Pompey resurgence on an increasingly regular basis.

Perhaps it was Harry Redknapp, Paul Hart and Avram Grant huddled in the sponsors' box yesterday who dreamed up announcing Liam Lawrence as man of the match against Millwall.

Surely that can be the only explanation for the surprising decision to overlook both Ashdown and Nugent for the honour.

Not that the fans gave the announcement much credence – they knew the real influence behind the 1-1 draw.

Little chance of Nugent and Ashdown's contributions being ignored from their point of view.

Thankfully, common sense has failed to diminish after so long without a Pompey match.

It had been 44 days since the last Fratton Park fixture – when Doncaster fled with a 3-2 victory.

Finally, football was back at the famous old ground on an icy Boxing Day.

The match was not a classic but the fighting spirit so glaringly obvious in Steve Cotterill's men came up trumps yet again.

A stirring second half made sure of that.

Such was Pompey's aggressive intent during that period, Cotterill would later reveal he was disappointed with merely a point.

After such a low-key final 30 minutes to the first half, many grateful fans would undoubtedly have settled for such an outcome.

As it was, on 73 minutes Lawrence fired in a speculative effort from distance down the left which screwed embarrassingly wide.

Yet there was Dave Kitson to somehow strain his neck and plant his head onto it to divert it into the penalty area.

Nugent then popped up to head the ball past David Forde at close range and level matters in clinical fashion.

Earlier in the second half, two minutes after the interval in fact, the man of the moment saw another effort chalked off.

His run and cross down the left attracted efforts from both Lawrence and Michael Brown, which were blocked and parried by the frantic Millwall rearguard.

Then the former Preston man steered the ball home from an impossible angle – only for an offside flag to cut short celebrations.

Regardless, it was more irrefutable proof of the transformation of a career which for too long has stalled at Fratton Park.

Earlier in the season, fans were cursing his very name as he struggled to apply finishing qualities in one-on-one situations.

Now there would be uproar if he is allowed to depart the club during next month's transfer window.

In his defence, he has already guaranteed he will remain until the end of the season – no doubt music to the ears of his manager as well.

All very well, yet the ultimate decision will be taken by those who run the football club.

Considering Nugent was so expendable during the last transfer window when they were attempting to engineer a move to Blackpool for him, it remains a worry.

Still, David Lampitt has already initiated talks with the player's agent and they are set to meet again tomorrow.

At the other end of the pitch yesterday, Ashdown was just as sublime, if not more so.

In front of him he had Hermann Hreidarsson making a welcome return to the starting line-up for the first time since March.

The subsequent creaking display put on by the back four should not be blamed on him – Aaron Mokoena's yellow card in the opening 60 seconds certainly didn't help matters.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Rocha found himself substituted in the second half.

Nonetheless, Pompey were indebted to the keeper for ensuring Millwall didn't run away with proceedings during their period on top during the first half.

In the sixth minute, he produced a stunning double save to firstly deny James Henry and then Jason Puncheon following up.

Shortly before half-time, he thwarted Steve Morison, blocking his effort as he bore down on goal.

Then he produced a magnificent point-blank stop with his foot, although the linesman had already ruled Morison offside.

In the game's dying moment he saved once again from Morison to draw the fans onto their feet in appreciation.

Of course, Pompey had their own chances – John Utaka magnificently controlling Rocha's 40-yard pass, only to see Forde block his shot.

Moments later, Trotter struck the inside of the far post after the home defence had failed to clear.

Yet Ashdown had no chance on 26 minutes when Alan Dunne's angled drive was parried and the impressive Trotter was there with the rebound to send a looping header arching over the keeper and into the net.

Barely two minutes later, Mokoena wastefully planted a free header wide from Lawrence's right-wing corner.

Then on 57 minutes, Kitson held off Tommy Craig, brilliantly turning him only to poke his shot past the advancing Forde and agonisingly wide of the far post.

There was also time for Hayden Mullins to clip the top of the bar following Nugent's pull back.

It was honours even, though – much to Cotterill's disappointment.

And for Nugent and Ashdown – long may it continue in 2011.