Pompey 1 MK Dons 1

Pompey's Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler

Evans: Player talk has lifted Pompey form

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David Connolly comprehensively upstaged the striker he replaced – but it was still another winless display for Pompey.

A 1-1 draw against MK Dons at a cold Fratton Park last night marked 23 matches without victory as the club record keeps increasing.

Yet Pompey fans will have taken a degree of pleasure in the sight of Izale McLeod being hauled off after 57 minutes following a wretched display.

Anything to lift the gloom – and certainly they were given a rare cheer when Connolly netted in the 22nd minute.

A maiden goal for Pompey, it gave Guy Whittingham’s side the lead – an unusual feat during the dreadful run.

The veteran striker was recruited to fill the gap left by McLeod’s switch to MK Dons at the turn of the year and has largely impressed with his effort and endeavour.

Certainly attributes McLeod was criticised for lacking and now his goals have appeared to have deserted him, having failed to net since leaving the Blues by mutual consent.

Still, it was a night of contrasting fortunes for the striking pair, even if Connolly’s effort was cancelled out by Shaun Williams five minutes later.

The midfielder crashed the ball home from inside the box to leave Simon Eastwood with no chance, immediately vanquishing any thoughts Pompey had of holding out for a win.

The Blues never truly threatened the MK Dons goal after that – although it was a much-improved showing from a side bristling with energy and work-rate.

The worsening Fratton pitch did not help matters for either side – not that McLeod could use that to excuse his embarrassingly below-par display against his former club.

There were two shots screwed hopelessly wide, the second right in front of the Fratton end when he wildly sliced a left-footed effort for a goal-kick.

Moments later, Daniel Powell’s delivery from the right fell invitingly for McLeod at the far post – but he appeared to misjudge it and failed to even connect with the goal gaping.

On 57 minutes his time was over, leaving the pitch to heaps of derision from many Pompey fans, who even called for a wave.

As for Connolly, he continued to shine with his desire to give everything for the cause.

Ultimately, the match ended 1-1 – making it three draws in Pompey’s last four matches.

But the Blues can be satisfied with a whole-hearted performance, while the much-maligned McLeod – still Pompey’s top scorer – had a match to forget.

Whittingham made two changes to the side which lost to Oldham at the weekend, although one was enforced.

Sam Sodje’s three-match ban following his Boundary Park red card signalled Ricardo Rocha’s return to the starting line-up, where he partnered Gabor Gyepes in the centre of defence.

Connolly also earned a recall in place of John Akinde, having proved his fitness as a substitute at the weekend after being sidelined with a hamstring problem.

Meanwhile, Shaun Cooper was once again missing following injury, leaving the Blues to name only six substitutes.

It was MK Dons who had the first attempt on goal when in the eighth minute the defence was opened up by Luke Chadwick.

The former Manchester United man cut his way down the left and drove into the box before flashing an angled shot just over the crossbar.

Moments later, at the other end of the pitch, Antony Kay fluffed his backpass with the ball very nearly falling to the on-rushing Patrick Agyemang.

But with Ian McLoughlin exposed, it bounced kindly and spun into his hands with Pompey’s striker in close attendance.

McLeod was given his first taste of the action in the 17th minute when Rocha’s mistake gifted him the ball, only for the forward to shoot well, well wide of the target.

It marked the beginning of some encouraging Pompey pressure.

First, an almighty scramble – prompted by Yassin Moutaouakil’s excellent cross – ended with Agyemang unable to force the ball home through a ruck of bodies.

Then Wallace’s delivery from the right somehow found its way to the unmarked Therry Racon in the centre of the penalty area but he couldn’t gather and the moment had gone.

In the 22nd minute, though, the hosts did break the deadlock.

Wallace delivered a free-kick into the penalty and there was Connolly with a flicked header which looped up high into the top corner of the net.

It was a lead which lasted just five minutes, though, as an MK Dons free-kick fell to Williams, who turned to lash a powerful finish high into the net.

Poor defending from Pompey then saw Williams given another sight of goal.

But his shot took a slight deflection and looped just wide of the left-hand post.

After the break, there were howls of derision from the Fratton end when McLeod sliced a left-foot shot wide when well place in the 48th minute.

Moments later Daniel Powell’s deep cross from the right drifted to the far post only for McLeod to inexplicably leave it rather than divert is past Eastwood in the Pompey goal.

McLeod was substituted shortly afterwards and the game petered out with both sides struggling to create anything meaningful.

It meant another draw for Pompey, certainly a positive, although it remains 23 games without a win in all competitions.