Torquay 1 Pompey 1

Kal Naismith was gaffer for a day Phil Whyte's man of the match against Cambridge United. Photo by Joe Pepler

Pompey 2 Cambridge United 1: Gaffer for a day

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There’s an old saying that sums up some of the differing points of view on Pompey’s point at Torquay.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

A valuable point to some will be viewed as two points dropped by others.

And a dominant display to one person is worthless to someone else when it doesn’t produce the hard currency of chances and goals.

While Guy Whittingham felt his side dominated the game and should have had all three points in their back pocket on their way back to Fratton Park, there were plenty of dissenting voices who believe possession is pointless without an end product to show for it.

True, Pompey enjoyed territorial advantage in the second half against a Torquay side who had few other tactical ideas than launching it forward to their big strikers and seeing what might happen.

But count up the chances, not the passes.

Then, when you’ve done that, see how many goals you’ve scored.

Not many of us would want to see Pompey resort to an aerial bombardment and turn their backs on their attempts to play the game in the right way.

Whittingham is one of the few managers who is sticking to his principles in the basement division, so for that, he deserves great credit.

He is also an honest man who respects a different opinion, even if he doesn’t agree with it.

The same could not be said for previous managers in Fratton Park’s recent history who felt their team should have won every game they ever played.

But unless it’s one of those training ground drills where you get a goal for 10 consecutive passes, there has to be more to show for long periods of bossing the possession statistics.

The Torquay goalkeeper was rarely troubled and much of the probing and passing was played in front of the home defence.

But it was that final ball and the lack of a cutting edge which may worry Whittingham when he takes another look at the match DVD.

Too often crosses drifted behind or failed to beat the first man, while and the killer pass to unlock a resolute Torquay defence was painfully absent.

Pompey have quality in their side.

But they didn’t show enough of it where it really mattered, until Ryan Bird bundled home nine minutes from time after Ricky Holmes and Jed Wallace combined to set up the equaliser to Jordan Chapell’s opening-minute strike.

The Blues were undeniably the better side in technical terms of passing the ball and their movement.

But Torquay knew their own limits and played to their strengths.

And they could argue they had by far the better of the genuine goalscoring opportunities.

But while Pompey were some way short of their best – they battled, they stuck to their task and they grabbed a draw when they might have left with nothing on another day.

Away from home – even at Torquay United – a draw is rarely a cause for panic or misery.

Of course, there are those who will believe Pompey should be going to venues such as Plainmoor and taking all three points, no questions asked.

And it remains a discussion point among that same group of people on where they believe this team should be finishing this season.

Chances are, they will answer with promotion-based aspirations.

The truth is, Pompey have not shown the consistency this season to warrant being considered anything other than a mid-table side with potential for a surge later in the season.

Three straight wins would probably take Pompey into a play-off spot, such is the congested nature of League Two.

And five games unbeaten is not to be sniffed at.

In fact, those who are keen to plot a safe path to mid-table might be accused of lacking ambition, but will probably be satisfied with a point – especially after such a shocking start to the game.

Just 17 seconds were on the clock when Pompey fell behind.

Sometimes teams look ready for the start of a game and sometimes they just don’t.

But the Blues were certainly caught cold as they failed to deal with a straightforward ball upfield, before Chapell drilled home an angled shot past keeper Trevor Carson.

Most of the Pompey side hadn’t even touched the ball when they were a goal down – and plenty of fans missed it, too.

Pompey almost hit back instantly, referee Andy Woolmer deciding to pull back play for a free-kick on Patrick Agyemang moments after Simon Ferry appeared to have released John Marquis through on goal.

But while Whittingham’s side gradually eased themselves into the game from their horror start and looked like they were getting on top, chances were at a premium.

Agyemang’s attempt to recreate his recent cracker at Oxford recently resulted in a bobbled shot that never looked like beating Torquay keeper Martin Rice.

And the on-loan Marquis, whose general demeanour gave him the look of a red card waiting to happen, saw an early penalty claim fall on deaf ears when he went down in the box.

The Millwall striker was also booked for a blatant handball in trying to charge down the keeper’s clearance.

His argument that his boot was in his hand when it happened was neither here nor there.

But Torquay might have been 2-0 up just before the break, when Paul McCallum fired when well-placed.

If Blues fans expected a fast start to the second period from their team, they were to be disappointed as the home side twice went close in the opening exchanges to extending the lead.

McCallum and Karl Hawley were within inches of an inviting cross, before Jak McCourt grazed the upright with a fierce shot that had Carson beaten.

Slowly, though, Pompey got control of the game and passed the ball well.

Sooner or later, you felt the clear chance had to come but when Yassin Moutaouakil’s low cross found Wallace, the young midfielder missed the target when he should have scored.

With time running out, Bird was thrown on to replace Marquis – and the move paid dividends for Whittingham.

He may not be cultured, he may not even look comfortable at this level yet, but Bird is a goalscorer.

Finding space, taking a gamble on a cross and sticking the ball over the line got him off the mark with his first league goal. It will give him huge belief.

Pompey fans love a trier. Bird may well be that man, and his late rescue act may well be the start of something.

But was it a case of damage limitation to escape with a draw?

Or was it two points thrown away in a game they should have cruised?

Those of us who saw it are probably still arguing about that.

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