DCSIMG

Coventry 1 Pompey 1

 

In the thickening gloom and driving rain set to the backdrop of a half-empty stadium, there it was.

No more than a glint, a slit, a brief occurrence which was over in a swift moment

Yet that raindrop into Pompey’s ocean of pain suddenly invoked precious hope.

Forget bold words and good intentions – the staple diet aimed at rallying fans and players alike – Izale McLeod popped up at the death to provide something tangible.

And how the club is desperate for a sign on the field of play at present to give it a bunk up off the ground floor.

With a degree of inevitability, McLeod supplied it – and in the most dramatic of circumstances.

It appeared Pompey were destined for an eighth successive defeat in all competitions.

Some of those 817 away fans had already made the trek through the gathered puddles to their lifts home.

No doubt others had already turned off their radios at home in disgust.

However, with time added on reaching three minutes, substitute Adam Webster sent a deep ball from his own half into the penalty area.

And there was McLeod, coming in off the left flank around the back to steer a first-time shot home.

It was harsh on Coventry, who had the right-hand post and Alex Cisak preventing them wrapping up victory long before.

David McGoldrick also had a goal disallowed as Mark Robins’ in-form side threatened the visiting goal throughout.

Not that the Blues faithful care about justice and Lady Luck, they have been starved of both over recent years.

In that instant, McLeod had secured a point at the death and halted a run of seven consecutive defeats.

It also enabled Guy Whittingham’s side to move out of the relegation zone.

Most crucial of all, it created a handrail for Pompey to grab hold of in the belief they can start climbing the League One stairs.

Something, anything, to bolster spirits and plug the draining confidence among the players and fans.

Joking or not, the Fratton faithful have already begun singing about League Two tours and never winning again.

Gallows humour, yet it reflects a nod of acknowledgement towards what appears to be an inevitable destination come the season’s end.

Not that anyone is throwing the towel in, as McLeod and his team-mates displayed on Saturday during a tremendously hard-working display.

The very fact those 817 Pompey supporters braved the atrocious conditions to attend shows their commitment to the cause.

Limbo, of course, is still the Blues’ residence and will remain so until the Portpin court case is resolved on December 14.

If the Portsmouth Supporters’ Trust are successful it will then be down to the Football League to announce administration has finally been banished – and dictate the application of the proposed 10-point penalty.

Until then the team continues to drift along, no matter how furiously Whittingham and Andy Awford can paddle.

And during the present run, an omen must be gratefully embraced, particularly one that comes at the most unlikeliest of times.

For that was what it was at the Ricoh Arena through McLeod.

Some Coventry fans even booed at the final whistle, such was their disappointment at having not seen through their maintained threat.

They certainly hadn’t expected the 11-goal striker positioned largely on the left-wing to have the last say.

McLeod continues to be much-maligned by many and in the week was the target of racist abuse from one fan on Twitter.

The club have been interviewed over the incident involving a 15-year-old, who has since deleted his account, and police action is on-going.

In the meantime, McLeod ploughs on as the doubters swell in numbers during his every appearance.

It was a different former Barnet striker on display at Coventry, however, a recognition pointed out by Whittingham afterwards in his post-match duties.

Instructed to play wide on the left of an attacking three and then front trio, McLeod spent the match up and down the channels. His willingness to track back regularly to protect the full-back epitomised a tremendously hard-working display.

From a player whose effort in a match is regularly criticised by the fans, it was a performance to stand up and applaud.

Of course, he wasn’t the only one in a hard-running display from the visitors from start to finish.

The confidence may be shot, ability may be questioned, yet the endeavour was clear to see as Whittingham’s men finally responded to his calls to put in a shift. Meanwhile, the saves of debutant Cisak saw him edge McLeod in the man-of-the-match honours.

On first impressions, the keeper is an improvement on the disappointing Mikkel Andersen.

In the first half he produced good saves from both Carl Baker and Gary McSheffrey during a confident start to his Pompey career.

He had no chance, though, on 41 minutes when James Bailey threaded through a pass for McSheffrey to find himself all alone to break the deadlock.

After the break, Cisak produced an excellent low stop from McGoldrick, while Baker and William Edjenguele both struck the post.

At the other end, Whittingham’s troops were struggling to muster a shot on target.

Darel Russell’s long-range effort was certainly the pick of a poor few attempts.

The visitors did, to their credit, keep plugging away, though.

And they threw on Jake Jervis as a substitute for the below-par Paul Benson to bolster their attack.

When five minutes of time added on was indicated by the fourth official, some of the home crowd moaned.

Not that it was anticipated the Blues would snatch anything during that extended period.

Yet Webster clipped in that cross from the right flank and McLeod was there to do the rest. A potential eighth defeat in a row had been averted – and how Pompey fans smiled.

Too early to talk about League One lifelines, particularly when the club is currently not in the relegation zone.

Still, belief is a precious commodity and on Saturday there was an injection of it into Portsmouth Football Club.

One goal, one point, nothing more than a baby step on a long journey ahead.

Nonetheless, it’s forward movement and finally progression.

 

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