DCSIMG

Hartlepool 0 Pompey 0

Adam Reed watches on as his effort flashes past keeper Scott Flinders right-hand post in last nights goalless draw at Victoria Park Picture: Joe Pepler

Adam Reed watches on as his effort flashes past keeper Scott Flinders right-hand post in last nights goalless draw at Victoria Park Picture: Joe Pepler

 

The rot may finally have been stopped – but there was still an unwanted entry inscribed into the Pompey record books last night.

A 10th successive defeat for the Blues failed to emerge, with a goalless draw at Hartlepool sending that wretched statistic scuttling away.

Nonetheless, in the surroundings of Victoria Park, those 280 visiting supporters witnessed the moment a new longest-ever winless sequence was set in Pompey’s 115-year existence.

Rock-bottom Hartlepool made it 20 matches without a victory for the Blues – an unwanted run stretching three months and 24 days.

Caretaker boss Guy Whittingham was not even in charge for that 3-1 home success over Shrewsbury back in October, taking over the reigns from Michael Appleton five games later.

Last night, however, marked only the fourth time in the 20-game run that Pompey avoided defeat, breaking a record in existence since December 13, 1975, under then-boss Ian St John.

In addition, it held Hartlepool at arm’s length to keep the Blues from slipping below them at the foot of the League One table.

Regardless of now failing to win for 116 days, Whittingham will take pleasure from a gritty performance and some excellent defending – notably in the final 20 minutes.

It was testing times for the Blues then as Pools produced wave upon wave of pressure inside the visitors’ penalty area.

But they stood supremely firm during intense scrutiny.

Sam Sodje’s aerial strength, in particular, led the way.

He won towering headers aplenty when his team needed him most during those nerve-wracking final moments.

There was even a suspicion of handball against the central defender two minutes into stoppage-time when Neil Austin flung a cross into a packed Pompey penalty area.

Thankfully, referee Darren Bond was not interested and moments later the final whistle sounded to end nine successive defeats – but increase that winless run.

Whittingham made three changes to the side which fell to a 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth at the weekend.

James Keene was recalled to partner Patrick Agyemang in attack, with John Akinde dropping to the bench.

Meanwhile, Sodje also came into the backline.

The defender replaced Gabor Gyepes to partner Ricardo Rocha at centre-half, while Shaun Cooper moved to right-back from his normal midfield role.

That saw Yassin Moutaouakil give way, with the Frenchman missing out on the starting XI for the first time since his arrival in the January transfer window.

Jed Wallace completed the trio of alterations, the teenager taking his place in a 4-3-3 system which employed winger Therry Racon as more of a central figure this time around.

It was the hosts who had the first attempt on goal – not that it threatened Blues keeper Simon Eastwood.

Jack Baldwin picked the ball up in the eighth minute and fired in a 25-yarder that was both high and wide of the intended target.

Within seconds at the other end, Adam Reed twisted and turned his way into the Hartlepool penalty area, only to drill an angled shot just past the far post.

It was only a whisker away from creeping in and provided an early indication of the threat Pompey carried despite their awful run.

On 17 minutes, Pools won a free-kick just outside the penalty area and Baldwin’s cross into the box flicked off the head of Reed and narrowly drifted over the crossbar for a corner.

The game sank into a stalemate, with both sides struggling to break down the other in an evenly-matched period.

However, on 37 minutes Keene cut across the pitch and wriggled between two home players before unleashing a right-foot shot from outside the box which home keeper Scott Flinders comfortably caught.

With half-time approaching, Eastwood was called upon to produce a good stop low down to deny Charlie Wyke’s drive following an excellent Neil Austin pass.

Barely four minutes into the second half, Wallace popped up on the right-hand side of the penalty area to cushion the ball with his head, only to prod his left-foot shot wide.

Chances were still few and far between and in the 67th minute Baldwin’s low, deflected drive was gathered by Eastwood at the second attempt after skidding off the surface.

Baldwin next skipped through several tackles to explode into the box and send a fierce attempt flashing just past the far post.

It was the closest Pompey had come to conceding as the hosts pushed forward to grab the win to lift them off the bottom of the table.

The impressive Baldwin was again in the thick of the action in the 77th minute when a snap-shot from outside the box bounced past the post.

With the visitors clinging on to a point, Wallace broke free in a counter-attack, yet elected to shoot and send a bobbling shot well wide of the target.

Still Pools surged forward and when Johnny Ertl brilliantly blocked James Poole’s shot, the striker followed up by fizzing a second effort just over the bar.

In time added on, Austin’s cross appeared to strike Sodje’s hand as Pompey attempted to scramble the ball away.

But nothing was given and, moments later, the visitors had their draw.

 

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