DCSIMG

Pompey 0 Preston 0

Izale McLeod crashes his penalty against the crossbar. Picture: Allan Hutchings (124044-664)

Izale McLeod crashes his penalty against the crossbar. Picture: Allan Hutchings (124044-664)

 

It was a fleeting moment which would serve as a microcosm of Pompey’s week.

The optimism was immense as Izale McLeod stepped up, the Fratton faithful on the edge of their seats in sweet anticipation of celebration.

After nine matches without a win, here was the precious opportunity to at last put the Blues on the road to success.

A torch shone amid the Fratton Park smog which continues to engulf relentlessly all in its path.

Yet as the crossbar in front of the Milton end reverberated, McLeod’s penalty miss represented another false dawn for those beleaguered supporters.

Another failure on the brink of triumph in a week of body blows, bloody noses and pokes in the eye.

The Football League confirmation of a 10-point deduction and, of course, the High Court case had tied more weights to the legs of a club stranded at the bottom of the Solent.

The arms are only too willing to swim away, the lungs determined not to accept a demise, yet the victim remains rooted to the spot.

Of course, the sparring with Portpin at the Rolls Building over the previous 48 hours could have produced an even more devastating result.

Prospective Pompey chairman Iain McInnes afterwards revealed liquidation was on the cards at one point during proceedings, such had been the shock turn of events.

Alternatively, Portpin may have succeeded in their aim to install their own administrator in the form of Brendan Guilfoyle.

That would have provided the oft-despised former owners with a foot back in the club and prolonged the administration agony for the likelihood of many more months.

As it was, the adjournment of the hearing until January 15 at the latest ensures the Trust and their backers can fight on for another day.

Those two days were meant to see the club liberated and Portpin and their loyal supporters routed.

The revolution complete with the people finally seizing control after a long and bloody battle amid ever-ugly scenes.

A case of Les Miserables rising to topple the monarchy.

Instead the Trust, PKF and a city were relieved to come away from the fixture with a point and hope still intact.

On Saturday it was back to football, Preston forming the opposition in the latest attempt to end a winless streak dating back to October.

The outcome was precisely the same, however.

A point better than none – with a positive of a third clean sheet of the season thrown into the goody bag.

Yet it could have been so much better, hence the palpable air of disappointment at the final whistle.

Certainly there were more handsome expectations when McLeod stepped up for that 14th-minute spot-kick.

An early lead would have been a timely shot in the arm in front of their own support and set the tone for the match.

Pompey have long struggled to score first in matches this season.

They have struggled to score full stop during the recent wretched run.

As it was, the Blues’ leading scorer crashed his shot against the bar, the ball ricocheting some 20 yards down the middle of the pitch such was its ferocity.

A second miss in three for McLeod and four overall for the Blues during the campaign.

Expect Scott Allan to now take over the duties, providing he remains amid the anticipated January exodus.

Still, it was another wasted penalty lifeline during a match which Whittingham’s men established themselves as the better side and should have emerged with victory.

Preston were poor and in the second half they were dominated – even if the goalscoring opportunities did dry up for the hosts.

Pompey were the better team, playing with more intensity, more menace and more belief than a Lilywhites side aiming to prevent a third successive defeat.

The central defensive partnership of Gabor Gyepes and Ricardo Rocha dictated the Blues’ penalty area with ease, smothering the Preston attacks.

Johnny Ertl, patrolling the midfield in front of them, produced his best Pompey performance to date – his energy and power integral to the team’s resilience.

Then there was Simon Eastwood, who continues to blossom after having the number one jersey thrust upon him in recent weeks.

The keeper produced a magnificent double save from point-blank range in the first half to hold Preston at bay – a feat which drew a standing ovation from the home fans in admiration.

This was not a result reliant on the defence, however, with Pompey dominating possession for long spells and Thorsten Stuckmann the busiest of the stoppers on display.

The lack of goalscoring opportunities for Whittingham’s troops after the break was a concern, though, especially considering the amount of time they had control of the ball.

It was in the 85th minute when they came closest to breaking the deadlock during that period.

Allan drove in a powerful shot from distance which a grounded Stuckmann somehow clawed away with his right hand.

It was one of a number of saves from distance the Preston keeper had to deal with during the match – and he coped with them impressively.

Crucially, though, he was not even asked to save McLeod’s penalty – the crossbar instead preventing that entering the net.

Inevitably it would be the best chance for Pompey to claim their first victory since defeating Shrewsbury on October 20.

So a point it was then, a third in a row for the caretaker boss who faces a massive task to keep the side in League One.

Failure to win against Preston also saw the Blues drop back into the relegation zone as results elsewhere went against them.

It sums up a week that began with a stroll in the sunshine and ended with torrential rain at Fratton Park on a disintegrating pitch.

It could have been so much better, then again it could have been so much worse.

Not that it is any sort of crutch for Pompey fans who have waited too long for good news.

They will fight on, though – as will Whittingham’s troops – with increasing spirit in the most despairing of circumstances.

An honourable draw in the courts and on the football pitch.

However, supporters fully appreciate wins are needed soon if this football club is to have any sort of future.

 

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