Pompey 1 Morecambe 1: Neil Allen's match report
Amoment's sloppiness '“ and once again third place slipped from Pompey's grasp.
Well, momentarily, for Paul Cook’s still have their sights on automatic promotion.
Yet last night the Blues were an agonising seven minutes away from breaking into the top three.
It would have been the first time since September they would have occupied such a welcome position.
Then Lee Molyneux intervened as a Morecambe side which long appeared capable on the counter succeeded.
A moment of magic from substitute Kal Naismith had handed Pompey a thoroughly-deserved 64th-minute lead.
The watching Paul Merson would have been proud of the manner in which the Scot controlled the ball with his first touch and then crashed home a 25-yard left-foot shot.
It had been a long time coming, particularly following an outstanding first-half in which they should have been well out of sight.
Morecambe’s goal was under siege in that 45 minutes, but a combination of keeper Barry Roche and poor finishing preserved their lead.
Cook’s men were not the same side after the break, but had the lead.
With Carlisle behind at Cheltenham, victory would have lifted Pompey into the prized automatic promotion spots.
Then Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke challenged for the same ball – Cook blaming the former – and Kevin Ellison slipped in Molyneux to drill a shot into the far corner.
A point closer, yet victory dropped, and Pompey must wait another game before potentially breaking through.
Cook retained the team which inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Carlisle at the weekend to enhance promotion aspirations.
The decision to employ wing-backs after 72 minutes was the driving force behind that crucial win, however the Blues once again lined-up with a 4-2-3-1.
There were also no alterations to the bench as Jack Whatmough, goalscorer at Brunton Park, again got the nod ahead of Tom Davies.
Jamal Lowe, who started the reserves’ match against Everton under-23s only 24 hours earlier, was also among the substitutes.
Morecambe, with one defeat in 10, made two changes to the side which last weekend won 1-0 against Grimsby.
Aaron Wildig and Rhys Turner came in for Aaron McGowan and Anthony Evans, with skipper Peter Murphy on the bench following a three-match ban.
Pompey started brightly and it took only three minutes before Carl Baker drew a save out of Barry Roche.
Amine Linganzi won a big tackle on the halfway line and the ball was fed to Baker, whose right-foot shot from 25-yards was beaten out for a corner.
Then a wonderful slide-rule pass put through Eoin Doyle on goal but he failed to get a shot off quick enough and Alex Whitmore produced an excellent sliding tackle.
Kyle Bennett retrieved the ball and laid it into Roberts, whose first-time left-foot shot was saved by the feet of Roche.
At the other end, on 10 minutes David Forde was fouled as he made a towering catch, dropping the ball, with Christian Burgess heading off the line.
However, the referee finally noticed his linesman flagging for a Pompey free-kick and brought a stop to play.
On 15 minutes, delightful play between Baker and Roberts saw Evans weave his wave into the box, only for his shot to again be saved by the keeper’s legs
Moments later, appeals for a Pompey penalty were waved away when Liam Wakefield tackled Enda Stevens.
The challenge was not in question, however the grounded right-back appeared to handle the ball on the floor as he attempted to find his bearings.
It was all Pompey and, in their next attack, Baker squeezed in a cross from the right which was headed over the bar from six-yards out by Eoin Doyle.
There was a real scare on 32 minutes as Morecambe launched a counter-attack with Paul Mullin squaring to Aaron Wildig in front of goal.
However, Forde spread himself wide and produced a brilliant block, to leave Wildig wondering how he didn’t net.
On 43 minutes, Stevens’ ball from the left appeared as though it would be converted by Roberts at the far post, but Molyneux nicked it off him for a corner.
The teams headed into the interval with the scoreline goalless, yet Pompey could be pleased with their overall showing.
The Blues began the second half sluggishly and on 56 minutes Conor Chaplin was introduced for Baker.
There was also a change for the visitors, Turner replaced by Luke Conlan.
Pompey couldn’t get going again and Bennett came off for Naismith – and within 60 seconds had the lead.
Michael Doyle slid a pass through to the Scot, who surged upfield before unleashing a 25-yard left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
Pompey finally had their lead and, moments later, went close to getting a second.
Chaplin sent a snapshot narrowly past the far post.
Yet the game began to drift and, on 83 minutes, the visitors claimed an unlikely leveller.
Molyneux popped up unchallenged on the left to accept a square pass and then fire a low shot into the far corner.
There were six minutes added on, the match becoming frantic, but the winner wouldn’t arrive, much to Pompey’s frustration as the wait to reach the top three continues.