Pompey have not yet turned the corner
POMPEY's susceptibility to corners once again reared its head as they were held to a 2-2 draw at Salisbury.
Paul Cook’s side on occasions struggled to successfully defend flag kicks during his maiden campaign as boss.
And at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium they were twice undone by the same weakness as Steve Claridge’s team pegged them back to deny the visitors a deserved victory.
Cook’s strong starting XI dominated against the non-leaguers, with Carl Baker and Gary Roberts pulling the strings, while Enda Stevens wreaked havoc down the left flank.
The hosts were barely presented with a shooting opportunity, yet remained dogged and full of endeavour throughout – and were rewarded with an unlikely draw.
Noel Hunt’s second pre-season goal had given Pompey a 42nd-minute lead, but ex-Gosport Borough striker Justin Bennett headed home Lewis Benson’s corner within a minute.
The ever-dangerous Roberts restored the Blues’ advantage on 58 minutes, only for Eddie Perrett to level with a header following another Benson corner.
Sutton United had also scored from a corner on Saturday, albeit against a completely different Pompey starting line-up.
And following last night’s outcome, the issue undoubtedly remains a concern heading into the new campaign.
Following the defeat at Sutton, Cook fielded a more recognisable first-team at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium.
It represented a complete overhaul from the starting XI in that 2-1 defeat, while the trials of Chris Sessegnon and Michael Crowe had been brought to an end earlier in the week.
Noel Hunt was named in attack and fellow triallist Chris Konopka in goal, with former Gillingham midfielder Amine Linganzi among the substitutes.
Also on the bench was fit-again Michael Smith for a first outing of the pre-season, while Kyle Bennett was back having missed the previous two matches with a knock.
Pompey were fortunate on four minutes when Lewis Benson’s free-kick from the right was put into a dangerous position, with the sun affecting Konopka’s vision.
Yet central defender Elliot Wheeler succeeded in flicking the ball away from his own team-mate at the far post and Jack Whatmough made the clearance.
At the other end, a ball over the top caused also sorts of problems for George Colson as Hunt edged ahead, Milan Lalkovic taking over and seeing his drive deflected for a corner.
Then Drew Talbot sent in a deep cross from the right which was met with a free header by Whatmough at the far post only for his attempt to fall the wrong side of the post.
Whatmough instigated a great move on 30 minutes when his long pass found Hunt who fed Baker and his right-foot drive was blocked by the body of Lee Angel.
Pompey’s best chance so far was created in the 34th minute when a wonderful through ball from Roberts was read by Hunt, whose first-time shot past the onrushing Charlie Searle trickled wide.
It took a stunning point-blank save from Searle to deny Roberts’ close-range header on 41 minutes after Hunt had headed Whatmough’s deep pass back across goal.
The deadlock was broken on 42 minutes when Stevens slipped in a cross from the left and Hunt steered a first-time finish in at the near post.
Within a minute the hosts had levelled when Lewis Benson’s corner from the right was comfortably met with a powerful header from Bennett.
Smith was brought on at the break in place of Hunt.
The Blues had a great opportunity to regain the lead on 50 minutes when Roberts collected Stevens’ pass from the left, yet he elected to lay the ball across goal rather than shoot.
The duo again linked up moments later, culminating in Roberts clipping in a flighted cross to the far post which Smith headed narrowly over the bar.
Inevitably it was Roberts who put Pompey in front once again.
He collected Lalkovic’s pass and while his angled shot was partially stopped it went over the line, with Baker making sure.
Salisbury again drew themselves level when on 72 minutes when Perrett headed home from following another Benson corner, this time from the left.
Smith had a glorious opportunity to score moments later when Roberts’ right-wing corner found him unmarked at the far post, but his angled shot screwed wide.
Bennett then flashed a shot over the bar.
POMPEY: Konopka, Talbot, Burgess, Whatmough, Stevens, Doyle, Rose, Baker, Lalkovic (Bennett, 62min), Roberts, Hunt (Smith, 46min).
Subs not used: Bass, Haunstrup, Barton, Close, May, Tollitt, Chaplin, Linganzi, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
SALISBURY: Searle (Childs, 62min), Colson, Perrett, Whelan, Wheeler (Leigh, 74min), Angel, Herbert (Jones, 46min), Benson, Bennett (Flint, 67min), Wright (Lee, 46min), Young (Masterton, 58min).