Accrington Stanley 2 Pompey 2

Smoke bombs were let off during Pompey's match against Charlton today. Picture: Joe Pepler

Steward treated after smoke bombs let off following Pompey defeat

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One of Pompey’s backroom staff joked the team bus wouldn’t dare drive off without David Connolly’s presence.

Last out of the dolls house-sized changing rooms and with numerous post-match interviews to conduct, it was going to come to a head.

A terrific professional with exacting standards and rigid requirements to meet in the push for footballing satisfaction, the veteran is one best not upset.

In the end it was the manager himself who came looking for his prized striker as the coach driver tapped impatiently on the accelerator.

Connolly was not going to suffer a fate which befell Niko Kranjcar at Stoke and Danny Webber at Carlisle in recent times.

And, in terms of League Two, at Accrington he demonstrated just why he will also not be left behind on the football pitch on the road ahead.

No question about it, Connolly will be a massively influential figure this season.

Last one on the bus, first one on the team sheet for Morecambe and onwards, his is a guaranteed presence.

Irrespective of now being aged 36 and participating in the bottom division of the Football League for first time in his career, Connolly will be Whittingham’s chief source of goals.

At the Crown Ground, he struck twice to illustrate to those present – bolstered by a television audience – how crucial a player who this time last year couldn’t even find a club will be to the Blues.

His perfect foil, Patrick Agyemang, had a hand in both with a degree of inevitability and has vowed to become more selfish in a bid to up his scoring rate.

In terms of the remaining striking pool, the bench contains Tom Craddock, a prolific lower-league striker yet to truly sparkle during his very early days on the south coast, while Ashley Harris is still finding his way.

As for Ryan Bird, the non-league gamble, it will be a season of adjustment, although he did spurn a wonderful stoppage-time opportunity to make himself a hero having climbed off the bench.

It will be Connolly, though, who Pompey will be relying on to provide the bulk of their goals this season.

And, as was proven in the surrounds at Accrington, he still has that mouthwatering class to fulfil such a massive ask.

The player of this season is clearly the player of last season, a heartening sight for the Fratton faithful.

While a few of his team-mates are scrambling around trying to recreate their form from the tail-end of the previous campaign, at this early stage the former Watford man has shown no such concerns.

Neither has, thankfully, his strike partner from February onwards as the duo wreaked havoc against Accrington.

Agyemang could have helped himself to a couple of goals in the first half alone, although he has still enjoyed a fine start to the season.

Ultimately, Pompey didn’t even win the encounter – held to a 2-2 draw when it should have yielded a victory.

That in itself was deeply disappointing for the club.

A game they expected to win beforehand and a game they should have won as it unfolded.

Nonetheless, if it did highlight one point, it is if the pair remain relatively free from injury this season they will continue to be a fearsome prospect.

In addition, with Andy Barcham operating to their left, they have some excellent ammunition coming their way on a regular basis.

The arrival from Scunthorpe has been a revelation so far in a Pompey shirt with his blistering pace and direct play.

Reassuringly, he retains a willingness to track back and help out his full-back in times of need – another aspect of his game to be admired.

Certainly his lung-busting run from his own half in the opening 45 minutes at Accrington will live in the memory for a little while.

Such a shame then the final shot was saved by Ian Dunbavin, depriving the winger of a truly special goal in front of the cameras.

It was Barcham who also struck the far post late on, agonisingly close to clinching a victory for the visitors with the scoreline poised at 2-2.

Blues fans have already seen plenty from Connolly and Agyemang to realise their quality. Well clearly there is plenty more to come from Barcham, which is enough cheer in itself.

Still, despite their attacking excellence, it was only a point for Whittingham’s men to spark mixed feelings afterwards.

Granted, plenty to be encouraged from performances from Connolly, Agyemang and Barcham, yet goals continue to be leaked by another revamped back line.

On Saturday, Phil Smith got the nod ahead of John Sullivan, while Dan Butler made way for Danny East.

In comparison with the Capital One Cup defeat to Bournemouth, Yassin Moutaouakil was back, too, with Bondz N’Gala dropping out.

A total of two changes to the defence which lined-up against Oxford and suffered such a disappointing 4-1 home defeat.

With East essentially a right-back filling-in on the left, Blues fans can expect another arrival in that area to provide more balance.

Pompey, though, could have been out of sight in the first-half with a glut of goal-scoring opportunities.

Michael Liddle cleared Sonny Bradley’s header off the line, while Barcham teed up Agyemang to slide a close-range shot just wide.

Agyemang combined cleverly with Connolly only to see Dubavin parry his subsequent shot and then gather at the second attempt.

Then there was that Barcham run, initially stopped by Dunbavin with a defender following up to hack it off the line.

After the break, though, it was Peter Murphy who opened the scoring in the 48th minute with a cross-cum-shot which cleared Smith.

The visitors levelled when Romain Padovani’s dream cross was headed by Agyemang into the path of Connolly, who did the rest.

Padovani crashed a 35-yard half-volley which seemed destined for the net until Dunbavin intervened.

Then came Connolly’s penalty, which looked to have clinched victory.

That was until the 85th minute when a deep cross was headed back across goal at the far post and finished by Murphy.

Pompey later claimed Bradley had been pushed in the back in the build up.

But that was that, a 2-2 draw at Beattie’s Accrington when it should have been so much more.

Still, be thankful Connolly is in the goal-scoring groove – and on that Pompey coach for a while yet.