Barnet 1 Pompey 1 – Neil Allen’s match report

Conor Chaplin scores in the 89th minute for Pompey against Barnet Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin scores in the 89th minute for Pompey against Barnet Picture: Joe Pepler
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Dripping with quality, it was a moment’s class unbefitting the occasion.

A stunning strike to lodge long in the memory, intruding upon an instantly forgettable game of football at The Hive.

Conor Chaplin’s wonderful contribution represented an iPhone in the Stone Age.

Receiving Amine Linganzi’s pass in the centre of the pitch, the home-grown talent took two touches during a bristling surge forwards.

Then, 25 yards from goal, he unleashed a vicious right-foot shot which rattled into the top corner of Barnet’s net.

Pompey had their point, the classy 89th minute leveller securing a 1-1 draw during another dismal outing at the new home of Barnet.

Last term the Blues were bullied and physically dominated in embarrassing fashion to slump to a 1-0 defeat which infuriated their sizeable away following.

On Saturday, such a weak underbelly was thankfully not apparent, certainly there is more grit about Paul Cook’s side these days, albeit watering down the flair.

Instead Paul Cook’s troops’ failure lay with struggling to produce their customary passing game during a mundane affair often difficult to stomach.

Too many players, particularly in attacking positions, could not replicate the team display rolled out so impressively against Blackpool in the week.

Such is the inconsistency interwoven into the fabric of this Pompey side, perhaps it was to be anticipated.

Momentum is essential at this stage of the season to succeed in breaking into the top three, a winning streak borders on decisive.

Yet once again the Blues fell short, scrambling a point on the back of heartening consecutive home victories over Accrington and Blackpool.

Not that Barnet were remotely superior to their visitors, both sides toiling on a pitch whose bone-dry condition afterwards drew criticism from the Pompey’s dressing room.

The Bees opened the scoring in the 82nd minute through one of only two on-target efforts. Chaplin subsequently provided Pompey’s sole on-target shot of the entire 90 minutes to equalise.

That was the match in a nutshell. Unfortunately many had to sit through the full duration.

It was an afternoon of questionable entertainment made bearable for the most part by the atmosphere generated by the noisy 2,430 travelling faithful, impressively accounting for more than half the attendance.

Then that sublime Chaplin strike intervened so gloriously to ensure most departed sporting a smile.

Cook had introduced the striker during a double substitution at the interval, along with Danny Rose.

Such was the Blues’ pathetic inadequacy during that opening 45 minutes, there must have been a lengthy identity parade of suspects lined up in the dressing room.

Jamal Lowe and Kyle Bennett were chosen to be hooked, yet their places could have been taken by several others flailing for form.

Against his former club, Lowe provided his most disappointing Pompey performance yet and a withdrawal which could not be questioned.

An end product has still to emerge from a potentially exciting talent and perhaps Saturday represented a game too far following his swift elevation into the first-team during a busy period.

Similarly, Bennett was frustratingly ineffective in an attacking three which also contained a Gary Roberts bereft of his mojo.

Cook’s decision to rip up his gameplan at half-time may have been a necessity, yet also demonstrated welcome positivity in pursuit of victory.

It was accompanied by a system change, Pompey’s manager insisting a 4-3-3 was employed, although at times it appeared to be a midfield diamond, with Michael Doyle at the base and Gary Roberts at the peak.

Crucially for Blues followers, it brought Chaplin onto the pitch alongside the criminally underused Eoin Doyle in attack.

What unfolded during that second period was a little improvement, but still deeply unsatisfying as Pompey attempted for more directness.

It was hard not to feel sympathy for Eoin Doyle, starved of service in the first half due to those operating behind.

After the break, he and Chaplin scavenged the channels seeking any scraps, but the absence of anything to feed off rendered them ineffective through little fault of their own.

When those positioned in the team for their creativity are failing, the biggest impact is shouldered by the players asked to lead the line.

In the end, a moment of individual brilliance lit up Pompey’s display and earned the point, albeit Chaplin taking it upon himself to provide that spark so glaringly absent.

At the other end of the pitch, however, Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke were once again superb, irrespective of the playing surface’s condition.

The pair have stood up in recent months to demonstrate consistency, heart and genuine claims to be crowned Pompey’s player of the year.

John Akinde, possessing 21 goals, remains a powerful, bustling presence, yet Burgess was simply magnificent in his vicinity, particularly in the air.

Alongside him, Clarke continues to develop at pace and it was through their understanding the visitors managed to keep Barnet at bay during a testing period at the end of the first half.

That spell also saw David Forde produce a wonderfully-instinctive save to beat out Curtis Weston’s well-struck volley from Vilhete’s right-wing cross on 26 minutes.

However, there were questions raised over the manner of the goal which handed Kevin Nugent’s side the lead on 82 minutes.

A free-kick was given away on the edge of the penalty area, with Vilhete stepping up to take it following regular dead-ball deliverer Ruben Bover’s earlier substitution.

The winger’s left-foot shot comfortably beat Forde down the centre of the goal, with the keeper not reacting to the danger.

Suddenly Pompey were heading to defeat – and barely looking able to rescue the perilous situation such was their ongoing lack of creativity.

That was until Chaplin popped up and drove forward with conviction to net his eighth goal of the season.

A worthy point, making it seven from the last nine available, but how Pompey need to up their game.