Bristol City 0 Pompey 0

Erik Huseklepp skips past a couple of Bristol City defenders. Picture: Allan Hutchings (112985-738)
Erik Huseklepp skips past a couple of Bristol City defenders. Picture: Allan Hutchings (112985-738)
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Oli Hawkins celebrates his goal against Fleetwood. Pictured: Mark Robinson

Hawkins: I can fill void left by Pompey skipper

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Steve Cotterill had pleaded for Erik Huseklepp to be given patience and time to adjust to his new Pompey surroundings.

But thanks to a sizzling six-minute cameo, no-one is listening.

So much for smothering expectations and strangling the euphoria which has accompanied the arrival of the Blues’ £1.5m signing.

Huseklepp himself has now set the tantalising standards by which he will be judged.

Even if his star turn did last a mere 360 seconds against Bristol City.

Of course, it would be folly to grandly declare the 26-year-old will take the English game by storm following nothing more than a glimpse.

For that is all it was – a fascinating peek at his talents displayed against a mediocre Championship side.

They were a tiring team at that, his 84th-minute arrival timely enough to take advantage of diminishing legs.

Nonetheless, for those who had previously observed nothing more than Huseklepp in video clips on the internet, it was six minutes to savour.

After replacing Liam Lawrence on the right flank, the Norwegian’s first contribution was to twist and turn two defenders before delivering a teasing cross into the box.

It was agonisingly just out of reach of the flying Benjani Mwaruwari, who had launched himself in superhero fashion.

Moments later Huseklepp’s quick feet were on display again, running at Jamie McAllister before finding a team-mate with a pass.

The introduction was brief, nothing more than a quick shake of the hand, a few pleasantries and then he was off out the door again.

Talk about a flying visit.

However, it was an enticing taste of what treats lie in store for Pompey fans from their Viking newcomer.

No wonder his name was on everyone’s lips at the final whistle in an otherwise forgettable Bristol City encounter.

The 86 minutes prior to Huseklepp’s eagerly-anticipated entrance were largely uninspired – from either team.

Considering both sides locked horns having dismissed promotion hopefuls Leicester and Reading in the week, it was a tremendously disappointing encounter.

The opening 45 minutes especially were mind-numbing, with Pompey a shadow of the team who performed so admirably against the Royals.

After the interval it wasn’t too much better but Cotterill’s men had raised their game sufficiently to lay claim to a victory.

The Blues have long established themselves as a second-half team and at Ashton Gate it was no different.

Greg Halford reckoned it took 45 minutes to get their legs going following the recent flurry of matches.

It was impossible not to agree as the visitors suddenly stepped up their game to leave the Robins delighted for a point come the conclusion.

The best chances occurred while Huseklepp was sat on the bench patiently awaiting his opportunity.

Indeed, the match should have already been signed, sealed and delivered to Pompey’s door long before he left his vantage point to sample a piece of the action.

Still, the Blues’ wasteful nature in front of goal has long been a concern and on Saturday those brows furrowed some more.

On 59 minutes, Tal Ben Haim swung in a cross from the right which picked out the unmarked Liam Lawrence beautifully.

But from barely six yards out he headed straight at Dean Gerken, who produced a wonderfully instinctive save.

The skipper should have netted with the entire goal to aim at.

Instead, it was a chance spurned.

In the 73rd minute, Luke Varney conjured up a piece of class to deliver a deliciously curling right-foot shot from 20 yards out.

With Gerken beaten, it appeared destined for the net, only to smack firmly against the far post.

Lawrence’s fierce follow-up effort was magnificently kept out by the keeper, as he continued to impress having got the nod ahead of David James.

Barely three minutes later, Lawrence’s free-kick from the left fell to Dave Kitson.

The striker swivelled and crashed in a first-time shot from six yards out which flew comfortably over the bar.

It was another golden opportunity and the 12,946 fans knew it should not have been wasted.

Of course, it was not all one-way traffic, City themselves having a goal chalked off in the same half.

Jamal Campbell-Ryce, unquestionably the hosts’ star performer, crossed from the left and Neil Kilkenny headed home from barely two yards out.

Thankfully for Blues followers, referee Michael Naylor adjudged he had fouled Jamie Ashdown in the process. It was hard not to disagree, with television footage proving the keeper had both hands on the ball before Kilkenny’s head dislodged it.

The Australian midfielder, recruited from Leeds United in the summer, also curled a 25-yarder narrowly wide of the far post in arguably City’s other threatening moment of the second period.

Even when they were on top in the first half, Campbell-Ryce once again the greatest influence, they failed to threaten Ashdown’s goal sufficiently.

That was also down to another excellent showing from new central-defensive partnership Greg Halford and Jason Pearce, easily nullifying the threat of Nicky Maynard.

Pearce continues to blossom, proving his outstanding debut against Reading was definitely not a one-off.

But it is at the other end of the pitch where Pompey have their problems, particularly in front of goal.

For Kanu, a third game in eight days was clearly too much and his performance levels plummeted from the highs of Tuesday night.

As for Kitson, he appeared to have taken on board his manager’s call to maintain his work-rate with a tireless display no doubt appreciated by the 1,373 visiting supporters.

However, the goal would not arrive, irrespective of that improved second-half display.

With the match petering out into a goalless draw, Cotterill finally decided to unleash Norwegian international Huseklepp from the bench.

What unfolded in the next six minutes was enough to excite Pompey fans.

So much for Cotterill not wanting the pressure of expectation heaped on his new signing.

Now everyone is talking about Erik Huseklepp.

And you can bank on there being a fan-led inquest if he doesn’t start against Cardiff City at Fratton Park next weekend.