Carlisle 2-2 Pompey

Jed Wallace, left, equalises for Pompey in the 38th minute Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace, left, equalises for Pompey in the 38th minute Picture: Joe Pepler
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Magnificent Jed Wallace once again proved why he is not much longer for League Two.

Yet even his inspiration was not enough as Pompey were denied victory at the death by belligerent Carlisle.

Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday are among the clubs who continue to covet the midfielder.

But he remains at Fratton Park – and gives no indication he has already signed off.

Granted, the Blues are in for an almighty battle if they wish to hold onto their star man this summer as the on-going interest is firmed up.

Particularly, if he continues conjuring up performances as demonstrated against the Cumbrians yesterday.

Heading deep into stoppage-time, it appeared his was a match-winning display as Pompey comfortably journeyed towards a 2-1 victory.

The outcome would have been fully deserved for Andy Awford’s men, who would go on to turn in one of their finest away showings of the campaign after a shaky start.

Then up popped Charlie Wyke to slot home from inside the box to send Carlisle fans wild and throw the League Two strugglers a dramatic lifeline in their battle to remain in the Football League.

But, unquestionably, it had been the Wallace show up until that point.

Finding themselves behind after just 88 seconds, following Kyle Dempsey’s sweet right-foot half-volley, the visitors couldn’t even muster an attempt on target.

Then on 38 minutes, out of nowhere, Wallace crashed in a right-foot rocket from 25 yards which gave Cumbrians keeper Dan Hanford no chance.

The home supporters were stunned – the match level at 1-1 despite an impressive start from Keith Curle’s side.

And the local fans could only hold their heads in their hands during first-half stoppage-time when Wallace’s next trick inflicted another decisive wound.

The 15-goal midfielder delivered a sublime cross from the left and there was Matt Tubbs to tap home barely a yard out at the far post.

Pompey may not have been the better side in the opening 45 minutes, but they were leading at the interval and, crucially, never looking like surrendering it.

It was largely comfortable viewing for the 789 away fans, despite injuries to Ben Chorley and then his replacement, Nyron Nosworthy.

That was until the game entered its fifth minute of stoppage-time and Wyke had his say.

Awford rang the changes for the Brunton Park trip, with four alterations to the team who suffered defeat against Shrewsbury last weekend.

Recent loan arrivals Nosworthy and Cole Kpekawa were dropped from the starting line-up, with the latter axed from the 18-man squad completely, having struggled to win over Pompey fans.

Dan Butler returned to the team following two games out to come in for Kpekawa at left-back, while Awford’s decision to scrap three centre-halves made Nosworthy’s role surplus.

Instead, a flat-back four was employed, with the injured Danny East replaced by Josh Passley at right-back – the Fulham loanee having been disciplined for his poor timekeeping against the Shrews in the previous match.

That left skipper Chorley and Joe Devera as the central defenders in a 4-2-3-1 system.

Elsewhere, Nigel Atangana took the midfield spot of Danny Hollands, who dropped to the bench to end a run of 13 successive appearances.

And with Ryan Taylor operating as a lone striker, the attacking three behind him were Tubbs, Wallace and the recalled Wes Fogden.

It was Fogden’s first start since May 3, 2014, having battled back from a knee cruciate ligament injury to vie for a first-team spot.

Meanwhile, Adam Webster found himself in from the cold to feature on the Blues’ bench, with Craig Westcarr also returning.

Injuries to East, Paul McCallum, Paul Robinson, Jack Whatmough, Michael Poke and Andy Barcham in recent weeks have hit Awford’s plans.

Irrespective of the team’s revamp, Carlisle broke the deadlock after only 88 seconds.

A break down the right was only partially cleared and the ball fell to Dempsey, sat just outside the box, who crashed a magnificent right-foot half volley past Pompey keeper Paul Jones.

It was poor defending from the visitors, who failed to close down the midfielder swiftly enough, allowing him the time to fire home his stunning shot.

Moments later, a ball came in from the left and Wyke managed to hook the ball back dangerously into the six-yard box, yet Devera was on hand to clear.

In the 10th minute, Sean O’Hanlon’s massive clearance down the left flank ended up with Devera heading it out for the first corner of the game, but it came to nothing.

Pompey won their first corner in the 12th minute, when James Dunne’s shot from the edge of the area was diverted out by the outstretched leg of O’Hanlon, although they couldn’t make it count.

Then Dunne was caught in possession in the centre circle by Dempsey, whose pass into the path of Paul Corry was marginally overhit and the attack petered out when it should have produced more.

In the 22nd minute, referee Nigel Miller played advantage twice for the Blues and Wallace teed up Passley down the right on the overlap, whose testing cross was hacked clear by the hosts.

During their next attack, Butler floated in a cross from the left which fell into the path of Atangana, who rifled a fierce first-time effort narrowly over the bar for Pompey’s best chance so far.

Carlisle remained the most dangerous side, however, and after Chorley carelessly gifted possession away, Dempsey drilled a right-foot shot from the edge of the area past the post.

The visitors responded with Passley crossing from deep to the far post and Atangana rose highest to plant a header onto the roof of the net.

On 35 minutes, Butler delivered a great ball in from the left, yet Taylor and Fogden got in each others’ way, with the latter getting the final touch to knock it comfortably wide.

But out of the blue, Wallace picked up the ball down the left and struck a stunning equaliser on 38 minutes.

There appeared to be little danger when the Blues’ top scorer cut inside, yet he rifled an unstoppable shot from 25 yards which left Hanford with absolutely no chance.

On the stroke of half-time, Corry had a great opportunity to score after collecting a cross from the right, but poked a left-foot shot from inside the box wide.

There was, however, still time for Wallace to receive Butler’s pass and deliver a wonderful cross from the left for Tubbs to tap home at the far post to send his side in at the break with the lead.

The half-time interval would see Chorley replaced by Nosworthy, who would last just nine minutes before Webster came on as his replacement.

The veteran defender had already left the field long before that, having sustained a head injury which couldn’t be patched up in time.

In the 57th minute, Wallace spun round on the edge of the Carlisle area and curled in a left-foot shot which was tipped over by Hanford.

Wallace was buzzing and on 71 minutes cruised past David Atkinson and delivered a low cross that was diverted over the crossbar by a home defender with Tubbs lurking.

Then he steered a pass through a ruck of players for Tubbs to run onto with just the keeper to beat, only for Patrick Brough to come across and produce a perfect slide tackle to put the ball out for a corner.

In the 81st minute, Taylor finished from close range after Dunne’s drive had been saved, but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman flagging for offside.

There was more rejoicing, however, in the fifth minute of stoppage-time.

But that emanated from the home fans as Wyke struck to deny Pompey a third away win in the league this season.