Charleston Battery 0 Pompey 0

Ryan Williams, who was again handed a start, tussles with Charleston defender Nigel Marples Picture: Joe Pepler/Portsmouth FC
Ryan Williams, who was again handed a start, tussles with Charleston defender Nigel Marples Picture: Joe Pepler/Portsmouth FC
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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Pompey ended their American tour with a goalless draw against Charleston Battery last night.

Yet it was their lack of squad numbers which really stole the show at the Blackbaud Stadium.

Timely indeed, right in front of the eyes of joint-owner Roman Dubov and chief executive David Lampitt.

Not that anybody at the Blues needs reminding of how imperative it is to strengthen at the moment.

Convers Sports Initiatives’ investment has seen five players arrive at Fratton Park so far.

Steve Cotterill and his chief executive continue to work hard behind the scenes to add to their squad of 17.

As it stands, though, with the season just nine days away, extra bodies are required urgently.

Last night, Dave Kitson was absent because of a thigh injury.

That left just Luke Varney and the fit-again Kanu as the sole strikers in their squad for the clash with Charleston.

Sure enough, such a lack of options ensured the cutting edge was always missing from Pompey’s play, with the Blues also looking tired.

Unsurprisingly, they dominated possession, with the outstanding Hayden Mullins at the heart of everything.

However, Cotterill’s men often struggled with the final delivery as they failed to pressure the opposition goal sufficiently.

Their golden opportunities fell to Varney who, on several occasions, failed to finish with just the keeper to beat.

Not that brave Battery deserved to be on the losing side. There was certainly no shame in Pompey sharing the spoils with the hosts.

Yet with the Championship kick off on Saturday, August 6 at Middlesbrough, more players are required.

Especially in striking positions, especially with Kitson out injured.

When picking his side, Cotterill was robbed of Kitson, nursing a thigh injury picked up in training earlier in the day.

Already desperately short of striking options, that meant Varney was asked to operate as a centre forward for the first time this pre-season.

Meanwhile, Kanu was on the bench.

Having only recently returned to full training following a back problem, clearly it was too soon to throw the veteran in for a first start of the summer.

In his absence, Cotterill reverted to the 4-3-3 system which served him so well on occasions last season.

Youngster Ryan Williams was positioned on the left flank and Liam Lawrence on the right.

Elsewhere, Aaron Mokoena partnered Ricardo Rocha in the centre of defence for the first half.

There was also another start for Tal Ben Haim at right-back, with the Israeli seemingly first choice in that position at present.

The five remaining players fit for duty occupied the Blues bench.

As ever during Cotterill’s reign, the opposition didn’t face such struggles, filling their substitute allocation with plenty to spare.

Still, it was a steady showing from the visitors in the opening stages of the match.

After 10 minutes, Varney stabbed in a cross from the right which was scrambled off the line with David Norris ready to pounce.

Moments later, a flowing move from left to right saw Ben Haim sent galloping down the right and he whipped in a great cross that was met first time by Varney, yet Andrew Dykstra gathered comfortably.

At the other end, Zach Prince was beaten by Stephen Henderson to a long ball down the middle with Pompey’s defence struggling.

Some sloppy play from the Blues then allowed Battery to stage another attack, but fortunately Levi Coleman’s flying header from Dane Kelly’s cross went wide.

Pompey were bossing possession but struggling to put Dykstra under enough pressure in the Battery goal.

However, on the half-hour mark, Varney drove in a fierce 25-yard effort which the home keeper had to gather at the second attempt.

Yet the game finished goalless at the break as the sides went in all square.

The interval saw the introduction of Kanu, Jamie Ashdown, Greg Halford and Jason Pearce, replacing Henderson, Mokoena, Rocha and Williams respectively.

That prompted Varney to return to the left flank, with Kanu asked to operate as the lone striker.

Within minutes, Halford used a precision 50-yard cross to pick out Hermann Hreidarsson, whose far-post header was brilliantly turned around the post by Keith Wiggans.

On 58 minutes, Halford should have broken the deadlock but somehow sent his header from Lawrence’s corner wide.

Ashdown was nearly embarrassed on 63 minutes when his gentle throw out was cut out by Coleman. Yet the youngster could only drag his shot agonisingly wide of the far post with the goal beckoning.

Ashdown was then the hero on 70 minutes when John Gruenewold twisted and turned his way into the penalty area and the keeper’s outstretched foot kept out his shot.

Varney had two glorious chances to break the deadlock in the final 10 minutes but both times the summer signing from Derby shot against the keeper.

Pompey kept going but the lack of a cutting edge was obvious.

In the end, it was another draw as the American tour closed with the side heading back today.

And so, hopefully, will begin a week of frantic transfer activity at Fratton Park.