Richie Barker’s Pompey displayed a different side to their make-up as they picked up an entertaining point at Chesterfield.
Few had given the Blues any chance of reaping anything from the televised trip to the League Two leaders last night.
But they fully deserved departing the Proact Stadium with a point, following a goalless draw in which they put the Spireites under plenty of pressure and also struck a post through Jake Jervis in the ninth minute.
Encouragingly, it was often stylish stuff from Pompey, whose growing ability to grind out results has been highly effective – yet, in truth, not particularly entertaining of late.
Regardless, Barker’s men have been slowly picking up points and clean sheets to bolster their hopes of avoiding relegation into non-league football.
Last night was another important step towards the manager’s safety target of 52 points.
But, just as crucial, it was the manner in which it was achieved.
The visitors were gutsy, energetic and full-blooded – much to the steadily increasing frustration of the home fans, who had gathered to witness a victory.
These were all characteristics glimpsed under the Barker regime before.
Except, on this occasion, there was the inclusion of flair and consistent attacking capabilities as Paul Cook’s side struggled at times defensively.
Anchored magnificently by Wes Fogden and Toumani Diagouraga in midfield, it was a vintage Pompey almost forgotten about.
And the best two chances of the game also fell the Blues’ way in the form of Jervis hitting the post and a magnificent point-blank stop by home keeper Tommy Lee from Fogden late on.
The points were shared ultimately, but Pompey can be proud of a performance and surprise result which will go a sizeable way to convincing doubters that Barker is turning it around at Fratton Park.
Impressive, too, considering the build up, when both of Barker’s changes to the side who defeated Accrington Stanley last time out were enforced through international call-ups.
Michael Drennan had been selected for Republic of Ireland under-21 duty, while Daniel Alfei was called upon to play for Wales at the same age group for their European Championship qualifier against England tomorrow night.
That meant a recall for Joe Devera following injury, slotting in at the right-back role he has filled on plenty of occasions this season.
The other switch was Jed Wallace returning to the starting line-up, having been a substitute in the 1-0 Accrington victory.
Those changes signalled a 4-1-4-1 system, with Jervis asked to serve as the lone striker in the continued injury absence of Ryan Taylor.
Elsewhere, there was no Andy Barcham in the squad after his wife gave birth to a baby boy, Jacob, on Monday.
Instead, Ashley Harris was named on the bench for a rare place in the Pompey match-day squad these days.
Pompey kicked off at the Proact Stadium, and within 90 seconds Ricky Holmes drove in a right-foot cross from the left which drew Lee into a diving low take.
In the eighth minute, Wallace whipped in a cross from the right which was flicked goal-wards at the near post by Holmes, but the alert Lee was once again well placed to gather.
The Blues had started the stronger of the two teams and in their next attack Jervis saw his low shot brilliantly finger-tipped on to the right-hand post by Lee as the hosts breathed a sigh of relief again.
It made for encouraging viewing for the visiting supporters, as Barker’s men forced the league leaders on the back foot.
And on 18 minutes Pompey’s positivity continued, with Fogden creating another attack, which was finished by Diagouraga firing a shot goalwards that was deflected for a corner.
The visitors continued to dominate in offensive areas, and when Shorey clipped in a cross from the right, Romain Padovani sent a header at the far post over the bar.
It wasn’t until the 26th minute that the Spireites had their first effort on target – Ollie Banks firing in a low right-foot shot which Trevor Carson gathered at the second attempt.
Moments later, Jimmy Ryan was the next to try his luck from long range – and once more the Blues’ keeper was equal to it.
Cook’s side were beginning to threaten far more, and when a handball was given against Pompey on the edge of their own penalty area, Dan Gardner drove in the free-kick just past the far post.
The sides were unchanged after the interval and on 48 minutes Gary Roberts went close with an angled left-foot drive which flashed just wide of the far post.
At the other end, a superb flowing move through the middle saw Wallace cleverly feed Jervis – but his angled shot from the right fizzed agonisingly past the post.
The match had developed into a fascinating spectacle, and Eoin Doyle went close with a glancing header from Gardner’s cross from the right, which had Carson scampering.
Next it was Pompey’s turn to threaten, and only a brilliant stop from Lee thwarted Fogden from breaking the deadlock in the 65th minute.
Shorey’s pin-point angled ball was controlled by the midfielder coming in off the right flank, and with his second touch he attempted to steer it past the keeper, only for the Chesterfield man to block at point-blank range.
Jervis was the latest to go close in the 76th minute, when he steered Wallace’s pull-back past the far post with a delicate touch.
With the final whistle approaching, the fourth official indicated three minutes of time added on.
But on this occasion the visitors were comfortable and held out for a thoroughly-deserved point at the home of the league leaders.