Debutant Baker earns Pompey praise

Carl Baker. Picture: Joe Pepler
Carl Baker. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Pompey may not have been victorious, but it was still a winning impression from Carl Baker.

The summer arrival from MK Dons was one of five debutants in Saturday’s starting line-up against Carlisle.

The attacking midfielder joined David Forde, Drew Talbot, Danny Rose and Milan Lalkovic in Paul Cook’s new-look side.

Yet Baker stole the show with a goal and outstanding all-round display which left the Fratton faithful licking their lips in anticipation of his input across the season.

It was the 33-year-old who levelled Reggie Lambe’s opener shortly before half-time with a shot from inside the box.

In addition, he drew several excellent saves from the busy Mark Gillespie during a one-sided second-half.

Pompey had to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw which deserved so much more for the hosts.

And Cook was delighted with the contribution of the former Coventry City player whose first impression was so favourable.

He said: ‘Carl is an excellent player, he is a very good footballer.

‘The reality is he is such a good player, he is brave how he plays, he is not scared to shoot, he has plenty of attempts on goal.

‘I am sure he will have a really good season.

‘We just lacked that little bit of magic to win the game, but that’s life.’

Baker’s goal was created by Gary Roberts, who fed his team-mate with a ball from the right.

The duo linked up impressively at times to provide suggestions they can be integral parts in the Blues’ bid for promotion from League Two.

It was Baker’s first goal since netting in a 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in December 2015.

It also marked the second successive season he had registered in the opening match, that arriving in a 4-1 win at Rotherham in the Championship.

Certainly Baker was a massive plus in a home performance which yielded 23 attempts on goal – although crucially only one went in.

And while his attacking midfielders impressed, there was still room for improvement with Cook.

He added: ‘It was a well-worked goal.

‘I thought Gary Roberts was excellent at times but unfortunately just got to that point where there were too many men behind the ball, we weren’t getting round the back of them enough.

‘Enda put one great ball in during the second-half and we have to be going in to score.’

– NEIL ALLEN