Doncaster 0 Portsmouth 0 – Neil Allen’s match report

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Ben Close was blissfully oblivious to the historical significance surrounding a winning Keepmoat Stadium outcome.

Granted, his interval introduction hauled the lacklustre Blues to their feet and inspired a second-half display in absolute contrast to the opening 45 minutes.

Pompey's Gareth Evans was unlucky not to score against Doncaster. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey's Gareth Evans was unlucky not to score against Doncaster. Picture: Joe Pepler

Prompting from a deep-lying midfield position, the 22-year-old’s immense contribution warranted the man-of-the-match accolade, quality trumping quantity of time on pitch.

Yet that goal never materialised – and the record-equalling victory which had escaped the Pompey player’s attention also eluded the team.

A goalless draw at Doncaster it was then, the unbeaten league run continues.

However, still a sprinkling of disappointment that Pompey could not make it a fifth-consecutive league triumph from the start of the season.

Had they succeeded in that feat, it would have levelled the 1979-80 run under Frank Burrows which remains unparalleled in the club’s 119-year history.

Not that Close was aware of such statistics, despite admirably grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck in a boisterous attempt to eke out that absent win.

The midfielder, a mild-manner character and thinking footballer, even collected a maiden Football League booking in his desire to create an impact.

An injury-wrecked pre-season, followed by the arrival of Ben Thompson on loan from Millwall, has eased him out of the first team of late.

Close, though, climbed off the bench and helped transform a Blues side which had entered half-time clinging onto a point following a battering by Grant McCann’s relentless team.

There may even have been victory for the visitors following that switch for Thompson to serve alongside Tom Naylor, such was the remarkable team transformation.

During that second period, Marko Marosi twice thwarted Gareth Evans, the first a brilliant point-blank stop at the far post following Ronan Curtis’ excellent left-wing cross.

The goalkeeper would not see out the match, handling outside the area as Curtis bore down on goal in the 83rd minute, sparking late hope that club record-levelling triumph may arrive after all.

Midfielder Ben Whiteman, who had already cleared one off the line from Evans during that improved second-half showing, donned the gloves with Rovers having already used their allocation of substitutes.

Frustratingly, he was tested just the once, a Curtis shot straight at him, during the subsequent 11 minutes, including stoppage-time.

It ensured a tinge of disappointment circulated Pompey’s players as they departed the pitch at the full-time whistle with a point.

Certainly, 45 minutes earlier, they would have been desperate for such a conclusion, after limping in at the break following a Doncaster mauling. An improbable win was never contemplated.

Yet that was the scenario which unfolded as Jackett’s troops dominated the second period and carved out the best goal-scoring opportunities of the fixture for either side

At the heart of it, of course, was Close, retaining possession and effectively distributing the ball in a manner so alarmingly absent during that emphatically one-sided first half.

Suddenly a visiting side, which to a man were under-performing, rediscovered their legs and began to impose themselves on the occasion to leave Rovers rocking.

Jamal Lowe may have been uncharacteristically quiet throughout, but Curtis and Evans were a constant goal threat after the break, while the Blues were also blessed with the ability to bring on a player of Brett Pitman’s calibre.

Introduced off the bench for Oli Hawkins in a double substitution with Close, the club captain’s impact was also noticeable, albeit not on the grand scale of his fellow new arrival into the action.

Perhaps Pitman thought his midweek cameo warranted a recall – as it was, Jackett named the same side for a third-successive time.

Last season’s 25-goal striker had assisted Curtis for an 86th-minute winner in a hard-fought victory at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night.

Nonetheless, Jackett kept faith in his starting XI, with Hawkins handed a fourth-consecutive league start, no doubt much to Pitman’s growing frustration.

The decision to replace the former Dagenham & Redbridge man at half-time was no reflection on his personal 45 minutes, starved of service and deprived of team-mates who barely entered the opposition half – his was a thankless task.

In fact, the sole alteration to the 18-man squad was the omission of Conor Chaplin at his own request, with Louis Dennis replacing him on the bench.

In the days approaching the Keepmoat Stadium visit, the striker asked Jackett to be left out on account of not being in the ‘right frame of mind’.

Pompey’s boss obliged, leaving behind the 21-year-old on the south coast to train. Meanwhile, the wantaway Chaplin has lost support among many of the Fratton faithful following his actions.

With Friday’s 5pm loan deadline looming, clearly a switch is being forced through by the out-of-favour forward, with Coventry and Barnsley continuing to lurk.

Not that the Blues suffered through his absence from the South Yorkshire trip as they ended August in third position.

Still, a point appeared an unlikely outcome as Doncaster laid siege upon the visitors’ goal during wave upon wave of first-half pressure.

Craig MacGillivry twice saved well from Alfie May, while showed excellent handling on a number of occasions.

Then arrived the second half.

On 57 minutes, Curtis whipped in a cross from the left which was met with a first-time Evans shot at the far post, but the keeper superbly blocked.

Evans’ follow-up from the angle crashed into the sidenetting.

Then, seven minutes, later Marosi parried Pitman’s attempt, before the keeper blocked Evans’ follow-up and then Whiteman cleared off the line as Evans again shot.

Marosi earned his red card on 83 minutes, presenting Pitman with a free-kick from 22-yards against the stand-in Whiteman.

Yet the skipper blasted over – and with it disappeared that record-equalling bid.