MK Dons 2 Pompey 2

6/10/2012 (SPORT''Portsmouth FC v Milton Keynes FC match at Milton Keynes stadium on Saturday.''Pictured is: Portsmouth FC's Gabor Gyepes celebrates with team mates during the match.''Picture: Sarah Standing (123242-6138)
6/10/2012 (SPORT''Portsmouth FC v Milton Keynes FC match at Milton Keynes stadium on Saturday.''Pictured is: Portsmouth FC's Gabor Gyepes celebrates with team mates during the match.''Picture: Sarah Standing (123242-6138)
Derry City winger Ronan Curtis. Picture: Lorcan Doherty/

The Insider: Pompey target has potential to play in Championship

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If the rehabilitation of Izale McLeod isn’t complete then it is agonisingly close.

A player so swiftly judged and then condemned by his own supporters.

A footballer smothered by exasperated groans and disappointed gasps during his honeymoon period.

A newcomer who has prompted hair-wringing frustration on the Pompey bench following some insipid displays.

A human being whose wife was abused on Twitter over his performances by one so-called Blues follower.

It has been a tough start to the Fratton career of McLeod.

Largely his doing, of course, considering some desperately poor early showings.

The 27-year-old did not so much hit the ground running but slammed into reverse and crashed into a tree.

Such has been McLeod’s unimpressive introduction to the Fratton faithful, it was more likely the aforementioned tree was of crucial historic importance and armed with a preservation order.

Yet the transformation is now nearer to reaching its conclusion.

This is a very different McLeod currently on display.

Perhaps more reminiscent of his MK Dons pomp when in three prolific seasons he established himself as the club’s record scorer.

Another strike at Stadium MK and suddenly Pompey appear to have a player on their hands.

That’s four goals in his past seven matches. In total it is five from 12 Pompey appearances.

All from open play, it has to be said.

Although that statistic will probably change during the season, following Brian Howard’s second-successive penalty miss.

From now on McLeod is likely to take on such duties. Not that he snubbed such a responsibility in the first place.

Still, the Pompey player who has failed to convince most of all among the many, many new arrivals has suddenly struck form.

Unquestionably, Wes Thomas has been a good influence. A stop-gap measure which can reap long-term rewards.

McLeod was even spotted winning an aerial challenge during the second half on Saturday.

Although referee David Coote did adjudge it was a foul, even lecturing the striker.

Small steps, Izale. Small steps.

In fairness, the players and their manager will point to the necessity of allowing them time to settle.

Except Pompey have not got time with a minimum 10-point deduction hanging over them.

Avoiding relegation will be the biggest victory this season.

In the past week, though, the results have started to flow with seven points from a possible nine.

Of those matches, two have been away from Fratton Park.

And at the heart of it all has been the much-improved McLeod.

Leading from the front, as many had been anticipating him doing from the very, very start.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw was simply classic McLeod.

Granted, the Blues let slip a two-goal lead and in the end were grateful for a point.

Yet that does not eclipse what was a good result, with McLeod and Gabor Gyepes the star performers.

In a blistering start to the occasion, the powerful striker was at the heart of everything dangerous about the visitors’ play.

That first half was as good as anything produced by Appleton’s side this season.

Sure enough it was the leading scorer who won a third-minute penalty after latching onto a weak pass back.

He took the ball past David Martin only for the keeper’s challenge to bring him down in full flight.

Howard stepped up to take the penalty and crashed his shot against the left-hand post.

Within a minute, however, Pompey did take the lead.

Gyepes brought the ball out of defence before sliding a pass into the feet of McLeod.

The ex-Barnet man did the rest, surging through the middle before placing a delightful shot into the bottom corner of the goal.

It was pure quality from McLeod, another reminder of what the consistently inconsistent forward is capable of.

On the flip side, in the 18th minute Lee Williamson’s precise pass put him clean through.

The striker stumbled over the ball twice as it became stuck under his feet and then crashed a shot well wide of the target.

Still, on 20 minutes Howard swung in a free-kick from the right and Gyepes rose to head home a second.

Thomas should have been awarded a second penalty after a blatant foul by Anthony Kay.

As it was, he and McLeod were proving to be unplayable as the visitors continued to tear the Dons apart on the counter-attack.

Wonderful skill from Thomas in the 28th minute saw him control a pass on his chest and clip a first-time ball to McLeod.

Kay, though, came across to nick the ball out for a corner just as the Pompey man was ready to pull the trigger.

The hosts were given a lifeline on 39 minutes. A cross from the outstanding Dean Bowditch saw Adam Webster put through his own net.

The youngster’s knee did the damage, despite nobody being in his vicinity.

Suddenly the Dons were back in the match and after the break they were relentless in their attacks.

Karl Robinson had already reverted to three at the back in the 33rd minute, throwing on substitute Alan Smith.

It was a tactical ploy which proved most astute, with Smith proving a handful and the hosts dominating possession.

The effectiveness of McLeod and Thomas had been blunted, starved of service as Robinson’s men poured forward.

There was an inevitability over the equaliser with Darren Potter striking in the 72nd minute.

Dean Lewington headed against the crossbar and the ball dropped for Potter who found the back of the net from close range.

Not that such a blow silenced the noisy 2,552 away following.

Nor could it distract from the fact it still represented an excellent point for a side which, within a week, has bounced back well from three consecutive defeats.

Many reasons to be cheerful for Pompey fans then.

The same goes for the turnaround in the fortunes of McLeod, the striker who could once do no good.

A blip, or perhaps the start of a beautiful new friendship?

Time will tell.