Pompey 0 - Ipswich 0

Pompey defender Jack Whatmough Picture: Joe Pepler

Defender setback – but Pompey boss sees positives

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Something stirred deep within Fratton Park on Saturday, September 11.

It started long before the drums finally made their late, late appearance after being mysteriously silenced.

What’s more, it continued well beyond the final whistle as Pompey supporters waded through the puddles on their way home.

It’s called optimism.

That’s right, good, old fashioned hope. And that has definitely been in short supply around PO4 this season.

A glance at the team sheet before the Ipswich clash, scrutiny of the 90 minutes which unfolded, reflection on the 0-0 scoreline and suddenly everything is looking distinctly rosier.

Not perfect, mind, but definitely considerably more encouraging.

Of course, let’s not get carried away here.

After all, Pompey are still looking for their first league win of the season, they are still at the foot of the Championship and they have still only scored once in their five league games.

They still haven’t even got enough players to fill a bench.

Nonetheless, in the aftermath of Saturday’s point, it is largely impossible not to be swept away by the accompanying flood of euphoria.

Supporters have long craved a sign their team’s fortunes are about to take a turn for the better.

Well, on Saturday the portent arrived.

Unquestionably, the Blues put on their best display of the campaign, led of course by their quartet of four new faces.

Elsewhere, Ibrahima Sonko was a man rejuvenated, while another much-maligned performer – Carl Dickinson – also conjured up his best performance yet.

They were strong at the back, dangerous in attack, full of energy, enthusiasm and a genuine eagerness to succeed.

Providing those goals do start to come – Pompey bore the look of a side which will comfortably survive in the Championship this season.

One match, granted, but in terms of a new era, it appears to have dawned on Saturday.

No wonder Steve Cotterill was bubbling post-match, a man adamant victory over Ipswich had been secured by points rather than a knockout.

He had a case, too.

Undefeated in six matches so far, Roy Keane’s men were tottering for long spells of the match, particularly in a swashbuckling opening 30 minutes from the hosts.

David Nugent hit the crossbar in the first half, Marton Fulop produced a magnificent save to thwart him in the second, while Lawrence also went close on several occasions.

In fairness, Ipswich hit the post through David Norris and saw Joel Ward clear one off the line.

Darren O’Dea also skied one from three yards out while Jamie Ashdown pushed another round the post in stoppage-time.

Still, Keane cut a relieved figure when addressing the media afterwards, claiming a point was a fair result.

The Manchester United legend settling for an honourable draw rather than victory?

Admit it, you never thought you would see the day.

Yet there was something tangibly different about Fratton Park from the off.

The directors’ box was noticeably short of administrator Andrew Andronikou, the man whose comments in The News last week about players’ wages understandably caused such a stir.

Suitably chastised by colleagues and fans alike in the aftermath, it was a rare absence from someone who has been a regular at Pompey’s home matches.

Equally glaring was the lack of Portpin representation in a sparse home directors’ box.

Puzzling, considering only recently Balram Chainrai’s business partner Levi Kushnir was interested enough to spend the entire transfer deadline at the Rodney Road offices.

Elsewhere, The News’ flag was not allowed to be unfurled in the Fratton end, while the iconic drum and bell combination were silenced.

A social experiment by the club perhaps.

Regardless of the reason from the stadium powers that be, once the band started playing in the 75th minute, the atmosphere was cranked up considerably.

Let’s just hope the few who continue to gripe about their presence took notice and concede it’s not such a bad thing after all.

Amid it all, was the most encouraging Pompey performance of the season so far.

Cotterill had the luxury of naming six on the bench rather than the usual four he has managed to muster up in every game previously.

Still a body short, nevertheless

those on bench duty included Michael Brown, Richard Hughes, John Utaka, Matt Ritchie and Nadir Ciftci.

A strong group to introduce into a match by any Championship side’s standards.

Of course, their presence had been dictated by Cotterill.

He opted to field all four of his new faces, even if two of them are certainly familiar among Pompey fans.

Having been granted Football League permission at 6.45pm on Friday night, Lawrence was thrown in alongside for Stoke team-mate Dave Kitson.

Eternal trainer Kanu was finally back after his drawn-out contract wrangle was unravelled to everyone’s satisfaction.

Then there was Ricardo Rocha, whose on-off on-off switch culminated in a two-year deal and a welcome return into that Pompey starting line-up.

It was certainly no coincidence their very presence not only secured a first clean sheet of the campaign but also stoked up that precious hope.

Shining brightest was Lawrence, a player who is set to swiftly become a firm Fratton Park favourite.

Blessed with infectious enthusiasm, outstanding work-rate and an abundance of talent on the ball, he proved to be an instant hit.

Kitson also put on an excellent first-half showing, linking-up well with Kanu before both faded during the second half.

As for Rocha, his partnership alongside Sonko in the Blues defence struck gold straight away in the form of that precious clean sheet.

In the process, Sonko produced an outstanding display while on the left, Carl Dickinson’s performance was his best in a Pompey shirt.

When even those players who have endured uncomfortable starts to their Fratton Park career begin to shine the optimism cannot help but be infectious.

Of course, 90 minutes against Ipswich represents nothing more than a drop in the ocean.

Next up are Crystal Palace tomorrow and with it the opportunity to show a goalless draw against Ipswich was not a fortunate one off.

In the meantime, reasons to be cheerful?

Judging from Saturday, there are plenty of them.