Pompey 0 Northampton 0

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Pompey deserved their win at Fleetwood, according to Alan Knight. Picture: Mark Robinson

Knight: Well-deserved Pompey win at Fleetwood

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Richie Barker had spoken of Pompey grinding their way up the League Two table through substance rather than style.

In the short term at least, to address the precarious placing they have found themselves in recent weeks.

A goalless draw at Fratton Park yesterday against a bottom-of-the-table Northampton may have been greeted with disappointment among some.

Certainly there were boos at the final whistle from the 15,426 crowd after a frustrating second-half against the Cobblers.

Hard work aplenty with once more bite and determination evident, the only thing lacking was creativity and entertainment.

Yet, crucially, it represented another inch forward by the Blues, progress indeed as they seek to remain in the division they once had aspirations of leaving.

A second successive clean sheet should not be ignored for a team which until yesterday possessed the worst defensive record in League Two.

Suddenly Joe Devera is performing exceptionally well, while Danny East’s reputation is growing with every appearance at right-back.

Sadly East’s injury late on could rule him out of deservedly keeping his place at Southend on New Year’s Day.

Regardless of the failure to win, in fairness it was correct the match finished level pegging with both sides unable to sufficiently threaten the opposition keeper.

Had it not been for a remarkable 89th-minute last-ditch tackle on substitute David Moyo by Sonny Bradley, Pompey could well be nursing another home defeat.

Even then Northampton were appealing for a foul post-match, although were curiously quiet at the time.

There was also Johnny Ertl late on heading off the line and bashing into a post in the process.

At the other end, Jed Wallace hit the bar in the 10th minute with a lovely turn and shot to maintain his unfortunate habit of striking the woodwork this season.

As it was, for all their pressing and the prompting –with the impressive Ricky Holmes at the forefront – the end product was overwhelmingly lacking from Barker’s side.

The result was another important point, even if it was not particularly well received by some of the home fans, who had been pining for a win against the strugglers.

There was just the one change to Blues side which ended a run of nine games without a win on Boxing Day against Dagenham & Redbridge.

Simon Ferry had to be withdrawn in the 1-0 victory with another hamstring problem and his substitute replacement, Ertl, was selected to take his spot in the starting line-up yesterday.

The Austrian was asked to play the deep-lying midfield role previously occupied by Thery Racon, with Racon instead moving further forward to partner Daggers match-winner Romain Padovani in the centre.

There was a surprise, however, with Marcos Painter retaining his place, despite joining Ferry in coming off with a hamstring concern in the previous match.

With his contract up in the next few weeks, the injury-hampered left-back is desperate to convince boss Barker of his worth – and could do without being sidelined.

There were two alternations on the bench, though, with Bondz N’Gala returning from suspension to replace Yassin Moutaouakil in the squad, while Jack Maloney took the substitute spot of Ertl.

Aside from Ferry’s injury absence, Barker was also missing Shaun Cooper (hamstring), Andy Barcham (thigh) and Tom Craddock (knee).

Meanwhile, for Northampton, there was no Izale McLeod in their match-day 18 because of injury – the ex-Pompey striker currently on loan from MK Dons.

They also named Kevin Amankwaah at right-back, who appeared for the Blues against Aldershot in a pre-season triallist fixture back in July.

When the game got under way, Holmes tricked his way past three players to break into the left-hand side of the box and pull the ball back across goal.

Keeper Matt Duke partially stopped his cross but there were no Blues bodies around to pounce and drive the ball into what was an unguarded net.

The Cobblers’ first goal-scoring attempt was in the eighth minute when Chris Hackett drilled in an ambitious shot from 30 yards which was comfortably wide.

At the other end, Wallace in the 10th minute managed to spin and drive a right-foot shot from the edge of the area which beat Duke only to cannon off the crossbar and to safety.

More clever play by Holmes saw him get on the end of a Wallace cross and loft the ball back to Padovani whose volley from 20-yards out narrowly bounced past the far post. The hosts had a scare in 23rd minute when Gary Deegan’s long throw from the left was missed by Trevor Carson – and a few defenders – before bouncing on top of the crossbar and out for a goal-kick.

Even if the ball had gone into the net, there was no obvious touch from any player so the goal would not have counted anyway.

As the half wore on, the game hit a lull with chances few and far between and both sides struggling to retain meaningful possession.

In the 43rd minute, though, Holmes won a corner and from the delivery the ball fell to Bradley whose shot from outside the area appeared to deflect wide off one of his team-mates for a goal-kick.

Goalless at half-time, there were no substitutions from either side at the interval with the match still poised.

The fixture sprang into life in the 58th minute with goal-scoring moments at either end – but none taken.

Firstly Lee Collins’ back header was nudged goalwards by substitute Moyo, requiring Carson to punch it out from right under the crossbar – launching a Pompey break in the process.

Wallace led the counter-attack and squared for Racon inside the Cobblers’ box but the Frenchman took too long over his shot and when he eventually pulled the trigger it was blocked.

Barker made his first change in the 75th minute with Ryan Bird replacing the tiring Patrick Agyemang, the Fratton faithful responding with chants of ‘4-4-2’ and ‘David Connolly’.

Moments later, miscommunication between Carson and Bradley forced Ertl to head off the line and prevent the hosts from falling behind in awful circumstances.

Connolly did emerge seven minutes from time in place of Ertl, yet it was a superb tackle from Bradley to deny Moyo at the death which would be crucial.

And in the end the points were shared at Fratton.