Pompey 2-2 Aldershot

Jed Wallace scores Pompey's opener. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace scores Pompey's opener. Picture: Joe Pepler
Nathan Thompson gets his marching orders from referee Lee Probert at Southend on Saturday

Thompson starts four-game Pompey ban

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So Pompey’s FA Cup frustrations continue on the day they didn’t want to play.

Andy Awford led the Blues voices who aired their doubts about the ethical standing of playing football on Remembrance Sunday.

In the end, his team weren’t around for much of the second half of a pulsating afternoon of cup football.

Yes, the reports of the famous, old tournament’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

The neutral at Fratton Park yesterday would have undoubtedly agreed with that.

Those with royal blue in their veins, however, will be furious the Conference Premier side were let off the hook when they were reeling in the first-half.

Jed Wallace’s 16th-minute penalty had the Shots primed to fold as the home side assumed the ascendancy.

The killer second didn’t arrive, however, and Awford’s side were punished for that by a rousing Shots fightback.

The fear was Andy Scott’s side would have the spirit for a second-half onslaught after Jordan Roberts’ leveller on the stroke of half-time.

Roared on by their impressively-vocal 2,446 following they certainly did.

There was nothing scientific about their high-tempo, hassling approach based on an aerial onslaught and fighting for second balls.

They were effectively asking Pompey the question: Do you fancy this?

Awford’s side gave the wrong answer in their desire to defend, and then young Ben Close got it all wrong, as he conceded possession in his own half for Mark Molesley’s 68th-minute finish.

Danny Hollands saved Pompey’s blushes, though, with his second goal on the bounce, as he finds the goalscoring form, which had eluded him his this season.

The poignancy of two military homes meeting on the day we remember our fallen was recognised in the build-up to the game.

The Blues could do little about the furore of the game taking place. They could affect the pre-match tribute, though. And they ensured it was a poignant and moving occasion with our veterans taking centre stage.

Awford made good on his promise to send out a powerful side in this grandest of knockout competitions.

That meant just a single change from the side which served up one of the displays of season in dismissing Carlisle.

The news of James Dunne’s knee problem opened the door for Nigel Atangana to stake his claim for extended inclusion.

It was the Frenchman’s first start since the defeat to Northampton at the beginning of October.

A name regularly forwarded by fans for inclusion, Atangana had to respond to Awford’s challenge to make the shirt his own for the foreseeable future.

He didn’t lay down a definitive marker, however, and the role of partnering Hollands in the middle of the park remains up for grabs.

It was the familiar threat of Jed Wallace which went close to making an early breakthrough.

Up against Chris Barker – brother of Awford’s predecessor, Richie – the verbals and off-the-ball shoving began from the outset.

But Wallace left the defender for dead after four minutes and danced his way into the box, before firing at Pompey old boy Phil Smith.

The Blues then had another gilt-edged opportunity when Barker handled as he fell, but Westcarr couldn’t beat Smith as the ball fell into his path.

The breakthrough arrived after 16 minutes from the penalty spot.

It was a cute bit of play from Westcarr which won it as he advanced into the box, knocked the ball away from a pumped-up Mark Phillips and waited for the tackle. It duly arrived.

Wallace confidently did the rest and wheeled away in celebration in front of the pals he grew up with, who were congregated among the Shots fans in the Milton End.

The frenetic nature of the match refused to abate with the opener.

Ricky Holmes continued his lively form of late and followed a shot at Smith with a smart 25-yard free-kick.

It took until five minutes before the break for the searing pace to slow for a second.

But normal service was resumed in stoppage time. Sadly it came through Pompey allowing the visitors back into proceedings,

It was Holman who was the architect, as he led Devera on a merry dance not once, but twice.

The striker found the space to put in a peach of a cross, which Jordan Roberts gleefully dispatched at the back post.

Now a game Pompey should have put to bed had developed into a real cup tie.

Just to underline the point, the Fratton surface had cut up with the teeming rain, adding a slippery veneer.

That would have suited the visitors more than the hosts, as they set about knocking Pompey out of their stride.

And that they increasingly did as Awford’s men failed to exert the control they had for long periods of the opening 45 minutes.

The Shots were warming to the task as they presented Blues with an aerial bombardment.

They were a whisker away from levelling after 63 minutes when a lofted ball presented Brett Williams with a second ball, which grazed past the post.

It was all about hunger. And it was the visitors who were showing it in spades.

Scott’s side were harrying and pressing Pompey into reverse gear.

It was that desire to force a mistake which put the visitors in control of the game.

Sub Close looked to pass his way out of a tight corner under pressure with 22 minutes left. That, he desperately failed to do.

Kieron Forbes sensed blood, robbed him and teed up Molesley to gleefully finish in front of delirious Shots fans.

It looked, for all the world as if Pompey would pay the ultimate punishment for letting the game out of their grip.

We know this famous, old tournament, though, and it didn’t disappoint with another twist.

The leveller arrived as the Blues’ desperate late charge reaped dividends with nine minutes left.

Holmes’ ball in was helped on by sub Ryan Taylor and Hollands applied the nodded finish.

Moments later Robinson’s afternoon came to an end for a lunge on Roberts.

The drama continued to the death as Holman just failed to steer a cross past Jones at the near post.

So Pompey have a trip to the Recreation Ground to contend with after salvaging their spot in the tournament.

The boos from the home crowd, and one irate fan in particular who launched a verbal tirade at Awford on the whistle, showed a displeasure at that outcome.

The Blues now have to show their stomach for a cup battle, if they are to get that FA Cup win at the seventh time of asking.