Pompey Reserves 2 Luton Reserves 2

Nigel Atangana, left, is congratulated for his goal against Luton reserves by team-mate Ben Close Picture: Allan Hutchings
Nigel Atangana, left, is congratulated for his goal against Luton reserves by team-mate Ben Close Picture: Allan Hutchings
Dave Wright. Picture: Colin Farmery

Boss hoping Wright can bolster Pompey’s squad

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Nigel Atangana made a welcome return to action as Pompey’s reserves drew with Luton.

The midfielder was forced off against Yeovil at the start of the month with a hamstring injury – an absence currently stretching to four first-team matches.

Yet he was back playing yesterday afternoon, featuring for 45 minutes in the Final Third Development League fixture at Furze Lane.

Along with Nick Awford, who was also injured in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy fixture at Huish Lane, the fit-again pair lined-up in midfield for Paul Hardyman’s men.

As a precaution, Pompey’s joint first-team coach had long earmarked them to be substituted at the interval upon their comebacks.

They did so, with Atangana capping his appearance with a headed goal, giving the Blues a 2-1 half-time lead.

Just as crucially, he emerged through the fixture with no recurrence of his injury, putting him firmly in the frame for Hartlepool on Saturday.

A sizeable boost for onlooking boss Andy Awford, who was joined on the sidelines by Mark Catlin, Iain McInnes and players Ben Chorley, Dan Butler, Joe Devera and Tom Craddock.

Atangana’s latest hurdle cleared is particularly welcome considering the impressive start he has enjoyed to not only his Pompey career but life in the Football League, after arriving in the summer from the Hawks.

Those opening 45 minutes, during which the Frenchman was present, saw a strong home reserve line-up twice take the lead against the Hatters.

Ricky Holmes delivered a cross from the left and Andy Barcham was lurking in the six-yard box to give Hardymen’s men a 10th-minute lead.

It was Barcham’s second successive goal for the reserves, who two weeks earlier had run out 3-2 winners at Peterborough in their campaign opener.

Barely a minute later and Luton responded, with the powerful Ross Lafayette rifling a shot just over the bar.

On 22 minutes, Holmes delivered from the left and Atangana managed to get off a shot which one at point threatened to squirm under keeper Elliot Justham.

The youngster, though, managed to grasp it at the last opportunity as the ball dribbled towards the goal.

At the other end, Charlie Walker shot and keeper Michael Poke superbly pushed the ball behind for a corner.

When that was delivered from the right, Ian Rees sent a free header over the bar when he should have done far better.

Yet the Hatters levelled in the 29th minute through a mistake from Poke.

An excellent ball down the line from Nathan Doyle released Walker and he drove in an angled shot from the left which somehow went through Pompey’s keeper at the near post.

On 35 minutes, the lively Miles Storey popped up on the left and drove in a shot which was safely gathered by the keeper with the minimum of fuss.

Pompey regained the lead, though, on 40 minutes through an excellent move.

Barcham started it off with a lofted pass into the left channel intended for Storey, who seized control of the ball.

He managed to cross into the six-yard box, where Atangana forced home a header from close range to regain the lead for the hosts.

That was to be the Frenchman’s last telling contribution, as he and Awford were replaced at the break by Snorre Nilson and Jack Maloney.

That prompted a reshuffle, with Brandon Haunstrup moving over to left-back to accommodate Nilson, while Nicky Shorey moved into the centre of midfield.

On 55 minutes, Storey saw his shot pushed around the post, but eight minutes later it was Luton who netted – once again coming from behind.

When central-defender Chad Field tripped Shaun Whalley inside the penalty area, there could be little argument.

Whalley stepped up to take the spot-kick and scored it comfortably, making the scoreline 2-2.

In the 69th minute, Whalley should have grabbed a second and given the visitors the lead with a flying volley from six-yards out which flew wide.

Then Storey cut in from the left, making his way across the penalty area before firing a right-foot shot just over the bar.

With full-time approaching, skipper Adam Webster burst forward from the half-way line and fired in an excellent shot which didn’t net but drew applause from the crowd all the same.

Regardless, it finished 2-2 on a positive day of injury comebacks for Pompey.

Pompey RESERVES: Poke, Haunstrup, Webster, Field, Shorey, Close, Atangana (46 mins Maloney), Awford (46 mins Nilson), Holmes (61 mins Chaplin), Barcham, Storey. Subs Not Used: Bass, Gill