Portsmouth 1 Shrewsbury 1 – Neil Allen’s match report

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Christian Burgess retreated into his Pompey shirt, scrambling for an escape route.

Except there was no extrication from his agony, while the ground refused to crack open its jaws and consume him in pitying compassion.

Brett Pitman celebrates scoring from the penalty spot against Gillingham Picture; Joe Pepler

Brett Pitman celebrates scoring from the penalty spot against Gillingham Picture; Joe Pepler

When the central-defender’s face re-emerged, eyes readjusting, the horror remained within sight, a mistake from which there could be no liberation.

Burgess had performed impressively against Shrewsbury, certainly few of his colleagues could make a similar claim during an achingly lacklustre team showing.

Then arrived the 74th minute – and his excellent work was unstitched with ferocity.

The man-of-the-match contender was instead condemned to the role of Fratton Park villain and social media whipping boy.

Football can be brutal on occasions, with not even substitute Brett Pitman’s point-securing penalty sufficient to spare Burgess’ blushes.

Shaun Whalley’s delivery from the right had been hoisted skywards by Nathan Thompson during an aerial challenge with Aaron Amadi-Holloway.

Burgess took charge, only to badly misjudge the flight of the ball, positioning himself incorrectly for his subsequent jump. He succeeded only in flicking it off the top of his head to the lurking Greg Docherty.

The Shrews’ substitute then applied his maiden touch of the game, a right-footed finish, to hand the visitors the lead with their first and only on-target attempt of the contest.

Pompey’s long-serving player buried his face into his shirt as disbelief turned into frustration among the Fratton faithful.

The former Peterborough man had largely been impeccable during a poor match until that costly error. Such is the fine line footballers can tread.

He had capitalised impressively on Jack Whatmough’s hamstring-dictated absence, in commanding form since entering at half-time against Plymouth and with a point to prove.

It was the Burgess of old, unlike the out-of-sorts performer during the second half of last term who lost his spot to the fit-again Whatmough.

Certainly Kenny Jackett’s disinterest in numbering another centre-half among his 10 summer recruits reflects his belief in the quality of the three currently within his squad.

And Pompey fans require no reminding of Burgess’ qualities following 132 appearances, seven goals and one League Two title.

Yet memories are short and on Saturday his slip-up gifted the struggling visitors the lead, an advantage they finally surrendered in the 87th minute.

The post-match criticism which ultimately arrived in the 26-year-old’s direction was understandable considering the circumstances, although it is difficult not to have a little empathy for a fine servant.

Of course, the Blues’ failure to win Saturday’s fixture against a team second from bottom and without a League One victory was not solely the responsibility of Burgess.

Error or not, Jackett’s troops were a shadow on the side which destroyed firstly Plymouth and then Gillingham in successive home matches.

It would be far too convenient to place the blame on Ronan Curtis’ absence through Republic of Ireland under-21 duty.

The Irishman has proven to be a talismanic figure on Pompey’s left, scoring five times and becoming a key figure in an outstanding early-season charge.

Andre Green was handed Curtis’ role, marking his Blues league debut, yet lasted until half-time as Jackett sought to introduce the creativity lacking and hauled him off.

There was an improvement in the second half, unmistakably, but it still wasn’t good enough, with Gareth Evans’ header from Nathan Thompson’s cross the only testing save Shrews keeper Joel Coleman was called upon to make.

At the other end of the pitch, for 74 minutes Burgess had marshalled Pompey’s defence superbly, restricting the visitors to shots from outside the box, many of which narrowly flashed wide.

Unfortunately, however, he was responsible for gifting John Askey’s side the lead – and what appeared it would be the match winner until late drama.

Nathan Thompson was attacking the right-hand side of the penalty area when Alex Gilliead’s challenge set him tumbling.

The linesman flagged for a foul, yet it was borderline whether the moment had occurred inside the box. Thankfully for the Blues, referee Charles Breakspear pointed to the spot.

The Surrey-based official hardly endeared himself to the Fratton faithful throughout, with a number of baffling decisions and a penchant for not identifying the obvious.

Curiously there was also a failure to properly police Shrewsbury throw-ins, with Omar Beckles, in particular, allowed to gallop down the line before hurling the ball from a point that was a considerable distance from where he should have.

However, in the 87th minute, he awarded a penalty, with Pitman stepping up to plant a right-footed finish into the far bottom left corner.

Pompey had their point.

The match was still a cause for disappointment, though, with the second-placed Blues surely confident of victory pre-match considering Shrewsbury’s start to the campaign.

Jackett made three changes to the side which beat Plymouth in the league, with Burgess and Nathan Thompson replacing injured pair Whatmough and Anton Walkes.

Completing the changes was Green coming in for the unavailable Curtis, while Oli Hawkins was fit to retain his place following a back problem.

Hawkins performed admirably and was the Blues’ man of the match yet, with the vast majority of his team-mates misfiring, it was not difficult to tower above their efforts.

Jackett’s men were lethargic, sluggish, off the pace and, after 15 minutes, dominated by the visitors for the remainder of the first half.

Green and Ben Thompson were replaced at the interval, with David Wheeler and Ben Close introduced, sparking a welcome improvement.

Yet still the hosts still couldn’t muster a significant threat on keeper Coleman.

Then came Burgess’ misjudgement – and a point was subsequently gratefully received.