Portsmouth 2 Burton Albion 2: Neil Allen’s match report

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At times pulsating, on occasions breathless, perhaps it was fitting last night’s encounter should provide no winner.

Pompey took the lead, for five minutes they slipped behind, yet the outcome from an often frenetic second half was a 2-2 scoreline.

Matt Clarke scored to make it 2-2. Picture: Carl Thomas

Matt Clarke scored to make it 2-2. Picture: Carl Thomas

The trailing Burton had transformed the match with two goals in four minutes at the start of the second period, not that it silenced Fratton Park.

Roared on by the Fratton faithful, Matt Clarke rose with ease to power home Gareth Evans’ right-wing corner for the leveller.

It presented Kenny Jackett’s men with 33 minutes to eke out a winner, yet it never arrived despite their sustained attacking intentions which failed to yield enough scoring chances.

Certainly Burton deserved their point, particularly for their thrust following the interval which saw the introduction of Devante Cole off the bench.

The hosts had entered the break leading through Oli Hawkins’ 36th minute header, converting the outstanding Ben Thompson’s cross.

It had been a largely comfortable opening 45 minutes for the league leaders, with plenty to suggest they could add to their tally and take the game beyond the Brewers.

That was until the 48th minute, when Cole conjured up a clever finish to level in front of the Milton end.

Within four minutes and Southampton loanee Jake Hesketh’s brilliant solo effort had put the visitors into what had earlier appeared to be an improbable lead.

That was until Evans, on for the injured Dion Donohue, crossed from a corner and Clarke equalised.

After that point, Jackett’s men never quite created enough opportunities to claim a victory, despite their pressure.

And in the end, the match’s 2-2 scoreline was fair and deserved for Nigel Clough’s men.

Pompey were without Nathan Thompson, whose wife gave birth during the build-up to the visit of Burton.

That enforced change saw Anton Walkes come in at right-back for his first league start since the September 1 visit of Plymouth.

It represented the sole change to the side which defeated Fleetwood 1-0 on Saturday to extend the Blues’ lead at the top of table.

However, there was a formation switch, with Jackett retaining the 4-2-3-1 system which finished that match following an effective second half.

That meant Dion Donohue lining-up alongside Tom Naylor in the holding-midfield pairing, with Ben Thompson pushed up as part of the attacking three, flanked by Ronan Curtis and Jamal Lowe.

Elsewhere, Oli Hawkins retained his place up front following his matchwinner against the Cod Army, with Brett Pitman once again on the bench.

With Nathan Thompson missing from the squad, fit-again David Wheeler returned among the substitutes after three games out with an ankle injury.

When the game got underway, a lovely piece of composure from Donohue created space to feed Lee Brown down the left, but his cross was poor and cut out by the keeper.

The hosts won their first corner of the game on five minutes, amid appeals for a penalty after Thompson tumbled to the floor in the process.

Moments later another corner, delivered from Donohue down the right, was punched out by Dimitar Evtimov from under his own bar.

The pressure continued and Curtis cut inside from the left and fired a right-footed shot which the keeper fingertipped around the far post.

On eight minutes, in a rare foray forward, Hesketh's speculative shot from 25-yards flew well wide.

At the other end, Naylor superbly dispossessed Jamie Allen to feed Thompson, whose powerful right-footed effort from long range was beaten out by Evtimov.

The keeper then managed to claim the ball at the second attempt as Lowe closed down to capitalise.

Naylor was booked on 11 minutes following a foul on Stephen Quinn, earning him a one-match ban following five yellow cards for the season.

There was a scare for Jackett’s men on 22 minutes when a ball was threaded through to the left flank, where Will Miller had got the wrong side of Walkes.

However, the Burton player’s first-time shot lacked power and was comfortably gathered by Craig MacGillivray.

Pompey were forced into a substitution on 28 minutes when Donohue went down with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, to be replaced by Gareth Evans.

That prompted a reshuffle, with Thompson dropping back into a holding-midfield role and Evans occupying the number 10.

Following yet another corner from the right, this time delivered by Evans, Jack Whatmough hooked the ball with back to goal, with the keeper taking it high above his head.

The deadlock was broken on 36 minutes following excellent work from Thompson.

The Millwall loanee drove down the right and whipped in a cross which Hawkins nodded past the keeper from close range to make it 1-0.

At half time the Brewers introduced Devante Cole for Ben Fox to pep up their attack.

Instantly, Hesketh’s cross was blocked by Naylor and Liam Boyce’s shot was gathered by MacGillivray at the second attempt.

Then on 48 minutes the leveller arrived, Jamie Allen’s cross from the left was superbly turned home by Cole, who edged ahead of marker Brown to net into the far corner.

The visitors then took the lead four minutes later through a spectacular goal from Southampton’s Hesketh.

He carved his way through down the right, past several challenges, before crashing a right-footed shot high into the roof of the net from the angle.

Pompey responded positively, Thompson seeking to inspire, and the midfield planted a right-foot shot from outside the box past the post.

It was 2-2 on 57 minutes, Evans’ corner from the right headed home by Clarke with absolute simplicity in front of the Fratton end.

The contest was being played at breakneck speed and Lowe drove in a cross from the right which the outstretched boot of the flying Evans just couldn’t apply the finishing touch at the far post.

Jackett made his second substitution on 64 minutes, with goalscorer Hawkins replaced by Pitman.

Yet the winner would not arrive and the 2-2 scoreline had to be accepted by both sides.