Rochdale 3 Pompey 3 – Neil Allen’s match report

Brett Pitman scores for Pompey at Rochdale. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com
Brett Pitman scores for Pompey at Rochdale. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com
Pompey celebrate after Rochdale concede an own goal to make the score 3-3. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Rochdale 3 Pompey 3: they said what?

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The left foot was unfurled to release a stunning volley and earn Pompey a point deep into stoppage time.

On the sixth anniversary of that remarkable David Norris entry into Fratton folklore, the goal-scoring technique differed considerably.

Nonetheless, Saturday’s outcome was a draw at the death, stampeding through increasing acceptance of an away defeat.

Matt Done’s comprehensive headed finish into his own net was a curious sight, with radar badly off-kilter it plundered an unlikely point for the visitors.

Having raised the bar so impressively against Wigan on Easter Monday, Kenny Jackett’s side trotted out an unrecognisable display at Rochdale.

Indeed, the League One relegation strugglers were the dominant force in the encounter, three times taking the lead against the Blues – and deservedly so.

Ultimately, Pompey would claim a stake in the 3-3 draw, having mustered just the two shots on target all match.

An improbable statistic, yet Done’s assistance was pivotal, both in implementation and timing as Jackett’s men scrambled a point to maintain their encouraging play-off momentum.

Certainly Done’s April 7 intervention will never be celebrated in Fratton circles with as much dynamism as Norris’ wondrous St Mary’s strike from 2012.

But at least it eclipses the ghastly spectre of Richie Barker, which has been associated with Spotland since the Blues’ previous visit.

And Done’s generous defending also positions Pompey a delectable one point off fifth place with five matches of the campaign remaining.

Jackett’s men warranted absolutely nothing from the fixture – yet instead inched a step closer towards the 75-point mark the manager is convinced can secure a play-off prize.

It represented only a fifth draw of the campaign, with rarely such a point so unjustly earned on the field of play. Not that the Blues will care.

Their character, mental strength and Brett Pitman’s potency shone through and should be applauded having three times fought back to collect a draw rather than accept defeat.

Pitman, of course, attempted to claim Done’s contribution as his own, a hat-trick goal in a campaign which has seen him smash the 20-goal barrier.

After all, his looping header initiated the late confusion which prompted the Dale’s experienced midfielder to power home from close range at the far post in the ensuring panic to clear.

Yet there was no mistaking the culprit marooned among the goal netting, while Pompey’s players swarmed around their leading scorer toasting the unlikely gift.

It looks like Pitman will have to settle for the double which takes his outstanding season return to 22 at present.

That is seven times now the striker has struck twice in a Blues match, including two on the opening day of the season against the Dale on his debut in a Fratton Park win.

On this occasion, his contribution was to ensure his off-colour team-mates remained in a game during which they were second best for long spells.

Admittedly, Gareth Evans struck the crossbar in a stunning first-time right-footed shot during the first half with the scores level at 1-1.

Yet it was clearly a case of a point earned rather than two slipping from the grasp considering the context it arrived in and the general performance levels from the hosts.

Rochdale will rightly feel aggrieved, yet must also consider their own deficiencies to three times fail to retain the lead against a team struggling to create, particularly in the second half.

Victory would have lifted Keith Hill’s men out of the relegation zone during a late surge which has seen them suffer one defeat in the last nine fixtures.

They may have been thwarted on Saturday, yet the hosts did more than suggest they possess the spirit and ability to clamber clear before the season’s final whistle.

As for Pompey, that is now 13 points from a possible 15 since the talismanic Pitman returned to the side, subsequently bolstered by the availability of Gareth Evans and Nathan Thompson.

At Spotland, Jackett even called upon Stuart O’Keefe and Oli Hawkins from the bench for the first time since injury, both involved aerially during that last-gasp leveller finished by Done.

O’Keefe in particular may have a crucial role to play in the run-in following an absence stretching back to December, with Anton Walkes pulling up seemingly with a hamstring problem during stoppage time.

The Blues boss had opted to make one change to the team which performed so admirably against promotion contenders Wigan following Dion Donohue’s availability.

The left-back was absent from that 2-1 victory to attend the birth of his son, Mason, and replaced by Brandon Haunstrup on the occasion.

It represented an instant recall for Donohue at Spotland, who has emerged as such a key performer for the Blues since the turn of the year.

Elsewhere, there was no room for Conor Chaplin on the bench for the second time in three fixtures, an omission that was always going to draw attention.

When the match got underway, the lively Brad Inman handed Rochdale a 13th-minute lead when he cut in from the left and drilled a right-footed finish into the far corner of the net.

However, Pompey levelled on 26 minutes with a superbly well-worked goal involving Pitman and Jamal Lowe.

The Blues’ skipper managed to retain possession on the halfway line despite slipping under a challenge from centre-half Harrison McGahey.

He fed Lowe down the left, who surged into the penalty area only to lose his footing, then regained his feet to squeeze a cross to the far post which was finished right-footed by Pitman.

The hosts regained their lead on 57 minutes when the overlapping Done pulled the ball back for Stephen Humphreys to calmly curl a lovely right-footed effort into the far corner.

It was an advantage which lasted five minutes as Matt Clarke planted a header from the right into the Dale penalty area and Pitman steered a right-footed volley into the far corner.

Then Hill’s side claimed what they believed was finally the matchwinner, a cross from the left headed back from Calvin Andrew and finished at close range by Ian Henderson.

Pompey’s previous visit four years ago signified Richie Barker’s final match during a disastrous reign.

On David Norris Day, Spotland introduced Matt Done into the memory banks.