Skipper delighted as Blues pass test of character

David Norris shoots for goal.  Picture: Steve Reid (112755-791)
David Norris shoots for goal. Picture: Steve Reid (112755-791)
Pompey striker Conor Chaplin struggles to hide his disappointment

Southend 3-1 Pompey: They said what?

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David Norris saluted Pompey’s never-say-day qualities after leading them to a dramatic Riverside point.

The summer signing was made skipper on his Blues debut after Liam Lawrence had been ruled out with a hamstring problem.

He marked the grand occasion by producing an outstanding display in the heart of the midfield against Middlesbrough.

Twice Steve Cotterill’s men fell behind – and twice they battled back to level.

Norris himself scored the first equaliser with a stunning 47th-minute strike before fellow new-boy Varney netted with a last-gasp strike.

It was a deserved point for the Blues, whose character and fighting qualities shone throughout the rain-affected fixture.

And Norris was delighted with the heart and spirit his new team-mates showed in their Championship opener.

He said: ‘We started the better side then went behind.

‘They had a few chances – we had a few chances. It was an open game in parts and I think overall a draw was the fair result

‘The big positive we can take out of it, though, was our character.

‘Sure we went behind but in another way we didn’t capitulate after that.

‘We conceded one, rode a bit of a storm and came back strong rather than conceding one then two.

‘At least we stayed strong after that and came back into the game.

‘Overall we might be disappointed with the way we played, Middlesbrough were there for the taking and we definitely will be playing better than that for the remainder of the season.

‘But from being behind twice to keep on going until the last minute does show a lot of character and I think that is a decent positive we can take from that.

‘We felt in the last 15 minutes we were still strong. I think our fitness was pretty good and we just said “keep going, keep going, we’ll get another chance”.

‘Luckily it fell to Luke, who finished it well.’

The last time Pompey avoided defeat in an opening-day fixture was in the 2007-08 campaign.

Debutant John Utaka netted that day in a 2-2 draw at Derby, along with Benjani Mwaruwari.

Since then there have been curtain-raising defeats against Chelsea, Fulham and Coventry.

It came so close to Middlesbrough making it four losses on the run – until Varney intervened.

Regardless, Norris believes there is plenty of room for Pompey improvement during the rest of the season.

He added: ‘I think at times we are a bit too slow, we slowed the game down a bit too much.

‘I think maybe as a team we were a bit laboured at times.

‘We’ve got the fitness and the energy to keep going and maybe should be a bit more direct and penetrate a bit more quickly to open up teams.

‘If we run forward at teams and get our full-backs forward we will be fine.

‘We did start well and had a couple of decent chances and were in control of the game, that is when you need to score and then take the game on.’