Wycombe 2 Pompey 2: Jordan Cross’ match report

Adam Webster scores Pompey's equaliser Picture: Joe Pepler
Adam Webster scores Pompey's equaliser Picture: Joe Pepler
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The assessment was brutally honest, as ever.

‘We could have been 5-0 down in the first half,’ Paul Cook admitted, between the expletives.

‘If we were as good as our fans we’d be some side, though.’

Those fans were making their way from two sides of Adams Park talking in generally more upbeat tones than their manager was.

The League Two table may have told a tale of the day ending more negatively than it had started in terms of league position.

But those 1,967 pairs of royal blue eyes witnessed their team place another tick next to the list of characteristics needed for a promotion side.

The ones marked character and resilience.

The fact they needed to do that to eke out a point against a Wycombe side, who continue to go about their business in admirable fashion, was the concern for the Pompey boss.

A hallmark of the campaign has been Cook’s side failing to find an early foothold in games.

There has been signs of eradicating that failing in recent weeks, as the Blues aim to evolve into the full package needed to get out of a division which has tested qualities more than anyone could ever imagine.

Out of an indifferent opening at Adams Park, Gareth Ainsworth’s were allowed to gain the ascendancy, however, and cause as many problems as Pompey have faced this season.

The two defeats in 20 league games arrived with Exeter’s Paul Tisdale apologising for sacrificing his footballing principles and the away fans affording their team a standing ovation in the loss at Notts County.

Wycombe, though, attacked with the freedom Pompey are normally associated with.

The Chairboys’ quality in wide areas supplemented a strike-pairing in Garry Thompson and Paul Hayes with a combined age of 67.

The wily and gnarled duo gave the Blues back line as much as they could possibly handle – and more.

At times it was Tyson Fury v Wladimir Klitschko in reverse.

It was the elder statesmen bemusing and befuddling the young pretenders this time.

But the home side had the added advantage of their opponent knocking themselves to the canvas.

Brian Murphy continues to cast doubt on his suitability for the No1 spot with the kind of errors which could prove costly this season.

The Irishman’s duffed 28th-minute clearance led to Luke O’Nien’s initial effort being blocked, before Michael Harriman picked up the pieces and fired into an unguarded net.

Within three minutes, Pompey’s troubles had intensified with Harriman again the catalyst for their woes.

The goal was all about the QPR’s loanee’s delicious cross, which Thompson was allowed to feast on from the confines of the six-yard box.

Cook’s side were reeling and if the possession was there in spells, fluency and quality in the final third was conspicuous by its absence.

That changed in first-half stoppage time, as Christian Burgess proffered yet more evidence of what an asset it is to possess a ball-playing central defender.

The former Peterborough man will look at his part in Wycombe’s second goal, but, for not the first time in the opening 45 minutes, it was his pass which opened up the opposing back line.

Marc McNulty’s run was full of perfectly-timed nous, and, after advancing, the Scot showed the presence of mind to afford Caolan Lavery a tap-in.

The goal provided Pompey with a lift, but, judging by his mood afterwards, it didn’t save them from a half-time dressing down from their manager.

The response from his players, however, allowed him some comfort as Pompey grabbed the second half by the scruff of the neck.

Adam Webster had already had one penalty appeal waved away, and Thompson had chosen for a cheeky off-target chip instead of McNulty-esque squared pass to Hayes when put clear.

Webster, though, was then given the kind of space in Wycombe’s penalty he simply couldn’t pass up.

Whether that was of the result of some smart blocks from his team-mates wasn’t quite apparent. The defender wasn’t bothered about that, though, as he headed home his first goal of the season.

Wycombe still weren’t without their periods of pressure, but Gareth Evans’ introduction helped deliver another layer of intent to Pompey’s work on the front foot.

There is much to admire about Ainsworth, his philosophies and the way in which Wycombe continue to impress on a shoestring.

The game’s finalé showcased everything there is to applaud about Cook’s work, though.

His squad were punished with the most testing of pre-season programmes on the training pitch, in the sweatbox boxing gym and along Southsea seafront.

The benefits are now there for all to see. This Pompey team plays to the final whistle.

Or, as we now know is Cook’s mantra, they just keep going.

Gone is the long-established fear of the game’s closing stages, which has spanned the generations for the Blues faithful.

That was seen as Evans and then Kyle Bennett were denied, as an impetus emerged through the visitors’ desire and belief they could snare all three points from the encounter.

If referee Mark Haywood had spotted Aaron Pierre manhandle Burgess in the final throes of a pretty entertaining afternoon, that may well have been the case.

The moment passed with Haywood unmoved and Burgess indignant. The Pompey man appeared to have a point.

And you couldn’t argue with what his manager had to say in front of the cameras, dictaphones and microphones afterwards.

The draw is now Pompey’s 10th of the season. No team in English football have picked up more.

That, of course, is a cause for frustration. The old truism about it being better preferable to win one and lose one than collect two draws has now translated into a six-point gap to the promotion berths.

But there’s also credence to the view there are certain draws which can be reflected on as crucial in the final reckoning.

And coming from 2-0 down to collect a point on a wintry afternoon in Buckinghamshire may just be one of them.