Accrington 1 Portsmouth 1 – Neil Allen’s match report

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The alterations were evident amid the ice-tipped Lancastrian winds.

The newly-constructed Eric Whalley Stand basked in sunshine to provide a warm welcome to those Fratton followers allocated half of its capacity.

Craig MacGillivray saves Billy Kee's first-half penalty in Saturday's 1-1 draw. Picture: Joe Pepler

Craig MacGillivray saves Billy Kee's first-half penalty in Saturday's 1-1 draw. Picture: Joe Pepler

Elsewhere the grand LED scoreboard, principally funded by supporters, occupied the top corner of the Crown Ground, adjacent to an uncovered away end.

There have been plenty of positive developments to the home of Accrington Stanley since Pompey’s previous visit a shade more than two years ago.

Yet one thing unchanged is the Blues’ inability to mark their semi-regular visits with victory.

Saturday’s 1-1 draw ensures Pompey have never triumphed in a Saturday Football League match at Accrington, a four-game winless run stretching back to August 2013’s maiden clash.

There was, of course, the Michael Doyle-inspired 3-1 outcome – yet that memorable event occurred on a Tuesday evening. Incidentally, it arrived in a campaign which culminated in play-off defeat.

History decrees a venue which has produced very little joy for the Blues during both clubs’ recent league proximity, with Saturday’s result emphasising the frustrating statistic.

Kenny Jackett’s side could have won the encounter, although they subsequently may have tumbled to defeat. As it was, a point was reaped, a consequence which could yet prove far more palatable than those other previous fixtures to have failed to yield victory.

The Blues’ boss immediately afterwards would not be drawn upon the encouraging currency of a point at a side positioned fourth in the table before kick-off.

Instead there was obvious disappointment at failure to take goal-scoring openings and the leaking of a leveller just two minutes after Oli Hawkins had generated a hard-earned lead, netting in his third-successive match.

Nonetheless, once reflection is permitted and emotion removed, that point represents a worthy pay off from a ground which has allowed little joy over the years for many clubs, not solely Pompey.

Even this team which has established the best away start to a season in the Blues’ Football League history couldn’t eke out a win at the troublesome Crown Ground.

Yet there remains the nagging feeling that it should have been more.

Pompey had opportunities to do so, no question about that, Jackett’s troops could have generated an unassailable lead within the opening 30 minutes, such was their rampant attacking play.

Overall, Ronan Curtis struck the woodwork twice, foiled in each half, while Accrington keeper Connor Ripley made some crucial saves upon his return from a three-match ban.

However, while Pompey have developed an admirable knack for not losing games, they also have created a habit for failing to finish off wounded opposition, particularly when in a position of dominance.

It is becoming an irritable trait of late, also occurring in the last week during the 2-2 draw with Burton at Fratton Park.

The visitors’ inability to capitalise amid their finest spell of the match against Accrington laid the foundations for the spoils being shared. When the home side inevitably roared back, those wasted opportunities became even more glaring.

Mind you, John Coleman’s side missed a penalty during their own purple patch towards the end of the first half, an golden chance they will also rue.

Craig MacGillivray had spilled Sean McConville’s corner from the right on 32 minutes and, in his desperation to make amends, produced a slide tackle which went through Billy Kee in attempts to make contact with the ball.

Certainly no argument with the awarding of the spot kick, although the Scottish keeper spared his own blushes by subsequently flinging himself to his right to beat out Kee’s penalty.

Despite that let-off, Pompey were never quite the same again, although continued to carve out chances during a more balanced second half.

Still, Jackett’s team did break the deadlock on 62 minutes when Curtis won a free-kick down the left as his feud with right-back Callum Johnson continued.

The Accrington man had earlier claimed a punch in his face delivered by the Irishman and certainly it appeared he had argument. When referee Stephen Martin rejected his pleas, the niggles cranked up.

With Curtis moments later winning a foul, Gareth Evans, one of four recalled players, delivered the dead ball, with Hawkins snaking out a leg among a number of bodies to steer the cross past Ripley for the opener.

The breakthrough at last for the visitors – albeit lasting a mere two minutes.

On 64 minutes, McConville’s free-kick arrived from the right and central defender Michael Ihiekwe was allowed a free far-post header which bounced past MacGillivray and into the far corner.

Agony for the Blues, who had rejigged their defence following that costly burst of two goals in four minutes against Burton days earlier.

Nathan Thompson was restored at right-back in place of Anton Walkes after attending the birth of his son, while Christian Burgess was handed a recall in a surprise selection decision.

Pompey’s boss later explained his concerns over Jack Whatmough featuring three times in a week considering his historic injury record, opting to rest the youngster, instead putting him on the bench.

Elsewhere in the side, Evans came in for the injured Dion Donohoe, while Ben Close was preferred to the suspended Tom Naylor. That meant Ben Thompson dropping back from an attacking role to partner Close as a holding midfielder.

Jackett’s much-altered side started so impressively, Ripley saving from Jamal Lowe twice, Evans and Curtis within the frenetic opening 20 minutes, while Curtis headed a Lowe right-wing cross against the far post.

During the second half, Curtis would crash a right-foot half-volley against the top of the bar following an Evans right-wing corner.

There was, however, to be no winner for either side as the match settled for a 1-1 scoreline.

A familiar lack of victory for the Blues at the Crown Ground, the outcome cutting their lead at the top of League One down to two points.

Some things never change, it seems.

Read more… Pompey player ratings