Blackpool 1 Portsmouth 1: Neil Allen's verdict - A point to be applauded rather than condemned as stuttering start continues

The penthouse suite located in the upper corner of Bloomfield Road stands uninhabited.

Sunday, 1st September 2019, 12:10 am
Updated Sunday, 1st September 2019, 7:43 pm
Pompey's 1,816 travelling support celebrate Marcus Harness' opener in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Blackpool. Picture: Paul Thompson/ProSportsImages

Vacant since its tenant Owen Oyston initiated an early-morning flit, accompanied by suitcase and apparent open-ended flight ticket for Spain.

Whispers disclose an interior untouched since his departure, rooms frozen in time, like Miss Havisham’s wedding cake awaiting its groom.

Yet Blackpool have moved on, the reviled figurehead removed and fresh ownership installed to rejuvenate a club sunk to its knees by terminal illness.

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Belief reborn, supporter boycott over and atmosphere resurrected, a healthy crowd of 10,605 were present for Pompey’s visit on Saturday.

Meanwhile, on the pitch, Simon Grayson’s revitalised side had rattled off three victories and two draws to reside in second spot during the season’s infancy.

Considering such sanguine circumstances, a Blues point should be valued highly. Hard-earned, nonetheless welcome – and thoroughly deserved.

Not by all, it seems, one particularly disgruntled fan pouncing on Pompey’s Twitter account to comment ‘I’m now asking myself will we stay up’.

While supporters would have been reticent to declare their side promoted following last season’s August sprint start, similarly it is also unrealistic to scream defeat in such aspirations at the same stage this term.

Clearly Kenny Jackett has lost the support of some, their opinions on his suitability becoming entrenched.

Yet, putting aside their differences, it should be acknowledged that the 1-1 Bloomfield Road scoreline was a mighty fine one for a Pompey side still searching for rhythm.

The encounter was a tough early-season task for this evolving Jackett team, who had to dig in to overcome challenging periods in each half.

The visitors, roared on by a 1,816 away following, even claimed the lead – and 20 minutes from time John Marquis should have snatched the winner.

The achievement of a point at the home of the in-form Seasiders should not be underestimated, though. Neither does it deserve to be used as a Mr Punch stick to crack over Jackett’s head.

Like it or not, the result and gutsy manner in which it was accomplished represents a reason to be positive.

A return of five points from five League One games is a concern – yet, in isolation, a point at this Blackpool side, at this moment in time, should be applauded.

Following the expiry of August, Pompey have now ticked off Sunderland and Blackpool, certainly two of the toughest away-days they can anticipate this season.

Granted, they took the lead in both games, with just a solitary point to show, but that is no disgrace, irrespective of not unreasonable demands for automatic promotion during Jackett’s third Fratton Park campaign.

Those present will testify the immense effort and resilience demonstrated by the visitors in a tight contest lacking free-flowing football.

Had the Blues not been so cruelly deprived of the outstanding talents of Harness after just 40 minutes, there may even have been an away triumph.

Certainly they were not as effective in attacking scenarios once the winger departed with a thigh problem – and how Blackpool must have rejoiced his untimely substitution.

In the former Burton man, Marquis and Ross McCrorie, it is already strikingly obvious they possesses three players of significant upgrades on last year’s squad.

Don’t write off the others either, with James Bolton and Ryan Williams soon to return from injury, while Paul Downing and Ellis Harrison have already shown encouraging moments.

No doubt about it, Jackett is still striving for his best team, with Christian Burgess and Tom Naylor presently operating in roles unfamiliar to Pompey followers.

Ronan Curtis, for all his admirable effort and never-say-die approach, is badly lacking form, without genuine competition to pressure him, albeit a rival that’s fit.

The team has still to establish a fluency, too often disjointed, reliant on bursts of positive play rather than settled periods of domination. Nothing has quite clicked.

Yet, aside from the late capitulation against Coventry, overall performances have not of been a low standard.

Upon reflection, Shrewsbury’s winner was their sole shot on target, the most comfortable Pompey have been against an 11-man Sunderland in recent times was undone by two moments of poor defending, and there were two Carabao Cup wins against Championship clubs.

Then there was a highly-credible point at the home of a Blackpool side so impressive during the early stages of the campaign.

Can do better, unquestionably, but there is no crisis just yet, despite the social media shouting.

And with incoming returns from injury for likely first-team regulars Lee Brown, James Bolton and Ryan Williams, there is the propensity to build on this solid foundation.

Jackett had opted for one change to the side which conquered QPR 2-0 at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Wednesday evening.

The industrious Andy Cannon came in to replace Gareth Evans in a central attacking midfield role.

That ensured Burgess remaining at right-back, a decision which impacts upon the team’s balance, nonetheless the 27-year-old can certainly defend, and was man of the match at Bloomfield Road.

After a tough opening examination, Pompey took the lead on 17 minutes through Harness.

Former target Curtis Tilt stumbled on the ball and Marquis pounced to break into the box, the ball then falling to Harness, who lofted a left-footed shot high into the net.

The winger was a constant threat, yet had to be substituted on 40 minutes through a thigh strain, with Evans introduced off the bench.

Blackpool’s leveller arrived on 58 minutes, Liam Feeney’s wonderful cross from the right emphatically headed home by leading scorer Armand Gnanduillet.

The Blues were now wobbling, Jackett bringing on Ellis Harrison for Evans after only 25 minutes as a substitute in a tactical change.

Then, on 70 minutes, Marquis had a golden opportunity to win it for the visitors.

Curtis cut in from the left to tee the ball up for Cannon and, when his shot fell helpfully to his team-mate, Marquis’ low left-foot shot was beaten out by keeper Jak Alnwick.

Crucially, the attempt wasn’t a clean strike, and represented an excellent chance to regain Pompey’s lead.

So, a point it was for Pompey and, considering the circumstances, one to be appreciated – rather than condemned.