Portsmouth 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0: Neil Allen's verdict - Frustrating and disappointing, yet bravo Blues for impressive Fratton display
Danny Cowley has often voiced his desire to provide a performance to lift the Fratton faithful, particularly in light of some fitful home form.
Well, the display was unquestionably there against Sheffield Wednesday, one of the best of the campaign even.
Yet a wave of disappointment cascaded from the stands as the final whistle signalled a goalless draw with the Owls.
The Blues deserved victory, they warranted a fifth straight triumph in League One. As it was, frustration greeted the eventual outcome.
The inspirational Bailey Peacock-Farrell, a goalkeeper on loan from Burnley, was comfortably the star performer on the night, for either side.
Certainly he kept Cowley’s men at bay with a string of excellent saves and looks one to watch for the future.
Still, Pompey have themselves to blame also, having failed to capitalise with the Owls forced to see out the final 22 minutes with 10 men following Massimo Luongo’s dismissal.
If anything, Peacock-Farrell was not put under enough pressure, ensuring a point didn’t quite feel good enough.
Nonetheless, it was a fine performance from the Blues, who produced excellent flowing football at times, with chances at the end of several slick moves.
But the decisive moment in goal just wouldn’t arrive - and it will be the Owls unquestionably more delighted with the 0-0 result.
It had actually taken a pitch inspection just before 6.30pm to allow the fixture to go ahead after the south coast had been struck by Storm Barra.
And while the match was enjoyable and showcased some impressive Pompey moments, the finishing touch was sadly lacking.
That was despite the return of George Hirst, who recovered from illness to return to Pompey’s side against the club where he started his career.
But fellow sickness bug victim Joe Morrell continues to miss out as Danny Cowley made two changes to the team which lost to Harrogate Town in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Hirst – the son of Owls legend David – joined Ronan Curtis in being recalled to the Blues starting XI.
That meant Ellis Harrison returning to the bench, while Michael Jacobs was missing from the entire 18-man squad.
Considering the youthful make-up of the home substitutes, presumably the winger’s absence was enforced.
Among Cowley’s seven-man bench were Academy trio Harry Jewitt-White, Harvey Hughes and Dan Gifford, plus Norwich loanee Gassan Ahadme.
It reflects ongoing injury problems, with Louis Thompson recently joining Ryan Tunnicliffe, Clark Robertson, Jayden Reid, Paul Downing, Liam Vincent, and, of course, the ill Morrell.
When the match got underway, Mahlon Romeo won a foul on the right within the first two minutes.
That was delivered by Shaun Williams, yet taken superbly in the air by Bailey Peacock-Farrell under pressure.
On four minutes, Callum Paterson received the game’s first booking after pulling back Hirst when the striker had cleverly turned him and attempted to sprint clear.
The Blues then won the game’s first corner, delivered from the left by Williams, but that came to nothing.
It was certainly a bright start from the hosts and, on seven minutes, Hirst surged down the right and intelligently pulled the ball back to Curtis.
However, from inside the box, the Irishman’s first-time right-footed shot flew comfortably over the bar.
In the 11th minute, Hirst had a shout for a penalty following a challenge by Liam Palmer, but the referee wasn’t interested.
The striker then launched a Pompey attack by surging from the halfway line, before surrendering possession after falling to the floor outside the box.
At the other end, Marcus Harness’ pass out of defence was intercepted, but Jack Hunt’s cross from the right was too close to Gavin Bazunu, who dived forward to gather.
The Blues had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock on 25 minute after Harness slipped Hirst through.
The loanee had just Peacock-Farrell to beat, yet his left-footed shot was straight at the keeper and ricocheted clear, much to the hosts’ frustration.
Although undoubtedly the better side in the match at this point, crucially Cowley’s men had not capped their dominance with a deserved goal.
There was a scare for the Blues when Fisayo Dele-Bashiru fizzed a swerving shot over the bar which, briefly, appeared as though it was heading into the top corner.
Pompey were playing some impressive football at times yet, on the latest occasion, unfortunately Harness badly overhit a cross from the right.
The Owls earned a corner down their right on 39 minutes, which was taken by Barry Bannan, with Bazunu struggling to punch out his curling delivery.
The keeper, by now grounded, then managed to deflect the ball over the bar with his shin to thwart a Wednesday effort.
It was then time for Peacock-Farrrell to play his part, brilliantly finger-tipping away Curtis’ right-footed curling shot after Hirst’s lay-off.
There were no changes at the break and, minutes into the second half, Reeco Hackett’s left-wing cross was headed down by Hirst towards Harness.
However, the attacker couldn’t quite collect the ball about six-yards out and a promising situation had ended.
On 50 minutes, Hackett was booked following a foul on Hunt down the left.
Hackett’s next involvement was a fierce 25-yard shot which Peacock-Farrell somehow managed to tip over when it appeared to be arrowing towards the net.
Peacock-Farrell again came to the visitors’ rescue on 66 minutes, this time thwarting Curtis’ far-post header following Harness’ cross from the right.
A potentially pivotal moment arrived on 68 minutes when Luongo was dismissed for the Owls.
The midfielder had been harried and pressured in possession and, when he subsequently lost the ball, he lunged in on Curtis, catching him on the ankle.
There could be few complaints with his red card - and the visitors were down to 10 men.
On 76 minutes, Williams’ corner from the right eventually fell to Romeo on the edge of the box and his shot was blocked, before Raggett’s follow-up flew wide.
Pompey made their first substitution on 84 minutes, with Hirst replaced by Harrison, much to the derision of the travelling fans.
The fourth official indicated six minutes of time added on, coinciding with a scramble inside the Owls’ penalty area, with bodies thrown around to block shots.
Still the Blues poured forward for the winner and Kieron Freeman let fly from outside the box with a right-footed attempt which flew just wide of the far post.
It would be the last meaningful effort and Pompey claimed a point – albeit will be disappointed there weren’t three.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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