Yet still the Blues drew a blank, this time at AFC Wimbledon, as once again their crucial weaknesses were only too obvious.
Not even an instant debut for Tyler Walker, unveiled hours earlier on loan from Coventry, could provide the cutting edge at Plough Lane in a goalless draw
Admittedly it was a quiet opening for the striker, although, in mitigation, both he and partner George Hirst had little decent service to play off.
Clearly the goal-scoring malaise not merely rested on the shoulders of Marquis – nor should it be down to purely Walker to rescue Pompey.
It runs much deeper than that as Pompey turned in a poor display during which Mahlon Romeo came closest to scoring with a 30-yard attempt 15 minutes from time.
Like MK Dons, the second half was an improvement, with Dons keeper Nik Tzanev also pushing out Sean Raggett’s header and denying substitute Ronan Curtis.
Yet still he wasn’t tested nearly enough in a match the Blues did not deserve to win.
Watching Cowley’s men was frustrating, a side which only truly rallied in the match’s final moments having been flat for most of the minutes before it.
Still at least Hayden Carter, another debutant, was a shining presence, producing an assured and classy display on the right-hand side of the back three.
Not that the Blues have issues defensively, with their sixth clean sheet in the last seven League One games.
It’s further upfield where the issue clearly lies.
Cowley made four changes to the side which lost 2-1 to MK Dons at the weekend, with Carter and Walker among them.
Blackburn loanee Carter was named on the right-hand side of a back three containing Sean Raggett and Connor Ogilvie.
While Walker was handed attacking duties alongside George Hirst and Marcus Harness in a strong-looking front three.
There were also recalls for Lee Brown, who slotted in at left wing-back, and central midfielder Louis Thompson.
Making way were Reeco Hackett, who wasn’t in the squad, Kieron Freeman, Shaun Williams and Ronan Curtis.
Elsewhere, Ryan Tunnicliffe was included on the bench, making a League One squad for the first time since October.
Pompey’s squad, of course, was missing John Marquis who earlier in the day was unveiled as a Lincoln player after departing Fratton Park for an undisclosed fee.
Wimbledon got the game underway and earned a corner after 32 seconds when Thompson blocked a delivery from the left.
Firstly Raggett won an important header and then, when the ball came back into the box, Thompson cleared.
Moments later, Gavin Bazunu had to produce a point-blank save to thwart Luke McCormick from just outside the six-yard box.
The Irishman pushed the ball out to his right, with Carter mopping up to clear, preventing any Wimbledon player from following up into an empty net.
On 14 minutes, Walker showed his pace to get to a ball that Will Nightingale was shadowing off for a goal kick, keeping it in play and winning a Blues throw-in in the process.
Harness was the first player to be booked when, on 19 minutes, he kicked out at George Marsh in retaliation following an earlier foul on him by the Wombles man.
A sloppy pass back to Raggett by Romeo was intercepted by Ollie Palmer and he surged with menace at a backpedalling defence.
The striker then squared it to McCormick, but his right-footed shot from outside the box bounced wide, with Bazunu in full control of the situation.
In the 27th minute, McCormack’s corner from the left was headed back by Palmer at the far post, sparking a scramble which was eventually hooked from close to the goal line by Connor Ogilvie.
Pompey enjoyed their best moment of the game so far when, on 38 minutes, Romeo’s cross from the right was met by a Brown angled header at the far post.
The attempt was on target, with defender Dan Csoka instinctively lifting the goal-bound effort wide for a Blues corner.
As a dull first half approached the end, the visitors won a free-kick down the right, which was delivered by Brown, yet it was headed clear by the first man.
With three minutes of time added-on, how Cowley must have wished for the interval to somehow inject some life into his flat team.
The second half began with Walker sending in an attempt on goal which Nik Tzanev saved low down at his near post, with the clock reading nine seconds.
Pompey had appeals for a penalty waved away when Hirst attempted to come back across Csoka and was grounded, with Cheye Alexander mopping up.
At the other end, a superbly-timed sliding block from Carter on 59 minute prevented McCormick’s angled shot from threatening Bazunu, instead deflected for a corner.
However, there was now much-needed urgency about Pompey’s play following the interval as they attempted to find a way of winning this match.
On 63 minutes, Romeo pushed up down the right and unleashed a low right-footed shot which flashed past the far post.
Wimbledon made the first substitution of the game on 64 minutes, replacing Dapo Mebude with Ayoub Assal.
Pompey followed by introducing Curtis for Hirst in the 67th minute, pushing him up alongside Walker, with Williams for Thompson shortly afterwards.
Cowley’s men came the closest yet to scoring on 75 minutes, when Morrell squared the ball to Romeo following a corner and the full-back let fly from 30-yards with a fierce right-footed shot which struck the bar.
Moments later, Harness fed the ball inside the box to Curtis and his angled snapshot was beaten out by Tzanev at his near post.
Then Williams’ corner from the left was met with a Raggett header which was superbly pushed out by the flying Wimbledon keeper.
Walker’s debut was brought to a close on 80 minutes when he was replaced by Michael Jacobs.
Yet Jacobs was unable to inspire and the match finished in a goalless draw, display a strong – yet ultimately unsuccessful – late attacking challenge.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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