Image courtesy of skysports.com
Image courtesy of skysports.com

On Saturday, Pompey traveled to High Wycombe in the hope of continuing from their 6-0 win against York City in midweek.  Their opponents, meanwhile, came into the game on the back of 1-0 away win against Yeovil Town on Tuesday.  Over the course of the season so far, Pompey’s away form has been somewhat better than their home form, with them picking up five league wins away from home compared to a miserly three on their own patch going into the Wycombe game.  However, the blues hadn’t won in their last two away games, with a draw against Carlisle and a loss against Wycombe coming in between their last away win against Newport County.  Pompey manager, Paul Cook, went for an one change from the Pompey lineup from the thrashing of York, deciding to stay with the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Caolan Lavery dropping in deep into midfield behind Marc McNulty, who scored a hattrick in midweek, while bringing back Adam McGurk for Gareth Evans.

In the early exchanges, Wycombe’s gameplan was clear; they were going to try and put Pompey on the back foot, even though most teams have taken a conservative approach when playing the Blues.  The opening exchanges mainly consisted of both teams scrapping for control of the midfield, with neither team being able to forge any clear cut chances.  The closest either team came was when Pompey failed to deal with a corner convincingly, leading to Danny Hollands having to head the ball over his own crossbar for another flag kick.  However, the deadlock was broken on 28 minutes when Brian Murphy came out of goal to sweep up a dangerous looking through ball, but failed to get enough height on his clearance kick.  The ball fell at the feet of Luke O’Nein, who fed the ball into Michael Harriman, who dispatched the ball into the empty net from 30 yards.  The goal signaled mutters from the traveling fans, as it was the second time this season that Murphy’s unsatisfactory kicking has gifted a goal to the opposition.  However, things then went form bad to worse for the visitors, when Gary Thompson was able to get between Burgess and Webster and poke home Harriman’s cross just two minutes after the first goal.  The second goal was almost followed by a third, as Harriman managed to break into the Pompey penalty area and fire a low shot towards the bottom corner, but Murphy got down well to save with his legs and pick up the loose ball.  Finally, that seemed to kick Pompey into action, and they twice went close through Kyle Bennett and Caolan Lavery, both of whom had shots blocked in the area.  But on the stroke of half time, Christian Burgess brought the ball forward from hos own half before playing an inch-perfect through ball to McNulty, who kept his composure before unselfishly squaring the ball to his strike partner, Lavery, who tapped the ball home to give the Blues a fighting chance.  That was the last attack of the half, and Pompey’s players ran back to the dressing room after a poor first half performance, but only one goal behind.

As the Pompey players came out after the break, fans saw that Adam Barton had come on for the disappointing Hollands at half time.  This time, it was Pompey who started the brighter, when Ben Davies chipped a free kick into the area, which narrowly misses the head of Burgess on its way across the box.  On 58 minutes, however, Pompey scored the equaliser.  Ben Davies took a corner from the right hand side towards the near post, where Webster managed to wriggle free of his marker and connect with a flying header towards goal.  Although Matt Ingram did well to get down to the ball, the header was too powerful for him and squirmed under his body and across the line.  The goal was the first time any of three centre halves used this season had scored , and it came at a vital time, giving Pompey half an hour to try and secure a win.  Wycombe almost regained the lead five minutes later, when Paul Hayes lost his marker from a corner but could only head straight at Murphy from six yards out.  Pompey then continued their attack on the Chairboys’ goal, when Adam McGurk did well to work his way into the penalty area and force a good save from Ingram.  Cook then replaced the hard working McGurk with Gareth Evans on 67 minutes to try and force the issue.  Evans twice came close to scoring, first when he failed to get anything on a corner at the far post, and then when he had a shot blocked on the line with a great bit of last-ditch defending by Aaron Pierre.  Bennett came close when he cut inside two defenders on the left before seeing his curling shot beaten clear by Ingram.  The Blues then has strong appeals for a penalty when Christian Burgess appeared to be hauled down in the area when trying to get on the end of another Davies corner.  The last chance of the game for Pompey came when Lavery won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area.  Davies curled it towards the top corner but was denied by the diving Ingram and the ball was cleared.  Towards the latter stages, the time wasting tactics to which Pompey had grown so familiar during the season made an appearance, with Wycombe seeming to shut up shop and settle for a home draw.  The introduction of Ben Tollitt for Bennett with five minutes left couldn’t create one last chance for the Blues, and the game ended as a 2-2 draw.

Although a draw away to last season’s play off finalists isn’t a bad result on paper, Pompey will be disappointed not to get the win considering the appalling first half preformance and the manour of Wycombe’s two goals.  However, Pompey can’t feel too aggreived, as the match statistics show that, although Pompey had vastly more possession, the Chairboys had more shots and shots on traget over the course of the game, so a draw probably a fair result.  In terms of individual performances, Lavery; McNulty; and Davies looked bright for Pompey, while Webster had a very good game after the early defensive mix up between him and Burgess leading to the second goal.  On the other hand, Danny Hollands and Brian Murphy were both very poor and, while Murphy managed to survive the game without being susbstituted, I think they would both struggle to retain thei starting spots if Paul Jones, Murphy’s understudy, wasn’t currently injured and not expected back for another month at least.  However poor the first half performance was for Pompey, the second half fight back was very commendable and Pompey teams from revious years would never have had the character to come back from two goals behind away to a strong Wycombe side.  I think this is evidence of the menatlity Paul cook has instilled upon his players, and in the end the 1,955 traveling supporters were able to go home with something to show from the game.  Pompey take a break from league action next week, as they welcome Accrington Stanley to Fratton Park in the Emirates FA Cup.  If Pompey can win that game, they will go into the hat alongside teams from all divisions of English football, ranging from teams like Manchester City to Salford City.  I’m sure the prospect of a dream cup draw will be in the minds of all the players as they train this week in preparation for Saturday, and I’m sure fans wouldn’t mind a return to Wembley either!

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