South Coast Opener Ends In Draw
Portsmouth 1 AFC Bournemouth 1
Eleven new players took to the Fratton Park turf yesterday and earned an encouraging 1-1 draw with Bournemouth.
It was an entertaining match, especially in the first half when Pompey really put the pressure on their south coast opposition.
But it was Bournemouth who had the first big chance of the game when they hit the Blues on the break and with a few quick passes, Wes Thomas was put through on goal but his strike hit the post.
Michael Appleton's men wouldn't let that stop them piling forward at every opportunity as they dominated proceedings afterwards. However, they took the lead in somewhat fortunate circumstances.
Izale McLeod thought he'd try his luck with a speculative shot from far out and couldn't believe it when the ball crept under the legs of Shwan Jalal when the Cherries keeper looked to have stopped it.
That sent a packed Fratton Park into raptures and McLeod should have taken advantage of Jalal's poor handling again after he fumbled Luke Rodgers' cross from the right, only for the former Barnet man to blaze over.
Jalal had been busy throughout the whole first half but Bournemouth did show some fight at the end of it by causing a goalmouth scramble that eventually saw the ball hacked away when it could have easily found the back of the net.
Bournemouth's ascendancy at the end of the first half was a sign of things to come in the second as the Cherries took control of the game, but not before Rodgers sent McLeod through on goal only for his lob to be saved by Jalal.
That would be the best chance for a Pompey side beginning to tire in the sweltering heat and Paul Groves' men missed a couple of free headers before Lewis Grabban did his best impression of Nigel Quashie by blazing the ball high into the Fratton End when he should have scored.
Mikkel Andersen then showed Pompey fans what he could do with an acrobatic save to tip Grabban's deflected shot over the bar as an equaliser seemed to be inevitable.
And it came just twelve minutes from time when Lee Barnard, on loan from Southampton, headed in Simon Francis' cross with nobody picking him up.
You might have expected Bournemouth to go on and win the match but Pompey were closest to stealing all three points when substitute Ashley Harris curled a shot that hit the post late on.
That was the last meaningful action of a good game of football and a satisfactory result for Pompey considering the entire team had been put together so quickly, with Andersen, Paul Connolly, Lee Williamson and Kevin Long not played with the club during pre-season.
Personally, I was very happy to see such an atmosphere created by the Pompey fans when just a few days ago there was talk of protests and boycotts.
It was good to finally talk about football again and assess the performances of all eleven debutantes as well as Connor Clifford, who came on as a substitute.
So, what have we learned about our brand new team?
Andersen looks to be agile and one of those goalkeepers who will berate his defenders for making the smallest of mistakes. He got fairly animated yesterday when defenders were dealing with balls that he could have claimed himself.
Kevin Long seems to like a challenge and he was the outstanding player in the back four that seemed to struggle every time Bournemouth hit Pompey on the break.
The full backs, Dumbuya in particular, like to get forward and the former Doncaster man has plenty of pace to go past players. On the other hand, Harley is slower but technically better. It's difficult to judge Paul Connolly given that he is a full back who had to play in the centre.
I was very impressed with Lee Williamson who ran the midfield. He can pass and his strength meant that he rarely lost the ball yesterday. Apparently he will also score plenty from midfield and should be an asset to the team.
Brian Howard also pulled the strings in midfield as expected from a player of his quality, whilst Jack Compton gave Bournemouth's left side a torrid time during the first half.
On the other flank we didn't see much of Keiran Djilali and so we will hope to see better from him in the coming weeks. The same could be said for Clifford when he replaced Williamson in the second half but didn't really make an impact.
The front two played well as Rodgers really put himself about and created opportunities for others, McLeod might frustrate as he looks like a player who will miss easier chances having done the hard work, but he should still hit double figures this season.
Michael Appleton says there is more to come from this team and it'll be very interesting to see who else he brings in. Liam Walker should be available for Tuesday's game once his international clearance is granted whilst Josh Thompson should join on loan from Celtic.
And who knows who else will be joining the club during the week? It has certainly got Pompey fans talking about football for once, rather than all the off-field problems which still threaten the club's existence.
If they can be resolved, we might have reason to be optimistic after a performance full of heart yesterday to begin the league campaign.
Pompey Player Ratings
Mikkel Andersen: 6 - One excellent save but didn't have much to do.
Mustapha Dumbuya: 6 - Got forward well but left defence exposed.
Kevin Long: 7 - Some crucial challenges.
Paul Connolly: 6 - Looked a bit out of place.
Jon Harley: 6 - Good technically but looks like he can be got at.
Jack Compton: 7 - Posed plenty of problems for Bournemouth in the first half, faded in the second.
Lee Williamson: 8 - Very impressive, ran the midfield and the team suffered when he went off.
Brian Howard: 7 - Kept things ticking.
Keiran Djilali: 6 - Hope to see better from him.
Luke Rodgers: 7 - A constant nuisance, worked extremely hard.
Izale McLeod: 6 - Fortunate goal and probably should have had more.
Adam Webster (Djilali 89): N/A - Short cameo.
Ashley Harris (Compton 82): N/A - Very nearly won it.
Connor Clifford (Williamson 62): 6 - Need to see more from him.
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