Nuge Pegs Back Pompey

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 27 November 2011

David Nugent predictably scored on his return to Fratton Park as Pompey earned a creditable 1-1 draw with Leicester City.

Michael Appleton decided to start Joe Mattock and George Thorne with Tal Ben-Haim dropping to the bench and Luke Varney out with a hamstring problem.

This saw the side line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Mullins and Thorne doing the holding job in midfield which meant Dave Kitson had to play the match as a lone frontman.

The first half was an extremely poor affair with both sides guilty of giving the ball away. Norris struck a free kick that saw Kasper Schmeichel save whilst earlier in the match Lee Peltier hit the side netting after being allowed to run into the box.

Nugent was quiet and failed to turn in Lloyd Dyer's cross from close range as the home fans gave him some banter. Unfortunately that was the highlight of a frustratingly bad first 45 minutes.

Thankfully, the second half was a much better affair and Pompey went straight on the attack. Dave Kitson should have gave the hosts the lead when Norris crossed or him to head home from point blank range but Schmeichel produced an outstanding save to deny him.

Leicester then took advantage of some tentative Pompey defending with Dyer testing Henderson and Matt Mills firing just wide of the far post. But Schmeichel was called into action again as he saved Thorne's shot whilst another Kitson header as blocked on the line.

What was drab game had sprung into end-to-end action and it was only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken. It was going to take something special or a big stroke of luck to beat Schmeichel but Norris's strike took a big deflection past him to give Pompey the lead.

The advantage didn't last long and it wasn't a surprise to see who equalised for the Foxes. Nugent was allowed to run at the defence and strike the ball into the bottom corner of the net from outside the box.

True to his word he didn't celebrate, but to score a goal like that after doing nothing during the rest of the game summed up his time with us in the Championship last season.

Pompey didn't let the equaliser phase them as Norris hid the post with a thunderous drive straight from the restart with man-of-the-match Schmeichel getting back to stop Joel Ward scoring the rebound.

Both sides continued to attack late into the game with the visitors looking more likely to find a late winner, but the final whistle ended a decent half of football with both teams seemingly content with a point.

A draw was certainly a fair result although Nigel Pearson will be recommending a performance bonus for his goalkeeper to his employers.

As someone who has openly criticised David Norris in recent weeks, I thought he was our best player yesterday. He worked hard and was the centre of everything creative in the second half.

Many of our fans were also giving Kitson some stick during the game and whilst he was poor in the first half (like most of our attacking players) he showed some good touches in the second and linked play well even if he should have scored.

As for the debutants, I think Thorne had a pretty good game but Mattock often left himself positionally exposed with Peltier getting some joy down the wing. He may be a player in the "Glen Johnson" mould.

I'm still not convinced our defending has improved since Appleton took charge as the back four did seem to give Leicester too much space and backed off too much.

It was also surprising to see that the manager was reluctant to bring on a substitute to try and change the game. Perhaps he was content with a draw? I would have liked to have seen Kanu come on to try and open up the Foxes defence further.

This result leaves Portsmouth in 17th place in the Championship but just one point separates us from Bristol City in 22nd after their win over them lot down the road yesterday.

Therefore we may well find our team in the bottom three during the week given that we won't be playing due to Birmingham's involvement in the Europa League.

That means next Saturday's home fixture with Coventry will be hugely important, but if the second half of this performance can be repeated for 90 minutes then 'Appy will surely be celebrating his first win in management.

Pompey Player Ratings

Stephen Henderson: 6 - Some good takes.

Greg Halford: 6 - Typical average performance.

Jason Pearce: 6 - Won most of the 50-50 balls.

Ricardo Rocha: 6 - Better second half showing.

Joe Mattock: 6 - Good going forward but defensively exposed.

Hayden Mullins: 6 - Did his usual job.

George Thorne: 6 - Solid debut.

Joel Ward: 6 - Steady if unspectacular.

David Norris: 7 - Man of the match for Pompey.

Erik Huseklepp: 6 - Need to see more from him next week.

Dave Kitson: 6 - Unlucky not to score, got some unwarranted abuse.

Substitutes

Jamie Ashdown

Tal Ben-Haim

Aaron Mokoena

Benjani

Kanu

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