Pompey Rob Robins Of Victory

Last updated : 20 November 2016 By Jim Bonner

Michael Smith scored a timely first league goal of the season from the bench to ensure Portsmouth left Whaddon Road with a 1-1 draw at Cheltenham.

The first half was an open affair that really shouldn't have ended goalless. Christian Burgess' header from a free kick into the box was saved by the legs of goalkeeper Russell Griffiths whilst Dan Holman's effort at the other end of the pitch was wasteful after Cheltenham had played their way through the Pompey defence.

The hosts had an even better chance soon after as Harry Pell missed the target after being presented the ball by Burgess who had mistimed his clearance. Pompey's best chance of the half came at the end of it when Griffiths somehow managed to keep out Carl Baker's diving header at the far post from Gareth Evans' cross.

The second half also began in the visitors' favour as a flurry of chances came their way. Baker provided an excellent through-ball for Gary Roberts but he failed to beat Griffiths one-on-one and then the Robins keeper blocked Conor Chaplin's header from all of two yards.

Kyle Bennett also struck the post after weaving into the box, although Griffiths surely would have got to the ball anyway. The chances dried up after that as Gary Johnson's men took control and kept the Pompey defence busy, whilst the Portsmouth midfielders suddenly couldn't string two passes together.

The opening goal was coming and it arrived in typical fashion when Pompey couldn't deal with a free kick taken from Cheltenham's own half and the ball ended up at the feet of Dan O'Shaughnessy who prodded the ball home.

The game should have been over when some more woeful defending allowed Rob Dickie all the space in the world inside the box but he somehow shot wide.

Pompey were struggling to muster an attack but Paul Cook's substitutions made an impact with eight minutes to go. An excellent run from Noel Hunt ended with him nutmegging a Cheltenham defender, Baker received the ball and gave it to Smith whose shot was spilled by Griffiths, allowing him to smash the ball in at the second attempt.

Both teams wouldn't settle for a draw as the game came to a close but the final whistle blew to confirm yet another stalemate between the two teams.

A draw was probably a fair result on balance of play as both teams were guilty of wasting excellent chances but also had spells when they were under the cosh. 

Scoring away from home seems to be the biggest problem for this Portsmouth side this season. Just seven goals scored in nine games (the joint-worst record in the division) tells its own story and it has to be a psychological thing given the contrasting scoring record at Fratton Park, where Pompey are clearly the best in the division.

Roberts again flatters to deceive as he missed his big chance and contributed little to the game. Baker may have been instrumental in Pompey's best attacks of yesterday's game but still gave the ball away far too cheaply whilst Chaplin found himself starved of service and also got himself needlessly booked so will now miss Tuesday's crucial match at Kenilworth Road.

Whilst Cook may give himself credit for his attacking substitutions, he must be beside himself trying to organise his defensive unit as they continued to be vulnerable to the simplest of long balls into the box. Evans also tends to get exposed at right back and needs to be pushed further forwards or replaced - Ben Davies' absence has been noted.

Only time will tell just how important this result will be. In the context of the match, snatching an unlikely equaliser can't be sniffed at but the inability to beat a team that were 21st in League Two, regardless of their recent form and home record, has to be questioned if Pompey consider themselves to be serious contenders for automatic promotion.

This is highlighted by the fact that although a point has been gained on Plymouth who were surprisingly thrashed at home by Grimsby, Luton have jumped the Blues after winning at Morecambe whilst both Doncaster and Carlisle also scored late winners to further stretch their lead over Pompey.

The performances away from home have yet to be convincing and until Cook can remedy that problem then their chances of winning promotion from the bottom tier will be slim. The trip to Luton on Tuesday night will be a huge indicator of just how far this team can go this season.

Pompey Player Ratings

David Forde: 6 - Did the basics but could he be more commanding when the long balls come into the box?

Gareth Evans: 6 - Always delivers a good cross but is also vulnerable.

Christian Burgess: 6 - Won a fair few challenges but also looks a complete liability at times.

Matt Clarke: 6 - Under-rated on the ball but needs to be more organised at the back.

Enda Stevens: 7 - Another dependable performance.

Michael Doyle: 6 - A mixed afternoon.

Danny Rose: 6 - Average.

Gary Roberts: 5 - Missed a huge opportunity and generally didn't contribute much to the game.

Carl Baker: 6 - Influential going forward but so careless with the ball.

Kyle Bennett: 7 - Caused problems for the Cheltenham defence.

Conor Chaplin: 5 - Found himself isolated and dominated by the two Robins centre backs.


Liam O'Brien

Drew Talbot

Jack Whatmough

Milan Lalkovic

Kal Naismith (Roberts 81): N/A - Needed more time.

Noel Hunt (Chaplin 81): N/A - Made an immediate impact.

Michael Smith (Bennett 75): 7 - Tenacity was rewarded.