Pompey 1 Mansfield 1

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The Fratton faithful and two managers had been pacing the room awaiting for Jake Jervis’ first-team arrival.

Yet it was the re-birth of another striker who would overshadow the landmark occasion.

To think some had written off David Connolly – this aging striker with the sharp tongue, and these days unable to participate in every training session.

Fleeting starts and ever-increasing stints on the bench has seen League Two’s early frontrunner in the goalscoring stakes suddenly become a bit-part presence.

Ryan Bird has passed him for selection over the past few months, while Richie Barker’s addition of both Jervis and Ryan Taylor in recent weeks have nudged the ex-Republic of Ireland international further down the pecking order.

How quickly we forget, not that too many of his turns since that Chesterfield red card have been particularly sparkling nor effective.

Connolly, though, remains a class act.

At Fratton Park on Saturday he chose 22 minutes to deliver a remarkable reminder of his sublime ability and, in the process, inspire his side to a point.

The 36-year-old and debutant Jervis set off out of the blocks at precisely the same moment, both introduced on to the field of play as substitutes in the 68th minute.

Connolly, however, had lapped the young pretender by the time the final whistle had sounded and the finishing line crossed.

Not that Jervis was disappointing in the first appearance of his second Blues spell. Far from it, and he should have been awarded a penalty.

Yet his team-mate from the bench provided something special, elevating Barker’s trailing side from the mundane into a rampant outfit exuding danger in a breathless finale.

It was Connolly who carved out Taylor’s equaliser. His vision picking out the striker’s run down the left channel in the 78th minute.

What a superb finish it was, too, from the Bristol City recruit, on what was his first-ever appearance at Fratton Park.

By that stage his veteran colleague had already seen Stags keeper Alan Marriott push his brilliant drive against the right-hand post to deny what would have been the leveller.

Regardless, operating in the hole behind the three other strikers employed by Barker in an attempt to force a way back into the fixture, he pulled all the strings from deep.

Wriggling into space, Connolly discovered the freedom in the final third to spray the ball down both flanks, turning it round corners and nursing it through the tiniest of gaps.

Transformed, and with the Fratton faithful reinvigorated, it was barnstorming stuff from the hosts – certainly out of context from the lack of consistent attacking pressure previously in the game.

And the chances kept on coming as Mansfield clung on for a draw.

Connolly, agonisingly, couldn’t get enough on a flying lunge to connect with the ever-impressive Marcos Painter’s wicked left-wing delivery.

Then Nicky Shorey’s right-wing corner picked out Patrick Agyemang unmarked six yards out. Yet, somehow, the powerful forward failed to supply a kick for a glaring miss.

Next Jervis turned Ryan Tafazolli inside the box and was caught, prompting many of the home support to rise to their feet calling for a penalty – yet it was in vain.

Referee Darren Sheldrake waved played on, the Stags avoided conceding a spot-kick, Tafazolli dodged a second yellow card and minutes later it finished 1-1.

A frustrating result, no question of that, in a match the Blues needed to win. And certainly during their late surge they had enough opportunities to have secured the three points.

At the centre of it all was Connolly, with a sparkling cameo which may have gone a sizeable distance in convincing the manager and supporters he still has plenty to offer.

Not that anyone should be surprised – this is after all the same player who netted seven goals in 17 games for a team relegated from League One last season.

His recruitment on a two-year deal in the summer was applauded by most likely every single Pompey fan – no grumblings about his age and length of contract back then.

To cap it off, Connolly asked for a clause inserted which stated if he couldn’t train for 10 weeks then the deal be scrapped at no cost to the club.

Come the start of the League Two campaign, his first at such a level, he recorded four goals in his opening four league matches. Life was good.

Then a straight red card for perceived violent conduct against Chesterfield on August 31, followed by injury at York upon his return, and the veteran struggled for minutes and form.

Even now, Connolly’s last league goal was in the reverse fixture at Mansfield on August 24, although there have been just seven starts since.

On Saturday, though, his entrance lit up a match in which the Blues were craving for attacking inspiration as they faced up to the possibility of a home defeat to the Stags.

Granted, Barker’s side had enjoyed more possession than the visitors in the first half, and only a brave block by the flying James Jennings prevented Agyemang breaking the deadlock.

Yet it was goalless at half-time, and within five minutes of the restart Paul Cox’s team had gone in front through Lee Stevenson’s spectacular overhead-kick from six-yards out.

The hosts were winded and began to drift, while Jed Wallace once more endured a frustrating afternoon, not that he needed telling.

Although, curiously, he was later to receive the sponsors’ man-of-the-match award – an announcement met with gasps and then boos from the disbelieving Pompey fans.

Then, on 68 minutes, he was withdrawn, along with tiring debutant Wes Fogden – making way for Connolly and Jervis.

A substitution from Barker which was to change his team, and the remainder of the match saw Mansfield grip on for dear life.

Taylor, repositioned to a role wide on the left following the changes, accepted Connolly’s pass and with his second touch slid the ball home from the angle for the equaliser.

It capped a hard-working game from the striker who created a favourable impression on his home-turf bow.

The crucial second goal never emerged, however, no matter how much the Blues battered against the door. Instead, a draw had to be disappointingly accepted.

That’s one defeat in five, though, for Barker’s side. Clearly progress, although wins are required.

And for Connolly, there was a nudge he is still very much around.