Pompey 2 Cheltenham Town 2

Matt Tubbs scores. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Tubbs scores. Picture: Joe Pepler

The play-offs look a little further in the distance for Pompey as they failed to take a giant stride against Cheltenham Town.

Russell Milton’s side arrived at Fratton Park with one win from their last 12 matches and left the south coast in the bottom two.

A fair reflection of a struggling side abundantly short of quality with only Matt Richards and the former Blues keeper Trevor Carson their saving grace.

Disappointing then that Andy Awford’s men could not manage to defeat the visitors last night in a result which represented a missed opportunity.

The scoreline ended 2-2, all four goals arriving in the first half of largely lacklustre affair played in a strangely flat Fratton atmosphere.

Not that either side particularly deserved to have emerged as winners – both letting slip a lead and neither sufficiently threatening the opposing keeper after the break.

Matt Tubbs opened the scoring for Pompey after 17 minutes, with Eliot Richards levelling 93 seconds later following a defensive mistake.

Will Packwood’s free header from Matt Richards’ free-kick gave the Robins a shock lead on 23 minutes.

That was until Ryan Taylor’s sixth goal in his last seven matches levelled two minutes before half-time.

The second period was forgettable as both sides collected a point, which was enough to lift Pompey into 12th spot.

Yet they remain eight points adrift of the League Two play-offs with nine matches remaining – a scenario which makes any aspirations of reaching that pre-season target even more remote.

Adam Webster received the nod from Awford to replace the injured Paul Robinson in the back three and make his first start since January against Southend United.

Having appeared as a substitute for the visit of Luton, it represented an opportunity for the youngster to have a sustained run in the side.

That meant a recall to the squad for Johnny Ertl as the defensive cover on the bench, although curiously Ben Chorley once again didn’t make the match-day 18.

There was also a surprise with Paul McCallum named among the substitutes – the striker making his first squad since the seven-match ban he picked up against Southend.

He took the place of Craig Westcarr, missing from a Blues squad for only the second time this season in all competitions.

With Michael Poke still absent with a back spasm, David Cornell took over from Alex Bass as the substitute keeper following his loan arrival from Swansea earlier in the day.

Inside the opening two minutes, Jed Wallace flighted a tempting ball from the right which was fractionally too high for Tubbs lurking on the edge of the six-yard box.

Taylor retrieved the ball to pull it back for Andy Barcham to unleash a fierce right-foot shot from inside the box which was charged down and it bounced clear.

Then on five minutes, another Wallace delivery was latched on to by Taylor, who outmuscled Durrell Berry before spinning and dragging a shot wide of the left-hand post.

Joe Devera found himself with the ball at his feet 30 yards from goal in the eighth minute and amid calls to shoot from the Fratton end, he drove well, well wide of his intended target.

The Robins’ first attempt arrived from Eliot Richards – screwing a left-foot side wide on 12 minutes without remotely troubling Paul Jones in goal.

Pompey took the lead on 17 minutes through excellent work from Barcham down the right flank.

The wing-back battled away and somehow managed to wriggle past Craig Braham-Barrett to fire a darting cross into the six-yard box.

There was Tubbs to slide the ball home from close range for his sixth goal since arriving in January.

The lead lasted just 93 seconds as the visitors hit straight back through Eliot Richards.

Matt Richards delivered the ball into the box and when there was miscommunication between Webster and Dan Butler, it eventually fell for Eliot Richards to crash an angled shot past Jones.

Five minutes later and the Robins had the lead, once again through poor Pompey defending.

Matt Richards flighted a deep free-kick from the right into the box and Packwood was there completely unmarked to glance a header past the exposed Jones.

Wallace was doing his best to drag the hosts back on level terms and drove a shot narrowly over the bar before curling a left-foot effort wide in the 32nd minute.

On 43 minutes, Awford’s men had their equaliser following a foul on Wallace down the right.

Butler struck a left-footed free-kick into the box and Taylor was there to head home with the minimum of fuss in front of the Fratton end.

Barcham didn’t emerge after the interval, with Danny East instead brought on in the right wing-back role.

Within a minute of the restart, Tubbs fired in an angled right-foot shot which Carson acrobatically clawed over the bar.

Then Wallace drilled in a cross from the right which was narrowly out of the reach of Taylor’s far-post lunge.

The Robins made their first substitution on 60 minutes when Danny Haynes was replaced by Zack Kotwica and moments later Troy Brown was booked for pulling Taylor back.

In the 67th minute, Tubbs was felled on the edge of the area.

Wallace’s free-kick bounced awkwardly in front of Carson but the keeper still managed to safely gather diving forward.

Awford changed systems a minute later by substituting Webster for Wes Fogden and reverting to a flat back four with Jack Whatmough and Devera in the centre.

The match was still poised and in the 75th minute Eliot Richards tried his luck with a right-foot shot from 30 yards which flew straight at Jones.

At the other end, Butler delivered a corner from the right and when Pablo Mills slipped it allowed Devera a free header but the defender could only loop it safely into Carson’s hands.

McCallum was thrown on as Pompey’s third and final substitute with four minutes left.

The fourth official indicated five minutes of additional time before Whatmough received treatment following a challenge with Harrad and had to go off to leave the Blues with 10 men.

Nonetheless, there were no more goals as 2-2 remained the scoreline in a chance missed for Pompey.