Yeovil 1 Pompey 1 – Neil Allen’s match report

Gary Roberts nets a late equaliser for 10-man Pompey at Yeovil    Picture: Joe Pepler
Gary Roberts nets a late equaliser for 10-man Pompey at Yeovil Picture: Joe Pepler

With a touch of a right foot and an application of his left, Gary Roberts had crafted a Pompey point.

A goal of true artistry glaringly out of context in a match where the mundane ran rampant and the mocking wind wreaked havoc.

Still, the midfielder’s joyous flicker of quality succeeded in Paul Cook’s below-par side scrambling a Huish Park draw.

With the clock displaying five minutes remaining and Pompey reduced to 10-men, inspiration was desperately required.

Cue Roberts to step up with a classy leveller inside a crowded penalty area, killing Adam McGurk’s pass with one foot before lashing home a decisive half-volley with the other.

In doing so, the artisan midfielder so beautifully painted the Blues’ on-going campaign.

Exhilarating highs amid dizzying depths, the inconsistency which is threatening a genuine automatic promotion push.

World beaters one moment to looking distinctly humdrum the next, the spectacle is proving increasingly agonising to witness.

Post-match, Paul Cook equated his team’s sporadic displays to that of a rollercoaster.

Stable footing is clearly eluding this talented squad whose end product wildly lurches from one extreme to the other.

For Bournemouth there was Leyton Orient, for Bristol Rovers there was Yeovil. The common ground continues to remain unexplored.

On a day when Northampton marched to a ninth straight League Two win courtesy of victory over Wycombe, Pompey struggled to a 1-1 draw at Yeovil.

The visitors were found wanting in the final third, supply lines from their usually influential full-backs cut off while the attacking three behind Michael Smith were largely ineffective.

Gareth Evans’ withdrawal on 41 minutes through a tight hamstring may have hampered the best-laid plans, then again he had been on the periphery anyway.

Pompey were average, lacking in ideas, absent of a swagger, and a team completely unrecognisable from those Bristol Rovers highs. Another off-day.

Incidentally, the Glovers’ gutsy display belied their lowly status, their desire, fight and determination should rightfully be applauded.

Yet they remain in the drop zone, a club potentially being condemned to a third successive relegation.

And this Pompey team so delicious against Bristol Rovers the previous weekend, couldn’t muster the level of performance required to beat them.

Ultimately it took a special moment five minutes from time to leave Somerset with a point.

Cook had yesterday named an unchanged side, retaining the starting XI which performed so handsomely against the Gas in a 3-1 win.

The only alteration to the match-day 18 was Kal Naismith on the bench in place of ankle injury victim Conor Chaplin.

That meant Marc McNulty once again condemned to serve as a substitute, despite registering the eighth goal of his loan spell the previous weekend.

Not that too many would begrudge Pompey’s boss sticking to a winning team, particularly considering the impressive manner of that Fratton Park victory.

Yet the same line-up failed to get anywhere near such lofty standards against Yeovil, ultimately grateful for a point come the final whistle.

It’s a deep-seated malaise reflected in a current league placing of seventh, six points off third-placed Oxford United with a game in hand.

The alarming statistic which stubbornly refuses to disperse is the Blues have not managed more than two consecutive league wins all season.

Yesterday the brakes were once again applied.

In the meantime, Michael Appleton’s Oxford are enduring a blip at present with four points from their last four league games.

However, during that same period, soberingly the Blues have managed to claw back just one point on their automatic promotion rivals.

Yeovil may not have lost on home turf since November 24, yet the fixture was not unreasonably targeted as a potential three points for Pompey.

What was subsequently served up was more damning evidence this side currently lacks the required consistency to succeed in ambitions to finish in the top three.

And a 13th draw in 30 matches demonstrates the failure to separate themselves from the opposition is proving ever-costly.

Still, Cook’s side must receive credit for eking out a Huish Park point from wretched circumstances. Grappling such a result from those circumstances should be applauded.

They had found themselves behind to Francois Zoko’s 75th minute opener, a scrambled affair following Liam Walsh’s short corner from the left.

Zoko has a taste for Pompey blood, having now netted against them for three different clubs, following goals while on duty at Notts County and Stevenage.

The powerful striker was then involved in a tussle with Christian Burgess, prompting both to receive nothing more than a lecture from referee Mark Haywood.

Within two minutes Burgess had collected two yellow cards, the first off-the-ball against Zoko, swiftly followed by a crude challenge on the flying Ryan Dickson.

The central defender didn’t even wait to be delivered the referee’s judgement after the latter offence, making his way off the pitch as the official was still feeling into his top pocket.

It left Pompey to see out the final seven minutes plus stoppage time with 10-men in their bid to find a leveller, a task few would have backed them to succeed in.

Yet Cook’s troops responded positively and even after Roberts’ sublime equaliser continued to push for victory, despite their numerical disadvantage.

A demonstration of the character of this side, perhaps. Certainly evidence of the potential of Roberts, who has largely endured a frustrating time on the south coast since his arrival.

Injuries have been the crux of the problem, yet the former Chesterfield midfielder still finds himself joint-top scorer with eight goals from 24 appearances.

For Pompey, a trip to Barnet on Tuesday is their next challenge, another fixture any self-respecting promotion challengers would require to be a victory.

Jekyll or Hyde, it is over to you.