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Last gasp Ant decks Pompey
Portsmouth 2, Wycombe Wanderers 2.
ANTHONY Stewart scored a dramatic last gasp equaliser as Wanderers snatched a point from a game they looked to have thrown away.
The youngster – able to play after having his red card from Saturday rescinded – hadn’t been on the pitch for long after starting as a substitute, but he had the final say in a topsy turvy game as he buried a header into the net deep into four minutes of added time.
Before then goalkeeper Matt Ingram’s penalty save looked like it was going to prove to be in vain as Wanderers conspired to throw away the lead at Fratton Park.
Blues were in front thanks to Matt McClure taking the outright lead as top scorer with a fine first half finish when Ingram stopped veteran striker David Connolly’s spot kick.
Again Wanderers had been the better side in the first half of a game against lacklustre opponents without a permanent manager following last week’s sacking of Guy Whittingham.
And again they failed to take their chances when on top, leading to Pompey mounting a second half turnaround to seemingly snatch the points.
Substitute Patrick Agyemang, so often a nemesis of Blues’ in recent seasons, scored what looked likely to be the winner after Andy Barcham had powered home an equaliser.
That was until Stewart’s even later intervention as he made the headlines for the right reasons this time to rescue a point.
The dramatic late ending was at odds with a low-key opening however. Ricky Holmes scuffed the game’s first shot when Barcham’s cross landed at his feet, but Ingram was still required to get down low and turn the ball away after it spun towards the net off the midfielder’s shin.
The sides traded half chances as Marvin McCoy blazed well wide from 30 yards after goalkeeper Trevor Carson’s punch fell kindly for him, and Jed Wallace’s airshot inadvertently teed up team mate Shaun Cooper but his effort clattered away to safety off Leon Johnson.
Wanderers started to gain some momentum as former Pompey player Paris Cowan-Hall skipped away from the home side’s skipper Johnny Ertl before having a shot blocked by Sonny Bradley, before McClure held the ball up for Lewis, whose shot was on target but straight into Carson’s midriff.
And just as in the original tie Blues claimed first blood as Portsmouth struggled to clear their lines at a set piece and McClure’s excellent turn saw him spin away from his marker before he lashed the ball across Carson and into the net to put Wanderers in front with his sixth of the season.
The highly-rated Wallace threatened a response but his shot failed to pack sufficient punch to trouble Ingram, who was able to make his save look easy.
It failed to be the shot in the arm Pompey needed and the groans from the increasingly irate Fratton faithful increased as Dean Morgan picked Joe Devera’s pocket all too easily and spread play out to Sam Wood via McClure, but to the relief of the home fans the Wanderers full back scuffed his effort wide.
Things got worse for the home side as Danny East fell awkwardly challenging Morgan for the ball and had to be stretchered off after a lengthy break in play. He was replaced in the back four by Bondz N’Gala.
Wallace needlessly picked up a booking after lunging in at Morgan and it almost cost his side dearly as the Wanderers striker flicked Spring’s subsequent free kick on for McClure, whose header brought a fantastic flying save out of Carson.
McClure then had another shot blocked after Cowan-Hall danced his way into the area as Blues came close to extending their lead in a first half that thoroughly belonged to them.
The pattern of play continued after the break as Cowan-Hall’s powerful drive smacked away to safety off N’Gala before Dan Potts made a fine challenge to stop the flying winger in his tracks after Bradley had coughed up possession to him too cheaply.
Portsmouth finally managed a sight of their opponents’ goal as Ingram let Holmes’ effort slip from his grasp, before the Wanderers keeper showed his true colours by clutching a low skidding shot from half time substitute Connolly in the same passage of play.
Wanderers defended manfully as Pompey upped the ante, with Gary Doherty throwing his head in the way of Joe Devera’s shot and the defence crowding out Cooper and ensuring the defender shot wide from the edge of the penalty area.
McClure should then probably have made more of an opportunity as he seized on a lapse in concentration from Bradley before having his shot blocked by N’Gala – but he had two team mates away to his right and a pass to one of them seemed a better option.
It looked like it would come back to bite Blues as Portsmouth were awarded a penalty when Wood bowled over Connolly, with referee Drysdale signalling a spot kick after a linesman’s flag. Connolly stepped up to take it himself but Ingram dived to his right to stop the kick before former Burnham striker Ryan Bird had the rebound deflected over.
But that didn’t prove a let off for Wanderers as Pompey did draw level as Barcham was afforded too much space in the box, allowing him to turn and thump a rasping drive into the roof of the net for the equaliser.
McClure almost conjured an instant response but he jabbed wide after Carson and Potts both left the ball for the other to deal with.
And it was the hosts who were next to strike, with time running out. Agyemang hadn’t been on the field long and had yet to make a telling contribution, yet he struck a devastating blow as he thumped a header past Ingram from a Holmes free kick.
But the drama wasn’t over. Deep into injury time Carson tipped a looping Stewart header over the bar for a corner – but the defender wasn’t to be denied as he buried the delivery into the back of the net to earn his side a share of the spoils at the second time of asking.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Johnson (sub Stewart), Doherty, Wood, Spring, Knott (sub Kretzschmar), Cowan-Hall, Lewis, Morgan (sub Kuffour), McClure. Substitutes not used: Horlock, Dunne, Arnold, Craig.
Attendance: 14,942 (681 from Wycombe)
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