Tight game ends all square
Battling Portsmouth claimed their second point of the week as they came from behind to peg Carlisle back in a game which took more than a while to get going.
The visiting Cumbrians enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but a combination of good defending and wayward finishing left them feeling disappointed as they looked back on what could have been.
“It’s never going to be easy when you come to a place like this,” Carlisle United man-of-the-match Danny Livesey said. “It was a tight first half but thought we’d done it when we got ourselves in front. The penalty was probably fair enough even though he played for it. We had chances to win it after that but we have to go away feeling pleased with the point.”
The game had a nervous edge about it with little in the way of cohesive attacking play as both sides jostled for position. A measured back-pass from O’Hanlon had Carlisle hearts fluttering but Gillespie and Thirlwell dealt with the moment between them.
Rory Loy pulled wide to create space as the green shirts piled forward but Cooper and Reed stood tall to prevent the delivery. Butler found some unexpected space at the other end and his low cross needed safe hands from Gillespie as Agyemang steamed in to finish it off.
Mark Gillespie was in action again when the nippy James Keene latched onto a flick on from Agyemang on the edge of the box. He lobbed the ball over his own shoulder, leaving O’Hanlon for dead, but the United stopper moved sharply to save at his feet.
The Cumbrians needed a set-piece to register their first effort of the day and Simon Eastwood had the woodwork to thank as he found himself on the wrong side of the target. Craft from Jon-Paul McGovern took his 34-yard dipper over the wall and it could have gone anywhere as it crashed off the base of the post and onto the flailing keeper’s back.
A lovely pass from Berrett found Noble in space just inside the area and Sodje had to stretch to touch his lofted cross behind for a corner. That was the last action of a tight first half and it was with a sense of urgency that both sets of coaching staff made their way down the tunnel to formulate their plans for the second half.
Liam Noble suggested there was better to come when he held his position for the first attack of the half. The half clearance from Butler dropped nicely for the volley and Eastwood had to match the technique with a full length diving save.
But the Cumbrians looked up for it and they edged into the lead when Miller slid a beautiful pass into the path of Rory Loy. The striker kept his cool as he touched it past the keeper and guided it into the gaping net.
The lead was almost doubled just moments later when McGovern stood over a free kick from a tight very angle. He took everyone by surprise when he went for goal and he hit the woodwork for the second time when his deflected effort rattled against the outside of the upright.
Racon and Akinde had half chances as Portsmouth tried to build up a head of steam but United had the chance to wrap things up on 75 minutes when McGovern nutmegged Butler and swung the ball into the box. Loy raced in to meet it at the far post but he couldn’t keep his header down and it sailed into the stands.
Portsmouth made their visitors pay for the missed opportunities when Akinde was felled by Gillespie as he broke through the back line. Substitute Liam Walker levelled matters from the spot with a sweetly struck left foot shot.
United finished on top and a cross from Robson was cushioned back towards the edge of the box by Miller. Loy went for a crunching volley but it was a difficult bounce and he couldn’t keep it down.
Substitute Dave Symington then used pace and power to ghost into the box and Eastwood breathed a sigh of relief as he did just enough to bundle it behind for a corner.
“We’re disappointed, having got ourselves in front, that we didn’t go on to kill things off,” manager Greg Abbott said.
“We had chances to do that and there’s always a possibility of something like the penalty coming along if you don’t them. I’d need to see the decision again but it’s one of those where it has looked like he has gone down and it’s probably fair enough.
“Again, we had chances after their goal to take the points and we’ve worked hard and played some good stuff. It’s a shame for the huge amount of travelling fans that we didn’t get the win for them but they have seen their team work hard and that’s something we can all be pleased with."
Portsmouth - Walker (77 pen)
United - Loy (50)
Portsmouth - Sodje (57)
United - Thirlwell (28), Gillespie (77)
Portsmouth - Eastwood, Cooper (Moutaouakil 39), Sodje, Rocha, Butler, Reed, Ertl, Racon, Wallace (Walker 62), Agyemang, Keene (Akinde 62). Subs - Smith, Webster, Gyepes, Harris.
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Simek, Livesey, O'Hanlon, Robson, Noble (Symington 77), Thirlwell, Berrett, McGovern, Miller, Loy. Subs - Collin, Murphy, Welsh, Cadamarteri, Potts, Beck.
Referee - Mr Carl Berry
Attendance - 11,466 (516 away fans)