The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Mark Gould

PORTSMOUTH boss Guy Whit­ting­ham con­cedes his side must learn to fend off the ex­tra at­ten­tion they re­ceive in League Two af­ter be­ing held to a draw at Mans­field.

Pom­pey replied to Ben Hutchin­son’s stunner through Andy Bar­cham and David Con­nolly strikes in the firsthalf, but the Stags lev­elled through Lin­don Meikle mid­way through the sec­ond-pe­riod.

And Whit­ting­ham, who sin­gled out a star per­for­mance from winger Andy Bar­cham, does not ex­pect im­me­di­ate re­sults as his side get used to life in the Football League’s bot­tom tier.

“We are a new group and learn­ing all the time, peo­ple raise their game against us and we need to learn to cope with the added pres­sure that that brings,” he said.

“Ob­vi­ously the early goal gave them a lift, and we are a big scalp in this league and we re­alise this, teams are fired up to play against us.

“De­spite the sec­ond goal I was pleased with the way we de­fended against them to­day – I was more frus­trated that we didn’t man­age to push on or cre­ate much in the sec­ond-half.

“Andy Bar­cham has been putting in that level of per­for­mance for a few games now, and we hope he will con­tinue to as­sist and score goals, be­cause he is an ex­cit­ing player for us.”

Against the run of play Mans­field took the lead on 33 min­utes courtesy of Hutchin­son’s thump­ing 25-yard vol­ley past an out­stretched Phil Smith.

But just five min­utes later, Jed Wal­lace pulled the ball back down Pom­pey’s right-hand side for Bar­cham to smash home his first goal of the sea­son.

And Bar­cham nearly dou­bled up just be­fore half-time only for his strike to re­bound into Con­nolly’s path, who com­pleted a quick turn­around.

Af­ter the restart Mans­field got their equaliser in the 72nd minute as Smith fum­bled Ol­lie Palmer’s high cross – for Mans­field sub Meikle to even­tu­ally poke into the net.

Con­sid­er­ing the sides were two di­vi­sions apart last sea­son it was a good point for Town.

Nei­ther team could dig out a win­ner but Stags man­ager Paul Cox ad­mits he has plenty of op­tions push­ing for a first-team place af­ter Meikle im­pressed from the bench.

He said:“Some of th­ese boys keep giv­ing me food for thought – they were chomp­ing at the bit to get on.

“I thought Meikle did well when he came on and the front two who came on for us to­day were an ab­so­lute hand­ful.

“Ben Hutchin­son is ca­pa­ble of scor­ing a fan­tas­tic goal like that – what we want now is more con­sis­tency from cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als.

“It was a re­ally good game of football for the neu­tral, but we shot our­selves in the foot with a mad seven min­utes worth of de­fend­ing. “If we learn from this we can be­come a de­cent side in this

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PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

JUMP FOR JOY: Ben Hutchin­son cel­e­brates putting Mans­field 1-0 up

HOT SHOT: Ben Hutchin­son fires Mans­field ahead

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