JEKYLL & HYDE FROM POMPEY
PORTSMOUTH boss Paul Cook didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after a Gary Roberts-inspired turnaround earned them a last-gasp draw with Morecambe.
Goals from Tom Barkhuizen, Alan Goodall and Andy Fleming left Portsmouth with a huge hill to climb at 3-0 after just 38 minutes.
However, a goal just shy of the break from Roberts and his second just past the hour set up an enthralling end to the game that saw substitute Jayden Stockley head home an equaliser at the death.
Cook admitted he was appalled by the first-half performance, but was more than happy with how his team responded.
“That just showed what the team is about,” he said.“It showed our determination, our passion and our quality.The fans really got behind us – even when we went down to ten men – and that really helped.
“We had a poor first-half, a really poor first-half. Appalling really. It’s not acceptable to play like that and I told them that at the break. I’m happy with the secondhalf performance, but we shouldn’t have been in that position. All credit to Morecambe, though, they were great in that first-half.”
Stockley’s strike at the death was his first for the club since his summer arrival, a goal that Cook thinks will give the striker a muchneeded confidence boost.
“It was important for Jayden to get that goal, he needed it,” said Cook. “He’s worked tirelessly since he came here and he’s a great player. This is the start of things to come – he’ll only get better from here on.”
Pompey were left shell-shocked by their visitors after Barkhuizen drilled in the opener after 11 minutes and Goodall headed into the bottom corner soon after.
Fleming’s shot nestled in the corner to make it three, before Roberts fired in a free-kick to offer the hosts a glimpse before the break. Roberts’ second came courtesy of his sweet left foot but Enda Stevens was shown a second yellow card eight minutes later to halt the comeback.
However, Stockley ensured that didn’t cost them a point, meeting Adam Webster’s cross to head home late on.
“Most people wouldn’t have given us a hope in hell of getting a point here,” said Morecambe boss Jim Bentley.
“Portsmouth have started well, Paul Cook’s got them playing good football, he’s brought in good players and that’s why they’re up there as favourites to get promotion this year.
“It’s the best football we’ve played this season. It’s the best we’ve played in a while and I knew we were capable of that. I now just need to get them doing that every week and I think we can get there.
“I just feel sorry for the team that they aren’t going home with three points. Where the six minutes added time came from, I do not know. There were some very arguable decisions today, but I’ll say no more than that.
“It’s done now and that’s that.”
BACK IN IT: Gary Roberts fires in a free-kick to pull one back for Portsmouth GOOD GOAL: Alan Goodall doubles the visitors’ lead at Fratton Park with an accurate header STAR MAN GARY ROBER