The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Mike Vim­pany

PORTSMOUTH pre­served their eight-match un­beaten run and, ac­cord­ing to Ox­ford boss Michael Ap­ple­ton, they have his strik­ers to thank.

Liam Ser­combe put Ox­ford ahead in the first half but they failed to cap­i­talise on that and Adam McGurk pun­ished them with a stun­ning lev­eller.

Portsmouth played out the clos­ing stages with ten men, af­ter skip­per Michael Doyle had been sent off for a sec­ond book­able of­fence, but they held on to se­cure a point.

“We should have put the game to bed and out of sight by half­time,” sighed Ap­ple­ton.

“We had three or four glo­ri­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties and paid the price in the sec­ond half.

“Credit their goal­keeper Paul Jones, who made a string of fine saves, but we should have won it.

“The big­gest dis­ap­point­ment was that Pom­pey only had two shots in the game – and the sec­ond was an ab­so­lute stun­ner from McGurk, which cost us the game.”

But Ap­ple­ton, who had a spell as Portsmouth man­ager three years ago, feels that Ox­ford are on the right track af­ter the open­ing six weeks.

“We are happy where we are,” he added. “Only one de­feat in 15 games now at the end of last sea­son and the be­gin­ning of this, so I’m quite pleased with the way things are go­ing.”

As the first half pro­gressed, Ox­ford’s pres­sure paid off. Pom­pey failed to clear a 33rd­minute cor­ner con­ceded by Chris­tian Burgess from Danny Hyl­ton’s shot and the in­flu­en­tial Ser­combe ri­fled Ox­ford in front.

Ox­ford ought to have dou­bled their lead be­fore half-time but goal­keeper Jones, a re­place­ment for the in­jured Brian Mur­phy, made a string of fine saves to keep the visi­tors at bay.

Portsmouth lost teenage striker Conor Chap­lin with a shin in­jury and sent on the leggy Adam Bar­ton, who sparked some life into the visi­tors’ mid­field, but sloppy pass­ing con­tin­ued to let them down.

How­ever, McGurk struck a su­per 35-yarder which swerved and flew past the help­less Sam Slo­combe to res­cue a point for the visi­tors.

The goal earned a point for Pom­pey, who played the last 15 min­utes a man short af­ter Doyle had seen red for a sec­ond yel­low card for a clumsy chal­lenge on Ser­combe.

Man­ager Paul Cook wasn’t over-im­pressed with his side’s in­con­sis­tent show­ing in front of a sun kissed 9,000-plus crowd, but felt they de­served a point at the Kas­sam Sta­dium.

He said: “There were times when we were re­ally poor.We lost our way and were lucky to still be in it at half-time.

“We were giv­ing away pos­ses­sion cheaply and weren’t dom­i­nat­ing the ball.

“All our prob­lems were com­ing from our own in­di­vid­ual er­rors. We didn’t have enough at­tempts on goal and couldn’t get go­ing.

“But once we got that equal­is­ing goal we looked a dif­fer­ent side. In the end, I’m pleased with the point, which we didn’t look like get­ting at one stage.”

PIC­TURES: Will Kil­patrick

SEE­ING RED: Portsmouth cap­tain Michael Doyle is sent off by ref­eree Iain Wil­liamson STAR MAN LIAM SERCO

MBE Ox­ford

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