Pompey 0-0 Burton Albion

The recalled Ryan Taylor, right, and Toumani Diagouraga look for the flick on from a corner during last night's goalless draw with Burton Albion Picture: Joe Pepler
The recalled Ryan Taylor, right, and Toumani Diagouraga look for the flick on from a corner during last night's goalless draw with Burton Albion Picture: Joe Pepler

Well, there certainly wasn’t a Pedro Mendes moment to cheer at Fratton Park last night.

In fact, for the first 45 minutes against Burton Albion, there was very little to get excited about – apart from the fact Pompey weren’t dead and buried.

Eight years on from the launch of the Great Escape on a day etched in Blues folklore, Richie Barker’s men inched another step closer to League Two safety.

For long periods it wasn’t pretty.

To be honest, pretty terrible would be closer to the mark for the much of the action – despite an improvement in the second half.

But Barker won’t care too much for points awarded for style at the end of the season – only the ones which keep his club in the Football League.

And that’s what his team have one more of today, achieved against a side who could well be playing League One football next season.

And it’s another clean sheet for his players – making it 395 minutes since they last saw Trevor Carson beaten.

Quite how that came to be, after a first half in which Burton carved out a swathe of chances is anyone’s guess.

The Pompey performance also lacked the brand of football to win hearts and minds – one that Barker promises he wants to impress on the club.

One shot on target against Cheltenham wasn’t really bettered three days on, despite a flurry of chances after the restart which culminated in Patrick Agyemang’s shot against the post.

Boos at the final whistle were as much aimed at frustration towards some bemusing decisions in the second half from referee Carl Berry.

But the fact it’s hardly free-flowing stuff right now wouldn’t have helped matters.

Pompey went into the game knowing a win could potentially lift them seven places up the table, such is the crazy concertinaed nature of League Two this season.

But it was Burton who took just 20 seconds to carve out the first chance of the game, as winger Jimmy Phillips let fly from 25 yards and forced Carson into smart stop.

Ricky Holmes then left an arm in the back of Zeli Ismail in the penalty area, which would have earned stronger appeals for a spot-kick had there been more than a smattering of Brewers fans present.

There were a good few thousand fewer Blues fans around than Saturday, too, though, as Barker’s men fluffed their chance to impress the 17,254 who turned out for Cheltenham that day.

A flat start from their side was reflected in the atmosphere, with Pompey not giving them much to cheer.

It was Phillips who again 
went close to breaking the 
Blues’ recently-improving rearguard, as he cut inside and cracked a low drive which Carson had to smother at the second attempt.

Pompey slowly awoke from their slumber, though, and had a period of pressure which nearly culminated with the breakthrough after 16 minutes.

Holmes was the architect of the chance, as he skated down the left and put in an inviting cross for the recalled Ryan Taylor.

But the returning striker couldn’t get enough on his attempted deft, near-post flick.

Bondz N’Gala’s recent improvement was nearly undone after 21 minutes when he lost the flight of Ismail’s cross.

But, luckily, Dominic Knowles was caught offguard by the mistake and failed to reach the delivery.

Knowles then extended Carson again from just inside the box – but the Northern Irishman was equal to his rasping effort. Pompey were reeling, though, as Gary Rowett’s men sensed the unease growing among the home crowd and piled forward in search of the opener.

Billy Kee should have been the man to get it when he fired over from 12 yards.

Somehow, another chance was then passed up by an increasingly profligate Burton attack, as Knowles volleyed wide.

Pompey roused themselves for a couple of corners before the break but it was meagre stuff for a home crowd who may have wished they’d joined Saturday’s missing thousands in watching Arsenal take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

In truth, the Fratton faithful could barley bother to voice an opinion to the referee’s half-time whistle.

But they were given more to be optimistic about in the first eight minutes of the second half than they had in the first 45.

And those sat behind keeper Robert Lainton’s goal will still be wondering today how Agyemang’s 51st-minute shot didn’t find its way in.

The wily old veteran managed, in his own languid style, to get his toe-poked shot off from Toumani Diagouraga’s scuffed cross, with it looking a goal all the way – until it hit the inside of the post and somehow was cleared.

Either side of that moment Agyemang again went close – as did Holmes, Diagouraga, Romain Padovani and half-time substitute Sonny Bradley, with a header from a corner which helped the crowd find their voice.

After that spell of excitement, it was Burton who inched their way back into proceedings.

Phil Edwards’ daisycutter offered a heart-in-mouths moment before it deflected a few inches wide of Carson’s post.

Then sub Adam McGurk just strayed a yard or two offside before putting the ball into the net from five yards.

In the final reckoning, Pompey could take an improved effort over the final 45 minutes forward to Fleetwood on Saturday.

They can take two steps up the table, too.

But there’s no magic Mendes these days – and won’t be for a while again yet.