Cheltenham 2 Pompey 2

It was more late misery for Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler
It was more late misery for Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler

The baby granddaughter Iain McInnes cradled while sat in the directors’ box had thrown up over him.

She wasn’t alone, Pompey fans everywhere were sick at the Whaddon Road final whistle.

Nauseous at tossing away another three points on their travels after they comprehensively dominated a match and deserved so much more.

Queasy at the inability to finish off a side gasping for air and groping for a lifeline only to ship a late equaliser – for a third successive away trip.

Gut-wrenching and hard to stomach, McInnes junior certainly had a point in her own brand of criticism having watched the match under granddad’s embrace.

An exuberant figure and captivating spectacle whenever located in a directors’ box, Pompey’s chairman shrugged the incident off with a smile and a chuckle moments after the match ended.

Pompey, however, had once again dropped two points away from Fratton Park – bringing home just one amid wild celebrations among home fans who knew their own team had been let off.

Irrespective of the Blues’ ambitions this season, their worrying trend of surrendering points from winning positions even this early in the campaign is criminal.

Not that the management and players need reminding, they are clearly well aware of their fallibility from such match-winning positions and the need to see out fixtures.

Perhaps that explains Guy Whittingham’s decision to bring on three substitutes in the 78th minute, although he insists it wasn’t a bid to shut up shop against hosts Cheltenham.

But by withdrawing puffing duo Patrick Agyemang and Andy Barcham, along with Ricky Holmes, in favour of introducing Ryan Bird, Shaun Cooper and Romain Padovani his intentions appeared clear.

Why those departing players even managed to kill plenty of time and incite the home fans by producing less than a walking pace as they made their way off the field of play.

Once play restarted it signalled greater Cheltenham attacking pressure as the visitors sunk back further and further in their own half, attempting to fight them off and preserve a slender lead which should have been considerably extended earlier.

Then came the inevitable, the leveller, the equaliser, the share of the spoils, the dagger in the guts of Pompey and all their fans.

Of course it wasn’t meant to be like that.

The triple substitution was designed to retain possession and ease the Blues over the finishing line.

But it did not work out like that.

More frustration in a campaign during which many fans are demanding promotion.

But the manner of football and Pompey’s impressive displays are agonisingly suggesting something special could happen on the pitch.

If only they could defend, maintain leads and stop leaking late goals.

Oh and to finish Fratton Park matches with 11 men on the field of play would also be handy, regardless of what League Two aspirations they may possess.

In terms of attacking ability, clearly at this level few can match them, even without the excellent David Connolly in their ranks through suspension.

Barcham, Agyemang, Holmes and Jed Wallace were a joy to watch at times on Saturday, often unplayable, regularly wreaking havoc and in rampant moods leaving the Robins defence often flailing.

One criticism could be over-elaboration.

Another could be a lack of final killer instinct in terms of both delivery and finishing.

But boy can those four attack as a unit.

Once three of those departed, for whatever reason and regardless of whether it was correct, it changed the momentum of the game and, as Cheltenham showed, it was entirely in their favour.

Pompey should have been home and dry well before then, however.

The game as a contest should have been put to bed by early in the second half, such was their overriding dominance.

The opportunities were there yet all Whittingham’s men had to show for that were two goals and a point as they made their return home, licking the wounds over another away point and tale of what could have been.

No wonder during his post-match duties, Johnny Ertl was repeatedly smacking his left palm with his right hand in frustration when detailing his thoughts on proceedings.

His rare goal had for so long appeared to be the match-winner – then came the 92nd minute.

Few would have seen him leave the stadium by half-volleying an unfortunate plastic bottle and emitting an agonised roar on his way from the touchline to the waiting team bus.

Many Blues followers unquestionably felt the same when Jermaine McGlashan netted with that scruffy, yet crucial, fourth goal to deprive them of another two points and ensure a victory turned into what felt like a defeat.

It had all started so well too, Agyemang taking advantage of Steve Elliott’s crucial slip to net in the fifth minute.

The powerful striker was the first to react, swivelling and pouncing on the loose ball to slide it past the onrushing keeper for his third of the season.

Just eight minutes later he should have grabbed a second after an excellent move down the right involving Wallace and the overlapping Yassin Moutaouakil.

Moutaouakil delivered the cross from the byline and Agyemang was there all alone eight yards out at the far post – only to screw his shot over the bar for a poor finish.

Completely against the run of play McGlashan equalised to stun the visitors and once more raise questions about Pompey’s defending.

Terry Gornell slipped the ball through down the centre and when John Sullivan elected to come for the ball and then stop, it allowed the right winger to get there first.

He rounded the keeper before slotting in the equaliser as Devera tried his best to man the line to no avail.

Then it was Cheltenham’s turn to boss proceedings, only for Pompey to reclaim the lead on the break.

In the 44th minute, Wallace picked out Ertl, lurking at the far post, to gleefully hammer home his first goal for three-and-a-half years.

And so it stayed until five minutes of stoppage-time at the end of the game as the Robins poured forward.

Then McGlashan sneaked a foot ahead of Danny East at the far post.

Cue sickness all round.