Portsmouth 0, Barnsley 0
(SkyBet League One)
Goalkeeper Adam Davies was Barnsley’s saviour as the Reds’ bid to strengthen their second automatic promotion place took a knock with a second successive goalless draw.
Having been stymied by Burton Albion’s defensive discipline at Oakwell four days earlier, Daniel Stendel’s side again looked laboured as they struggled to gain the upper hand against out-of-form promotion rivals for whom this was their eighth game without a win, the last five encounters having been drawn.
At least the Reds managed to extend their unbeaten league run to 14 matches – but it would surely have been a different story had it not been for Davies.
Not only did he save a second half penalty, he denied Pompey another clear goalscoring opportunity and came to the rescue on countless occasions with his flawless handling and positioning. It was a faultless display of the goalkeeping arts. Little wonder the travelling fans – nearly 2,000 of them – sang his praises at the end of the game.
In truth, those loyal fans had little else to sing about on an afternoon when noteworthy incidents were at a premium, the high moment, as far as their team was concerned, coming in the dying minutes of the game when only the woodwork prevented a late Barnsley winner, which would have been a flattering reflection of their disappointing performance.
It may well be that their failure to find the net in the last two fixtures has something to do with the fact that top scorer Kieffer Moore has been an absentee as he has completed his recovery from a nasty head injury sustained in the highly-acclaimed 4-1 away victory over Gillingham a fortnight earlier.
Apart from his goals, the big man also adds his own vital attributes to the attacking options with his height, his strength and his penalty area nuisance value, and these have been sadly missed. While the Reds have good cover for most positions in the team there is no-one quite like him in the squad and a different – and less successful – approach has been necessary.
Stendel made one change from the starting line-up, bringing back Mamadou Thiam in place of Ryan Hedges, and he integrated well in the early stages which saw the Reds taking the initiative without ever threatening to make the most of their greater possession.
When they did manage to produce an attempt at goal in the 20th minute it was a long-range effort from Dimitri Cavare which was well off target.
The only other bit of excitement came at the other end just before the break when a rare defensive mix-up by the Reds allowed Viv Solomon-Otador the time and space to give his side the lead, but that was when Davies performed his first act of heroism, racing off his made an excellent block save.
Portsmouth came out for the second half in more determined and positive fashion, but Davies dealt confidently with everything that came his way, particularly when being tested with a curling corner, and then came the pivotal moment when Solomon-Otador was brought down by Cavare and referee Charles Breakspear had no hesitation in awarding a penalty.
It was Pompey’s big chance to bring an end to their winless streak, but man of the match Davies dived the right way to save Oscar Bogle’s spot-kick.
Eight minutes from time they were almost made to rue the miss even further when Alex Mowatt floated in a flag-kick for Jacob Brown to hit the bar with a deflected header.
And that was that. A largely uneventful game ended in the goalless stalemate that just about summed it up.
The result means that third-placed Sunderland – 2-0 away victors over Bristol Rovers – are now only two points behind the Reds with a game in hand, while Pompey remain fourth, a further three points adrift.
Portsmouth: MacGillivray; Walkes, Burgess, Clarke, Brown, Morris, Naylor, Solomon-Otabor (Lowe, 77 mins), Bogle (Vaughan, 84 mins), Curtis,
Barnsley (4-4-1-1): Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos; Brown, Mowatt, McGeehan (Dougall, (90+2 mins), Thiam (Hedges, 75 mins); Bahre; Woodrow.
Bookings: Clarke (Portsmouth); McGeehan (Barnsley).
Referee: Charles Breakspear.
Attendance: 18, 624.