|Portsmouth||1 – 1||Carlisle United|
Baker hits debut equaliser
Pompey had to settle for a point on the opening day of the season after coming from behind to draw with 10-man Carlisle.
They created plenty and had their visitors pinned back for most of the match, but could not quite manage to find a winner.
United had taken an early lead through Reggie Lambe, only to be reduced to 10 men when Jamie Devitt collected a couple of bookings.
Carl Baker fired in an equaliser on his Blues bow, but a string of fine saves from Mark Gillespie frustrated the hosts.
Paul Cook handed full debuts to five players, with David Forde, Drew Talbot, Danny Rose, Milan Lalkovic and Baker all starting.
There was a raucous atmosphere to accompany the opening stages, as Pompey set about trying to attack their opponents.
And it was the hosts who were first to threaten when Baker broke quickly up field and teed-up Lalkovic, whose shot had to be beaten away by Gillespie.
It was not all one-way traffic, though, and Enda Stevens was forced to head clear a dangerous Danny Grainger cross.
But Pompey were looking the more likely to forge ahead and Gary Roberts curled narrowly wide after cutting inside.
Baker then had an effort blocked from the edge of the box, before Lalkovic’s free-kick somehow evaded everyone on its way out of play.
So Fratton was left stunned when Carlisle broke the deadlock on 14 minutes, as Lambe raced onto Shaun Miller’s pass and slotted past Forde.
That was the cue for the visitors to sit back and try to waste as much time as legally possible.
Referee Graham Salisbury was soon forced to issue the first booking of the afternoon after Devitt crudely brought down Talbot.
And it was Devitt who also received the second following a tug on Roberts on 28 minutes, reducing United to 10 men.
Pompey immediately sought to make their numerical advantage count and Macaulay Gillesphey did well to get in the way of Talbot’s well-struck volley.
Baker then forced a smart save from Gillespie following some encouraging build-up play from Roberts.
But the Blues did find themselves level just before the break, with BAKER firing a fierce drive under the keeper’s body after once again receiving a pass from Roberts.
Half Time: Pompey 1 Carlisle 1
Roberts and Baker had combined effectively before the break and it was the same when the second half got underway.
The former did well to set-up his fellow midfielder in the area, but Baker took too long and his effort was blocked.
Michael Smith then turned a Lalkovic cross wide from close range, only to see his blushes spared by the linesman’s flag.
Roberts was soon back on the ball, though, and his cut-back was agonisingly out of reach for Baker in the box.
Pompey came close again just past the hour mark when Roberts was able to nick the ball away from the onrushing Gillespie and find Smith, who did not have time to get a shot away before a Carlisle defender came to the rescue.
Then, from the resulting corner, Jack Whatmough was left alone to glance a header narrowly past the post.
It was Baker’s turn to try his luck again on 64 minutes and after turning a defender inside-out, his shot was saved by the outstretched foot of Gillespie.
The midfielder was certainly not afraid to have a crack and one long-range effort was brilliantly tipped over the bar.
Cook made a double substitution on 68 minutes to add some attacking impetus, with Smith and Lalkovic making way for Conor Chaplin and Kyle Bennett.
The latter immediately combined well with Stevens down the left, leading to a chance for Rose that went wide.
But the midfielder went a lot closer moments later, sending a shot cannoning off the inside of the post after being given time to drive forward.
Gillespie then had to get quickly down low to his left to stop an effort from Bennett creeping inside the post.
Cook threw on an extra striker for the closing stages, with Rose making way to give Noel Hunt is first taste of competitive action in a Blues shirt.
But it was still Baker looking most likely to score and his shot was again kept out by the legs of Gillespie.
And skipper Michael Doyle then had two long-range attempts in the space of a few seconds that were both superbly palmed behind by the over-worked keeper.
Pompey continued to pour forward in search of a late winner, but Carlisle held on for a share of the spoils.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): Forde; Talbot, Whatmough, Burgess, Stevens; Rose (Hunt 83), Doyle (c); Baker, Roberts, Lalkovic (Bennett 68); Smith (Chaplin 68)
Goals: Baker 42
Subs not used: Bass, T.Davies, Barton, Main
Carlisle (4-2-3-1): Gillespie; T.Miller, Raynes, Gillesphey, Grainger (c); Kennedy, Jones; Lambe (Joyce 58), Devitt, Adams; S.Miller (Ellis 70)
Goals: Lambe 14
Sent off: Devitt (two yellow cards)
Subs not used: Crocombe, Penn, Brough, Wyke
Referee: Graham Salisbury
Attendance: 17,570 (481 away fans)