Portsmouth and Oxford cancel each other out in a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the League One Play Off Semi- Finals.
Portsmouth opened the scoring just after the half hour mark through a Ronan Curtis strike, a goal Oxford ‘keeper Simon Eastwood will probably be disappointed with. Marcus Browne cancelled the lead out just before half time, another goal that could have been dealt with better by the opposing goalkeeper.
Both sides came into the game with a clear game plan, the home side using their height advantage and direct play straight from the off, earning a few set pieces early on, whilst the visitors resorted to moving the ball out wide to Marcus Browne and Ben Woodburn.
The first chance of the game nearly caused the opening goal in the sixth minute. It was Ronan Curtis cutting in off the left and crashing a shot of the near post, putting Pompey one yard away from taking the lead.
Oxford struggled to get hold of the ball in the first 15 minutes, and have Rob Dickie to thank that they didn’t fall behind with a point-blank block from a Marcus Harness strike.
It took 26 minutes for Oxford to have their first chance of the match, with a far post header causing havoc in the box and needing to be flicked away for a corner.
The first key incident of the game happened near the half hour mark with Cameron Brannagan and Cameron McGeehan coming together in a feisty battle with both receiving yellow cards.
The pressure from Portsmouth throughout was finally too much for Oxford as a quick ball forward fell to Harness, he laid it off to Cannon who slipped in Ronan Curtis and slipped it under the keeper to give the home side a deserved lead.
The first chance of the second half happened close to the hour mark, the dangerman Marcus Browne once again taking the strike but it was blocked behind for a corner.
Once again, the drinks break came and went, with both periods of the game before the drink’s breaks being quite subdued, but as we know the end of the first half was action packed, but the question would be is the second half going to be the same?
The answer was yes, with Portsmouth taking the game by the horns with a couple of quick corners after the restart, but they came to nothing.
The best chance of the half came on 77 minutes, as Curtis played in Lee Brown whose deflected shot just missed the left-hand post. The resulting corner was dealt with.
Portsmouth continued to take control off the match, with a Christian Burgess header forcing Simon Eastwood into his first save of the game in his top corner, but he kept the scores level.
The game needed a bit of quality, and almost got that from Marcus Harness but his dangerous free kick was collected by Eastwood.
Five minutes of added time was signalled at the end of the game, but neither side can make anything of it. Probably a fair result from two sides short of fitness, but sets up a very interesting tie next Monday.
Alex Bass: Besides the Oxford goal, the Pompey keeper didn’t really have much to do in the match. Couple of dangerous balls caught comfortably. 6
Ross McCrorie: It was always going to be tough for the winger-turned-full back for this game, up against Oxford’s key man Marcus Browne. Got forward well a few times, but had issues trying to control the winger. 6
Christian Burgess: Marshalled the defence well throughout, maybe will be disappointed by his defending against Marcus Browne, and had a couple of opportunities to nod home for his side. 6
Sean Raggett: Confident on the ball and never looked in danger of being overrun by Matty Taylor, nothing special in terms of going forward either. 6
Bryn Morris: Good first game back for 14 months, looked confident on the ball alongside McGeehan, but you could see his fitness beginning to fade near the end. 6
Cameron McGeehan: Another player who never looked like making a mistake in the game, but didn’t have an impact going forward. Tasty encounter with Brannagan. 6
Marcus Harness: Looked dangerous from set pieces all game long, had a good attempt blocked in the first half but struggled to break Oxford down. 7
Andy Cannon: The ball seemed to bypass Cannon throughout the game with it going to either Harness or Curtis, but when he did get the ball he moved it around well, getting the assist for the opener. 6
Ronan Curtis: Portsmouth’s best player in the game, constantly caused Long problems down the wing and took his goal very well. Had a good penalty shout near the end as well. 7
Ellis Harrison: Led the line well, getting a few good headers in against a solid Oxford back line. Had a good shout for a penalty just before the second drinks break but didn’t look like scoring throughout. 6
James Bolton: Handled Browne well until he was substituted, and did the same with Sykes for the end of the game as well. 6
Ryan Williams: Couple of driving runs as soon as he came on caused Ruffels some problems, looked to be Portsmouth’s most dangerous man of the bench. 7
John Marquis: Only touched the ball two or three times, never got himself into the game.5
Simon Eastwood: Made a great save from Christian Burgess to make up for his slight error in the opening goal of the game, but only had the one save to make. 6
Sam Long: Struggled up against Curtis all game long, eventually getting the hang of the quick winger by the end of the match, but should have closed hisman down earlier for the goal. 5
Elliott Moore: Similar to Dickie, he looked comfortable at the back. Few good headers here and there. 6
Josh Ruffels: Watched Harness drift inside for the majority of the game, so didn’t have as much to do as he would have expected. 6
Cameron Brannagan: Came off with an unfortunate injury, but still looked comfortable in the midfielder. Had a tasty moment with McGeehan in the first half.
Alex Gorrin: Looked unfazed by the play around him, always looked good when the ball was played to his feet. 6
Marcus Browne: My MOTM. Delivered some excellent balls and some really good driving runs at both McCrorie and Bolton when he came on. Took his goal really well and Portsmouth would have been glad to see him go off. 8
Ben Woodburn: Struggled to grab a foothold in the game from the off really, the ball being aimed more towards Marcus Browne. After a long injury lay off, you can understand Ben being slightly off the pace. 6
Matty Taylor: Was kept very quiet by Burgess and Raggett for 70 minutes. Did have a strike on goal but it went just wide, but he seemed to be overshadowed by Browne throughout. 6
James Henry: Similar to Matty Taylor, Henry didn’t have as much of an impact as he would have liked. A couple of good deliveries that were headed over a few times.
Mark Sykes: Looked slightly of the pace from the minute he came on the field, putting in a late challenge near the end of the game that probably should have been a yellow. 5
Jamie Mackie: A few good runs when he came on but couldn’t get the better of Burgess or Raggett. 6
Anthony Forde: Not much happened for Forde in the game, seemed to be bypassed for all the attacks.6
Dan Agyei: Couple of good driving runs from the substitute when he came on, but fortunate to not concede a penalty late on. 7