Full-time report from the Kassam Stadium
United's search for their first win goes on as a Craig Westcarr goal gave Portsmouth all three points at the Kassam Stadium. The U's once again dominated much of the game, especially in a one-sided first half, but could find no way past a determined Portsmouth defence who held firm until Westcarr's decisive strike in the second half.
There was almost the perfect start as Joe Riley rifled in a second-minute free kick that keeper Paul Jones only just reached to tip over the bar. Even from the resulting corner United might have been ahead as Carlton Morris rose to head at goal and then saw his follow-up volley also headed from the overworked Jones after he had blocked the first effort.
Portsmouth had a chance of their own when Nigel Atangana toe-poked an effort wide after eight minutes and then almost gifted the U's a goal as Chorley powered a header at his own goal from a United corner and was relieved to see it smash in to his own player, James Dunne, on the line rather than into the net for an own goal.
After a frenetic start the game settled into an attractive pattern with both sides passing the ball neatly and probing for openings. Miles Storey forced George Long into a good save on 39 minutes as he cut in from the left and fired in a low shot across the keeper, but otherwise United looked secure at the back and full of good movement further forward.
The half ended with the U's on the front foot and Hylton at the centre of everything. A corner from the left ended at his feet and his shot was cleared off the line. Back it came to Hylton, who stabbed goalwards and saw it come back into play off the left-hand post. Amazingly it came back to Hylton for a third time and this time his his shot was deflected over the bar.
Pompey knew they had got away with it but a minute later were even more relieved when ref Darren Bond waved away loud appeals for a penalty when Hylton hit the deck after seeming to be tripped. Stats showing an incredible 75 per cent possession for United in the first half underlined how the game had been.
Inevitably Portsmouth, backed by over 2,000 fans, lifted their game after the break, manager Andy Awford having had words, and the second half was more evenly contested. Hylton saw an early downwards header blocked at the near post but there were far fewer chances to be had as Pompey tightened up at the back and started to look dangerous on the counter.
Brown had a shot easily gathered into the shocking pink shirt of Jones on 70 minutes but then with just about their first effort of the game on 80 minutes Pompey won it. Nicky Shorey, England international, needs no invite to cross and having gathered the ball in space he whipped in a cross behind the United back line. When you are unbeaten the ball runs your way and is cleared, when you are still searching for the first win it bobbles around, isn't cleared and an experienced goal poacher like Westcarr stabs it into your net.
The U's came back at the visitors and Brown twisted and got in a shot which Jones tipped round the post on 82, but the goal had hurt them after so much good football and the visitors fought for all they were worth to keep the clean sheet that United would love so much. Brown nodded an 87th-minute header over the top and United couldn't be accused of a lack of willing or commitment. Sadly that didn't translate into the right result and so we move on to West Brom away in the Capital One Cup and then a big home game at home to Dagenham and Redbridge next Saturday.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels
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