Oxford United drew for the first time this season as an Alex Gorrin penalty earned them a 1-1 draw at Fratton Park. Trailing to a Sean Raggett goal at the break, United hit back from the spot when their Spanish midfielder slotted home to make it four points from two games on the road.
United made changes to the side that won at Wigan last time out: same back line, all change further forward, but there was the same level of commitment and some bright movement up front before they fell behind on 20 minutes from a simple goal for the in-form home side. A cross from their left and centre-half Raggett thumped his header home to make it 1-0.
The men in orange rode their luck for a while. Striker John Marquis should have made it 2-0 but fired into the empty stand rather than the empty net after 27 minutes and it took a header off the line from James Henry to keep a Jack Whatmough header from dropping into the goal as it looped ominously over Simon Eastwood.
That was Portsmoth's best spell of the game and United were still in it at half time, although they hadn’t really offered more than fleeting glimpses up front: an Anthony Forde free kick, Henry firing a Long cross over and some nice hold up play from Dan Agyei without anyone testing keeper Craig MacGillivray in the first hour. Indeed, the goal has been the sole effort on target at either end as two evenly matched sides cancelled each other out, perhaps to be expected given four draws from the last four meetings.
Make that five. But it was because the U's were brave and threw three men on to try and find a way back; get used to three subs in one go when you know you can still do two more under the new rules.
It worked, big time.
One of the new boys, Marcus McGuane, almost made an instant impact with a superb rising drive that forced the keeper into a full length save after 62 minutes and when Eastwood tipped an Ellis Harrison flick over the bar at the other end soon after, the game was opening up nicely, surely to United's advantage?
What we needed was a moment of inspiration and on 69 minutes it came via centre-half Rob Atkinson. Strong as the Ox on his chest, Atkinson burst forward, was stopped, then went again, bursting forward before feeding Agyei who was upended in the box. Time for someone to take responsibility and it was Gorrin, literally putting his hand up, who rolled the ball home for his first league goal for the U's.
Both sides went for the win and sub Mark Sykes almost capped the comeback with a low drive that was touched by MacGillivray's gloves and crept the wrong side of the post.
A useful point at a difficult place for any team to visit. United are adding consistency and steel and move on to a derby at home to Swindon on Saturday.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Edmunds, stats by OPTA