Portsmouth 2 Leeds United 2: Lights go out on Grayson

FOR the second league visit in a row, Leeds United saw the lights go out in Portsmouth.

There was, however, no danger of the travelling fans suffering an acute sense of deja vu thanks to a battling display from their side that could not have been more of a contrast to the Elland Road club's previous 'efforts' on the south coast.

A little over seven years ago, United had been unable to lift the gloom on an afternoon when the kick-off was delayed by a power cut and Portsmouth ran riot to hasten the end of Peter Reid's reign as manager with a thumping 6-1 victory.

This time around, Leeds had to contend with three floodlight failures but still managed to light up Fratton Park with a sparkling second-half performance that proved enough to claim a point from a thrilling encounter.

Manager Simon Grayson said: "If you look at Portsmouth's team, they have got some fine individuals in there.

"So, I am certainly happy. It is a difficult place to come, the crowd are on top of you, and they are a team who are looking to get into the play-offs and have got top internationals. A draw was a fair result."

A trip to the home of a team sitting 18th in the Championship may not sound the most daunting assignment for a side harbouring hopes of winning automatic promotion.

For Leeds, however, there was plenty of reason to be wary ahead of taking on a Portsmouth outfit who have displayed a tendency to raise their game against the division's big guns.

Already this season, they have beaten four of the top seven – Swansea City, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest and Watford – plus claimed draws against leaders QPR and Leeds.

In contrast, Pompey's record against the half dozen sides sitting below them in the table is lamentable with not one win to their name.

It is a remarkable difference and one that suggests the biggest problem facing Steve Cotterill is not the lack of numbers that again saw the Portsmouth manager unable to fill his bench but a need to motivate his players against the so-called lesser lights of the division.

Certainly, against Leeds the home side started in dominant fashion to pin Grayson's men back in their own territory for long periods of a one-sided first half.

Less than 60 seconds had been played when Pompey fashioned their first chance of the game, Kanu pulling back a cross for John Utaka that should have been gratefully accepted.

Liam Lawrence then took centre stage with his crossing ability and eye for a deft pass causing United several worrying moments.

Unfortunately for the Portsmouth captain, his team-mates failed to take advantage as Greg Halford headed against the crossbar, and both David Nugent and Utaka shot wide.

Such profligacy meant the home fans had to wait until the 26th minute for the goal that their side's enterprising play deserved.

Lawrence was, again, the creator with a weaving run down the left that ended with the ball being nudged in the direction of Joel Ward, who steadied himself before drilling a low shot into the corner of the net from 20 yards.

Such had been Pompey's dominance that Leeds could have few complaints at falling behind and the visitors had a major let-off just two minutes later when Utaka brought a stunning save from Kasper Schmeichel.

Grayson had seen enough, the United manager ordering a change of formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 and the switch did, at least, stem the tide of home attacks for the rest of the first half.

Even so, at the interval the chances of the visitors from Yorkshire fighting their way back into the game seemed remote.

That, however, was exactly what happened with Leeds taking just 79 seconds to equalise once play had resumed as Jonny Howson knocked Robert Snodgrass's free-kick into the path of Luciano Becchio and the Argentinian striker finished from close range.

Suddenly, it was game on with even the first of the three floodlight failures being unable to slow the tempo due to referee Anthony Taylor allowing play to continue in the fading Hampshire light.

Full power had been restored by the hour mark so there was no hiding place for Paul Connolly and Alex Bruce after a defensive mix-up allowed Utaka to swoop and nudge the ball past Schmeichel.

Grayson's response was to send on Davide Somma and within just three minutes the scores were level again courtesy of a sublime

20-yard strike from the South African international.

Leeds were now in the ascendancy and looking favourites to snatch a winner only for another power failure to bring proceedings to a halt, providing an opportunity for the 3,000 away fans to have a bit of fun at their hosts' expense.

'Pay up Pompey, Pompey pay up' rang out across the ground from the away seats, soon to be followed by, 'Shall we pay the bill for you?'

After a 10-minute wait, power was restored and both sides had chances to claim all three points as Ibrahima Sonko headed wide and Jamie Ashdown pulled off a stunning save to keep out Howson's curled effort. A second hold-up followed – prompting more amusing banter as the United following serenaded the home fans with 'we can't see you sneaking out' – before the final three minutes were played out with no further incident.

It meant that, unlike the last league meeting between the two clubs in November 2003, United fans were able to leave for home with heads held high after watching their side's resilience and quality shine through.

MATCH FOCUS

Hero: Davide Somma

Liam Lawrence was perhaps the man of the match but, in the hero stakes, Leeds's South African international was the man courtesy of a stunning finish just a couple of minutes after coming off the bench.

Villain: Portsmouth's electricity supplier

The lights went out three times at Fratton Park to leave the 20,040 crowd hugely frustrated at the power problems that were affecting huge areas of the city.

Key moment

84th minute: Having equalised for a second time, Leeds poured forward in search of a winner and almost got it when a sweeping move ended with Jonny Howson curling a shot that seemed destined for the net until Jamie Ashdown brilliantly saved it.

Ref Watch

Anthony Taylor: Refereed with common sense throughout, and in particular during the final 15 minutes after the lights went out.

Verdict

A second meeting inside a month between two clubs who love to attack again produced an entertaining afternoon.

Quote of the day

Pay up Pompey, Pompey pay up...

– The Leeds fans give a clever re-working to the home fans' anthem 'Play Up Pompey' to suggest the floodlight failures were down to the south coast club's well-documented financial problems.

Next game

Hull City v Leeds United; February 1, 2011; Championship.

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