Ipswich 2 Pompey 2

Pompey keeper Brian Murphy is beaten by Ryan Fraser's last-gasp free-kick Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey keeper Brian Murphy is beaten by Ryan Fraser's last-gasp free-kick Picture: Joe Pepler
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It was Mick McCarthy who summed up the occasion so eloquently, yet so brutally.

‘I think they probably deserved to win – I thought they were excellent. I was relieved to go in at half-time 0-0, though I did think we were better in the second half,’ was the post-match assessment.

‘We were below par, but they are one of the better League Two teams and they have a lot of quality.

‘It didn’t (look like there were two divisions between the sides), absolutely not, it probably looked the other way around, to be honest.

‘I don’t know what I can add to that, other than we were lucky to get a draw, I think they deserved to win, I thought they were excellent.’

A straight-talking delivery among a profession where spin and diversion tactics are usually employed to deflect criticism.

Few gathered at Portman Road could possibly disagree with such a refreshingly honest evaluation.

Adventurous Pompey were a joy to watch against opposition presently occupying the Championship play-off spots.

Paul Cook’s men played without fear and demonstrated a bravery on the ball visiting teams rarely dare to display away from the comfort blanket of home turf.

Forming the backdrop were 2,494 boisterous Blues followers, every inch as dogged and dominant as those on the pitch.

Ultimately Pompey were robbed of a remarkable victory courtesy of a goalkeeping moment, Brian Murphy once again at centre stage.

Yet that should not be allowed to overshadow a magnificent display from the confident visitors in Saturday’s FA Cup clash.

The last away trip in the competition resulted in defeat at non-league Aldershot during one of the most disgusting Blues performances of recent memory.

Under Cook they conjured up Ipswich, an encounter to live long in the memory for entirely contrasting reasons.

For this League Two side came within two minutes of claiming a stunning FA Cup upset during a third round in which sadly few surprises emerged.

And the opposition manager himself acknowledged the injustice of it all.

Perhaps the Fratton faithful should no longer be surprised at such a display delivered by a Pompey team evolving at pace under Cook.

Earlier in the campaign Derby County were deservedly dispatched 2-1, while Reading relied on a late goal to squeak through during Capital One Cup fixtures.

This time the Blues were drawn away to face a Championship side – and the performance which followed was arguably even more impressive.

Ipswich supporters may point at seven line-up changes as extenuating circumstances, a fact highlighted by McCarthy curiously naming his team 24 hours before kick-off.

The Blues, let it be known, also made alternations, four in total from the victory over Crawley. Absences which on paper could have impeded their own ability to perform.

With Matt Clarke unable to face his parent club and Christian Burgess not yet ready to return from injury, midfielder Adam Barton was drafted into the centre of defence.

Skipper Michael Doyle was rested, opening the door for Ben Close to collect his first appearance since September 1 at Exeter in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Cook also opted to take newly-crowned League Two Player of the Month Gareth Evans out of his starting XI and reposition him on the substitutes’ bench, remaining unused.

While Sheffield Wednesday’s unwillingness to allow Caolan Lavery to be cup-tied meant Gary Roberts’ first start since October 20.

Even Pompey’s substitutions over the course of the match would yield an FA Cup debut and an average age of a little more than 18, courtesy of Adam May, Conor Chaplin and Brandon Haunstrup.

Irrespective of those on parade at Portman Road, they did their club proud and once again demonstrated the strength in the squad Cook continues to assemble.

To think Matt Tubbs and Nigel Atangana were not even included in the match-day 18 to cast further doubt on their bleak Pompey presences.

Still, Saturday centred on a group of players who represent the future of the club, one which continues to look bright under this current regime.

The first-half may have been goalless, but the spectacle of home fans booing off their team was an accurate reflection of what had unfolded.

Bartosz Bialkowski was considerably busier than Murphy, forced into sprawling saves twice from Kyle Bennett and once from Marc McNulty.

Adam McGurk blazed a chance over the bar following Ben Davies’ cut back when he should have done far better, while Roberts dragged a left-foot shot wide from a similarly excellent position.

On the half-hour mark, the noisy away following began with the ‘ole’s’ to intensify the simmering frustration of the home fans.

Pompey fans had, of course, already delivered their damning verdict of their limp opposition in song format.

Unsurprisingly, the Tractor Boys raised their game after the break for a second half which would yield all four goals in the 2-2 draw.

The deadlock was broken on 53 minutes when Brett Pitman saw his shot saved by the legs of Murphy, with Tommy Oar following up.

Yet two minutes later the Blues levelled, Roberts fed McNulty who rolled the ball into the path of Bennett.

The winger had never before scored in the FA Cup during nine previous appearances, but placed a first-time right-foot shot into the far corner.

Fittingly for a cup contest, there was drama to come when substitute Chaplin netted in the 86th minute.

Bennett added an assist to his goal through his involvement as the 18-year-old surged into the box and drove a precise left-foot shot into the far corner.

How Pompey fans dared to dream of a cup shock – then came heartache for them and for Murphy.

Substitute Ryan Fraser’s free-kick appeared to be misjudged by the keeper as he leapt in the air with Luke Chambers, the ball sailing straight into the net.

The Blues’ players appealed for a foul, Chamber’s arm coming across the Murphy, but nothing was forthcoming as Ipswich had their leveller two minutes from time to secure a replay.

Regardless, it was an FA Cup day for Pompey to be proud.

As Mick McCarthy so clearly agreed.