Gillingham 0 Pompey 0

Action from Pompey's friendly with Gillingham. Picture: Joe Pepler
Action from Pompey's friendly with Gillingham. Picture: Joe Pepler

Back in Kent for a pre-season friendly, the wounds of the previous debacle still very fresh.

A year ago at Ebbsfleet the non-leaguers who share the same division as the Hawks and Gosport dispatched Pompey 3-0.

The manner of the performance delivered by a strong Andy Awford line-up on that day certainly sparked a twitch of concern.

And nobody needs reminding how that season panned out.

Yesteday, the Priestfield Stadium provided the venue, 14 miles away from last season’s Kentish setting.

Paul Cook’s men departed from Gillingham with a goalless draw and, intriguingly, an undefeated pre-season campaign.

Summer friendlies are, of course, no accurate barometer to a forthcoming league campaign.

It would be folly to predict a 10-month League Two season on the basis of six fixtures, none of which took place at Fratton Park.

Yet a string of pre-season defeats would have unquestionably sounded the alarm among many of the Fratton faithful, particularly ahead of a campaign burdened with so much expectation.

Instead it is a first unbeaten summer since 2004-05, a feat which warrants credit no matter how irrelevant it may prove.

Good news often deserves just as much appreciation as the bad in football’s hysterical bubble.

Certainly this summer has not yielded an embarrassing reverse at the hands of a Vanarama Conference South side who would sack their manager in November.

Thank goodness.

In terms of pre-season performances, Cook has criticised aspects of the displays on several occasions, in particular at Bognor and Woking.

The word ‘progress’ has been repeatedly rolled out as the massively overhauled squad continues to find its feet.

Not hard to argue on that front bearing in mind both the current squad make up and the differing performances.

Cook doesn’t need reminding it is a team still lacking a right-back, despite some promising showings from Ben Davies in the role.

The triallist struck the bar with a free-kick at the Priestfield Stadium, representing the closest the Blues came to breaking the deadlock.

Nonetheless, his versatility has ensured Cook continues to pursue a permanent deal – in addition to seeking a right-back alternative.

Following the departure of Paul Robinson, an experienced central defensive arrival is also a necessity to join Christian Burgess, Adam Webster and the injured Jack Whatmough.

That would be in addition to Matt Clarke, whose loan spell from Ipswich Town is expected to go through tomorrow.

Another striking option is also on the cards to join Matt Tubbs and Jayden Stockley, a pair still to fire this summer.

Finally, following Michael Poke’s loan exit to Eastleigh, a second goalkeeper is required to apply the pressure on Paul Jones for a first-team spot.

Triallist Brian Murphy was absent yesterday with a stomach upset, so instead Alex Bass stepped onto the bench.

The Academy prospect, who had previously lined-up against Pompey for Bognor, was introduced late on for Jones during a taste of the action.

Plenty of work still required then to Cook’s team, with the future of James Dunne also to be finalised as he heads for an anticipated exit.

In the background, Adam Barton has yet to feature through injury, while a thigh problem accounted for Kal Naismith at the Priestfield Stadium.

The Scot joined Adam McGurk watching from the stands, with Enda Stevens absent following a family bereavement.

Previous fixtures have also seen Gary Roberts, Kyle Bennett, Stockley and Tubbs sidelined through varying niggles.

Yet through it all the new-look Blues have remained unbeaten, an encouraging outcome surely prompting even the gloomiest doom monger to muster up a nod of acknowledgement.

Yesterday, League One Gillingham formed the opposition in a contest during which a winner barely looked like emerging.

Cook had long earmarked the fixture as the opportunity to name his preferred first-team ahead of the August 8 league opener against Dagenham & Redbridge.

In reality, Stevens’ absence prompted a left-back start for Brandon Haunstrup – and what an encouraging showing that was from the youngster from Waterlooville.

On the other defensive flank was Davies, while Nigel Atangana got the nod to partner Michael Doyle as one of the holding midfielders.

Certainly the attacking trio of Roberts, Bennett and Gareth Evans can expect to start against the Daggers, as can central defenders Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke.

Meanwhile, Tubbs led the attack having missed the previous two matches with an ankle knock.

It took new skipper Doyle just four minutes to make his mark, a challenge which resulted in Aaron Morris substituted with an injured knee.

Haunstrup’s pass was a touch short and the Pompey midfielder successfully threw himself into a tackle to retrieve it, hurting Morris in the process.

The unfortunate moment was another example of the grit the Irishman adds to the Blues’ game and his growing importance to a side who on Friday lost the leadership skills of Robinson.

Yet it was Gillingham who started the brightest, with Bradley Dack in particular the main prompter.

The attacking midfielder was a constant menace throughout and on 20 minutes fired a curling shot from the left narrowly over.

Yet in the 27th minute the visitors came agonisingly close to grabbing the lead.

Davies was fouled by Bradley Garmston 25 -yards from goal and the former Sheffield United player stepped up to rattle the crossbar from the subsequent free-kick.

Keeper Glenn Morris, a one-time triallist under Michael Appleton, had no chance, yet the woodwork came to the Gills’ rescue.

The closest Justin Edinburgh’s side came to netting arrived in the 50th minute through a break instigated by Emmanuel Osadebe.

The youngster from Spurs surged down the right channel before firing in a low angled shot which Paul Jones got down well to save.

The remainder of the match was impeded by substitutions, Cook making seven, including the return of Ben Tollitt.

So a goalless draw it finished, an unbeaten first-team pre-season achieved.

Now onto the real thing.

Pompey: Jones (81 mins Bass). Davies, Burgess, Clarke, Haunstrup (69 mins Webster), Doyle (72 mins Close), Atangana (72 mins Hollands), Evans, Roberts (81 mins Tollitt), Bennett (62 mins Chaplin), Tubbs (62 mins Stockley).