Pompey 1 Wycombe 1

Johnny Ertl fires home the leveller. Picture: Ashley Zee
Johnny Ertl fires home the leveller. Picture: Ashley Zee

Nobody could begrudge Johnny Ertl the moment.

With a sweeping of the right foot, the half-time substitute had grabbed a well-deserved point for his team.

A 1-1 draw for Pompey against high-flying Wycombe Wanderers to build on the midweek triumph over Dagenham & Redbridge.

Yet that instant represented so much more.

A personal collectors’ item for a player once shamefully booed as he prepared to enter as a substitute against Exeter last season.

A precious landmark for a versatile performer who in 74 previous appearances had never before netted on home turf.

And further evidence the 31-year-old still has a massive part in play in Andy Awford’s Pompey plans.

Ertl was sapped of confidence and form last term, subsequently failing to make four of the first five squads this time around.

Yet he staged a comeback against Yeovil with a magnificent central-defensive display, retaining his place at Burton.

Then there was Saturday.

The unlikely goalscorer, on for Jack Whatmough, popped up to finish Dan Butler’s corner from the right.

It was a right-foot volley which flashed past the helpless Matt Ingram and high into the net.

Fratton Park erupted – and Ertl had his poignant moment.

There must have been times when the ultra-positive Austrian must have questioned where his career was heading following the signing of a three-year deal in the summer of 2013.

Under various managers last term he was a shadow of the player who had won The News’ player-of-the-season accolade in League One.

Not that he has grumbled or given up the fight, that’s not in his admirable nature.

Well, Ertl is truly back in the first-team frame now, in the process re-enforcing the view he can operate effectively as a central defender.

Suddenly he is perceived as a genuine candidate to feature in Pompey’s back line, hence his replacement of Whatmough at the interval.

Fully deserved for as likeable a person you could ever have the good fortune to encounter.

And when he netted in the 70th minute on Saturday the hearts of so many present were smiling just as much as the mouths.

Not that Ertl’s goal should be allowed to distract too much from an important performance from Butler.

The youngster was given the nod to continue in place of a now fit-again Nicky Shorey and rose to the challenge magnificently.

Attacking intelligently as a left wing-back, he used the ball excellently, while also displaying expertise from corners on more occasions than not.

Crucially in his role, Butler’s crossing was impressive, his energy boundless and he was defensively sound.

Perhaps the common perception of him being Shorey’s understudy is now looking rather tattered and frayed.

England’s former left-back clearly has genuine competition from Butler on his hands as the campaign unfolds.

Adding the performance against the Chairboys to his other outings this season, it may be a little while before Shorey finds himself back in Awford’s first XI.

Yet this was Ertl’s day – Butler will have plenty more ahead of him, no doubt about that.

His intervention banished growing thoughts the Blues were not fated to net an equaliser against Gareth Ainsworth’s side.

Sam Wood had presented the visitors with a 50th-minute lead when he steered the ball past Paul Jones from close range during a moment of sloppy defending.

Awford later revealed Paul Robinson had accepted responsibility for not clearing the danger – a rare mistake from a coup of a signing.

Moments later, Matt McClure wasted a chance to increase their lead when he blazed over from close range following an excellent Sido Jombati pass.

Still, in a tight yet entertaining affair, it was clear this would not be a game oozing goals despite encouragingly positive play from both sides.

In the meantime, the Chairboys’ attempts at slowing the game down and killing the Blues’ flow were as crude as they were laughable.

Regardless, in their attempts at hauling themselves on level terms, Awford’s side were creating opportunities.

Firstly Jed Wallace put Patrick Agyemang clean through down the right side of the box, only for the striker’s touch to put him too wide.

Still, when he crossed, James Dunne popped up to rattle the crossbar with a powerful drive.

Wallace then had a shot saved as Awford’s men pushed for the equaliser, the Fratton faithful acknowledging their intent by roaring them on.

Then a corner from the left was flicked on by Robinson with Joe Devera somehow managing to sky over a gaping net from a mere three yards out.

That aside, it was another good match from the defender who has recovered well following a doddery first six months at Fratton Park.

Meanwhile, Craig Westcarr had already spurned a glorious first-half chance by ballooning a wonderful Wallace cross over the bar from inside the box.

He was also guilty of missing in the push for an equaliser, again smashing a shot over the bar, this time from around the penalty spot.

It was left for Ertl to strike and, with 20 minutes remaining, still provide hope a win could yet arrive.

Wycombe did their best to deny that opportunity by sapping time rather than attempting to regain the lead they had let slip.

At one point, Paul Hayes was booked having exaggeratedly applied the captain’s armband to a team-mate after the board went up to signal his exit.

Little shock then six minutes was raised by the fourth official, although no more goal-scoring opportunities came either team’s way.

So it was spoils shared between the sides and Awford’s men continue to accrue points following that three-match losing blip.

The draw wasn’t enough to stop them dropping out of the top 10, mind. Still, the Blues are ticking along once more.

Meanwhile, there were enough positives in terms of individual performances to take from the Chairboys fixture, especially in terms of Ertl and Butler.

Neither made the squad for the opening-day game – yet both are now making their mark impressively.