By Steve Bone at Fratton Park
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Not bad for starters. Not at all bad. Pompey might not have marked their new start with a victory, but Bournemouth's late equaliser was the only negative on a sunny Fratton afternoon that oozed positivity.With a starting XI all making their Pompey debuts, this could have been a day when the size of the task facing the Blues in League was shown to be huge by a Bournemouth outfit tipped by many to at least make a good stab at the play-offs.
But new-look Pompey played with a tremendous buzz and energy that bodes very well indeed for the months ahead. From keeper Mikkel Andersen to strikers Izale McLeod and Luke Rodgers, they look like a team determined - and likely - to prove plenty of pundits wrong.
McLeod may have had Bournemouth's goalkeeper to thank for helping his opening Blues goal into the Fratton end net but Pompey deserved other goals for their endeavour and inventiveness, and certainly deserved at least the point with which they ended the afternoon.
A fabulous crowd of 17,703 showed how much appetite there is among fans for the prospect of watching a Pompey team potentially free of the succession of bad owners at whose hands they have suffered in recent years.
The summer has been a traumatic one for Pompey's management, players, staff and fans but the way it has ended hints at better times ahead. And pretty much everything witnessed on this sun-baked south-coast Saturday afternoon will have given supporters an extra dose of hope that the Blues can not just survive, but perhaps even prosper, at this level.
They led for much of the game after Shwan Jalal let McLeod's long-range effort slip through his hands and legs to the delight of a home crowd who, even before this boost, were already creating the sort of electric atmosphere not seen at Fratton for some time.
In the end, most would agree Bournemouth probably deserved a point - they missed a hatful of chances themselves after coming into the game more and more following early Blues domination. But Pompey certainly were worthy of their point, and some will believe they should have had all three.
Much credit has gone in recent days to Michael Appleton and more must be directed at him following this opening-day display. This was a team made up largely of players the manager idenitifed weeks and in some cases months ago but who he couldn't sign until two days ago.
How he talked them into keeping their options open when most, if not all, could have found job security elsewhere a long time before now, we'll never know. He is obviously quite a man-manager and trouble-shooter - you'd have to be to be Pompey's manager in 2012 - and he is obviously a good scout, coach and manager too, for this is no raggle-taggle collection of footballing nobodies he has assembled; it looks on early evidence like a team who can make a real impression in League One this season.
Picking out a star performer is difficult - there are many contenders. So let's assess them from front to back.
McLeod did more than score Pompey's first third-tier goal since Alan Biley's winner at Home Park on May 14, 1983. He hustled and harried the Cherries central defenders and looked a player who is single-minded in wanting to run and shoot at goal every time he gets the ball in the opposition half. Alongside him was Rodgers, who also looks a real handful and the perfect partner for the ex-Barnet man.
The midfield duo of Lee Williamson and Brian Howard looked like they'd been playing together for ages - something you could arguably say about the team as a whole. Williamson is calm and composed on the ball and Pompey did lose a little of their fluency when he was subbed in the second half.
Howard drove Pompey forward at every opportunity and got back to help the defence when needed - he would appear the ideal choice as Appleton's captain.
The width was provided by Jack Compton and Kieran Djilali, who both showed promise but faded, perhaps because of match fitness, as the game wore on. They switched flanks at the break and both looked at home on either side, a versatility which Appleton will find invaluable.
At the back came some of the afternoon's best performances. Loan pair Paul Connolly and Kevin Long looked solid and, like Williamson and Howard in front of them, like they were on each other's wavelengths from the start with a mixture of composure under pressure and the knowledge of when is a good time to find Row Z.
Jon Harley, at left-back, showed touches of class but it was the other full-back, the recruit from Doncaster, Mustapha Dumbuya, who gets my man-of-the-match vote. He let Bournemouth have not an inch down their left, and showed tremendous energy getting forward with the ball sticking to his boots. He stands out from the other side of the pitch and seems set to become a crowd favourite quickly.
In goal, Andersen showed the sort of qualities that have made Appleton push Trevor Birch on all the way on his budget allowances in order to land him when it looked like Pompey couldn't afford him. One tip over the bar, in particular, from a header just before Bournemouth equalised, was superb.
You have to feel sorry for some of the youngsters who gave their all at Plymouth the other night and now find themselves relegated to the bench or worse. Some of them, now Appleton has been able to bring in the players he has long believed he needs at this level, may struggle to get much of a first-team look-in again.
There was time for ex-Chelsea youngster Connor Clifford and two of last season's last men standing, Ashley Harris and Adam Webster, to come on and stake claims for fuller parts to play. Harris went close to winning it for Pompey with a lovely right-foot curler from 20 yards in the closing minutes.
In truth a defeat would have been harsh on Paul Groves' team - but a Pompey win would have been a fitting end to an afternoon when the Fratton feelgood factor was most definitely back.
Anyone who thought everything thrown at Pompey of late must have broken the resolve of the management and the fans to carry on the good fight now knows different. No-one's going to get carried away by the evidence of one game when there's another 45 to come. But those outside the PO postcode area who have predicted Pompey's third relegation in four seasons might want to readjust their thinking.
Pompey: Andersen; Dumbuya, Connolly, Long, Harley; Compton, Williamson (Clifford 62), Howard (c), Djilali (Webster 89); Rodgers, McLeod. Sub not used: Eastwood.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
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