PORTSMOUTH 1-1 BURTON ALBIONDarragh Lenihan chose the perfect moment to score his first senior professional goal as Burton Albion came from behind to grab an important away point away in a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth.
There were only eight minutes left to play when the Blackburn Rovers loanee latched onto a loose ball and drove forwards before drilling a low shot beyond the reach of Paul Jones in the Pompey goal and into the bottom corner of the net. It was a deserved equaliser for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's men who overcame a disappointing first half, in which they trailed to Jed Wallace's opportunist strike, to show more threat in the second period and go on to secure what could be another crucial point in the quest for promotion.
Given their recent form it was probably no surprise that Albion fielded the same starting eleven for the third game in a row. Lee Bell and Ian Sharps dropped out of the matchday squad for the trip to Fratton Park as only the substitutes bench showed any changes from the last game against Mansfield Town.
The game took a while to ignite although a robust challenge from Wallace left Darragh Lenihan in some pain after just five minutes. Portsmouth looked the more likely going forwards in the early stages in what was their first home game since before New Year. Craig Westcarr created space on the left for a low cross that Damien McCrory had to hurriedly deal with as Wallace looked to pounce at the far post. From the resulting corner Albion swiftly broke away but McCrory, advancing down the Burton left overhit his cross with the home defence somewhat stretched.
With just under 20 minutes on the clock Albion had a good chance to open the scoring. Stuart Beavon was tackled heavily from behind by Paul Robinson but with Albion in possession referee Oliver Langford played advantage and Jacob Blyth was unlucky to see not one but two shots blocked. Robinson escaped without a yellow card once play had stopped.
Albion continued to play some good flowing football and began to dominate proceedings as the home crowd became a little restless. A poorly struck corner from Matty Palmer was eventually scrambled clear only as far as McCrory and his rising shot failed to trouble Jones although the keeper was more than a little anxious moments later as Kelvin Maynard laid the ball into the path of Lenihan whose low shot was only just wide of the post.
Portsmouth were on the back foot but when Robbie Weir got caught in possession it prompted the home side to pick up their game. They almost profited immediately with the ball breaking to new signing Matt Tubbs but the prolific striker was denied a first home goal in Pompey colours by McLaughlin who raced from his line to save at the striker's feet.
Moments later Wallace attempted an audacious chip from the edge of the box but the Albion keeper was able to get back and catch the ball comfortably. Portsmouth upped their game but Albion were almost the architects of their own downfall just after the half hour, McLaughline driving a clearance against his own skipper, John Mousinho but being agile enough to drop on the ball well before it could roll over the line.
Westcarr once again found himself in acres of space on the left and it took a deft touch from George Taft to deny Tubbs a tap in at the far post.
The Portsmouth pressure eventually told as Tubbs headed the ball into the path of Andy Barcham. The former Spurs youngster lashed a low drive goalwards that McLaughlin did wellto tip onto the far post but WALLACE was alive to the rebound and converted a simple finish.
Full back Adam Webster almost made it two with a run along the bye line with McLaughlin standing tall at the near post to deny him. A cross into the centre for Tubbs would have surely doubled Pompey's lead.
Westcarr was almost in on goal just before the break as Wallace tried to pick him out but he was just unable to bring the cross under his spell.
Albion finished the first half on top but squandered a glorious chance to equalise when Webster failed to cut out Beavon's cross to the far post. McCrory pulled a low ball back into the danger area but Palmer could only scoop his shot over from little more than six yards.
Half time: Portsmouth 1-0 Burton Albion
Albion could easily have found themselves two goals behind in the opening moments of the second half. An early corner was sent over from the right and Webster rose well at the back post to head goalwards with McLaughlin reacting well to get down and palm the ball away low to his right.
Palmer, who had been feeling the effects of a sickness bug, could continue no more and his departure meant another step on the road to full fitness for Lucas Akins who replaced him. The change also saw Albion turn more to a 4-3-3 formation with Akins deployed on the right, Maynard moving to the middle alongside Lenihan and Weir and Beavon moving out towards the left.
Akins was soon making some of his trademark runs and one cross gave Beavon the chance to test Jones but his looping header, under pressure, was easily collected by Jones.
Albion were seizing control of the game but without really threatening to break through the Pompey defence. Their chances receded slightly when Beavon picked up a kick to his calf and had to come off, Marcus Harness coming on and necessitating another change in formation.
Robbie Weir picked up a yellow card in Albion's cause for a strong challenge on Tubbs whilst at the other end Jacob Blyth also needed treatment after a tackle deep inside Portsmouth territory.
Pompey threw on their new loan signing from West Ham, Paul McCullum, in place of the tricky Westcarr and with ten minutes remaining he skipped around a challenge from Mousinho to cross for Tubbs who could not steer his header on target.
Albion threw on Adam McGurk in place of the tiring Maynard and within two minutes Albion were level. It owed a little bit to fortune that Blyth's slightly heavy touch allowed the ball to run into the path of LENIHAN and he strode forward and unerringly found the bottom corner from the edge of the box on his left foot.
Tubbs had one last chance to grab all the points for Pompey but his shot on the turn late on flew straight into the waiting arms of McLaughlin. Six minutes of stoppage time passed, otherwise, unremarkably and Albion's unbeaten run was extended to seven games.