Portsmouth heading for League One playoffs
Portsmouth 0 Barnsley 0
Sky Bet League One
Portsmouth 0 Barnsley 0
Story of the game
This was a tight contest and a draw was a fair result, although Portsmouth will be kicking themselves after missing a golden opportunity to nick maximum points when Omar Bogle's second-half penalty was saved.
Pompey had started the second period the brighter and Bogle's spot-kick on 61 minutes would have been just reward for their efforts, but instead it seemed to knock the the stuffing out of them after Barnsley keeper Adam Davies made the save from 12 yards.
Barnsley looked the more likely winners in the closing stages with Dani Pinillos blazing over, then home keeper Craig MacGillivray produced a David De Gea-style stop with his leg from point-blank range to push Jacob Brown's effort on to the bar before Ethan Pinnock's header was also saved.
There was still time for Portsmouth sub James Vaughan to fail to connect with a cross from fellow substitute Jamal Lowe in a much better second half after the first half had mainly been a non-event.
Portsmouth's Bryn Morris and Barnsley's Cameron McGeehan had attempts wide and perhaps the best chance fell to home winger Viv Solomon-Otabor whose shot was saved by the impressive Davies.
Kenny Jackett had spent the build-up to this game defending his formation of one striker and he did not budge on that shape even though the Fratton Park hosts were the more desperate for maximum points in their quest for automatic promotion out of Sky Bet League One.
Bogle was often isolated as Morris and Ben Close, both neat and tidy midfielders, are not stereotypical number ten types with Tom Naylor very much the anchor in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Jackett asks his wide players to do the damage and Solomon-Otabor, who won the penalty, and Ronan Curtis did at times look dangerous but opponents would much rather the threat came from wide than down the middle, where the majority of goals are scored.
The centre-back axis of Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess were worth their clean sheet, although Barnsley were missing chief scorer Kieffer Moore.
They were solid in central midfield and had a dash of quality in the wide areas but Pompey's main strength was in the list of offensive substitutes - Oli Hawkins, Gareth Evans, Lowe and Vaughan can all be important at this level.
Portsmouth beat Bury 3-0 in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday to book a Wembley spot with Evans and Hawkins both scoring.
So why did it take Jackett 77 minutes to make his first change (Lowe for Solomon-Otabor) before Vaughan arrived in another like-for-like replacement on 84 minutes to replace Bogle?
Only once in 2019 have Portsmouth scored more than a solitary goal in a league game at Fratton Park and they need to be more aggressive against opponents who are happy to leave with a point.
They could sacrifice a midfielder for a more attack-minded player.
Wide players Lowe and Curtis top Portsmouth's league scoring charts with ten each but neither has been prolific recently. Lowe has scored once in 2019 and half of Curtis's tally came before September 1.
Curtis, slightly stroppy and carrying a certain amount of arrogance in his play, notched against Bury on Tuesday and that could be the confidence boost needed to finish the season strongly.
The winger caused a bit of a scene as he had wanted to take the penalty which Bogle missed. That led to a minor row with left-back Lee Brown but Curtis could well be on the next Pompey spot-kick.
View from the camp
Jackett said: "It was a good performance. Their keeper made an excellent save from the spot but to be fair, they were threatening well in the second half.
"I felt we had the better passing game so performances are creeping up. We got on top and couldn’t find either the final ball or the goal or ultimately the right strike. With 12 games left with we're all looking for that spring to finish the season strongly."
Fourth-placed Pompey's goal difference of plus 19 is significantly inferior to their automatic promotion rivals Sunderland (plus 27), Barnsley (31) and Luton (38) which is usually a good indicator of relative strength.
It's looking like the playoffs for Pompey, who will be difficult to beat over two legs, but maybe need to be a bit braver in the final third.
Barnsley, 14 unbeaten in the league, were dealt a massive blow this week with Moore ruled out for the season and that may be the difference between a top-two finish and the playoffs.
They have a strong spine with Davies in goal, centre-backs Pinnock and Liam Lindsay plus central midfielders McGeehan and Alex Mowatt but slight striker Cauley Woodrow looked a little lost without target-man Moore for company.
Barnsley have scored one goal from open play in the three games since Moore has been sidelined with his head injury which should be of concern to their backers.
Mike Bahre replaced Moore at Portsmouth and was ineffective but it seems to have escaped the notice of bookmakers with the German 12-1 to score first at Southend on Saturday.
Portsmouth 4-1-4-1: MacGillivray; Walkes, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor; Curtis, Close, Morris, Solomon-Otabor (Lowe 77); Bogle (Vaughan 84).
Barnsley 4-4-2: Davies; Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos; Brown, Mowatt, McGeehan (Dougall 90), Thiam (Hedges 75); Woodrow, Bahre (Adeboyejo 59).
Next three fixtures
Portsmouth: Bradford (h), Charlton (a), Walsall (a)
Barnsley: Southend (a), Accrington (h), Sunderland (h).
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