Burton warms up the Den

Millwall 1 Van Blerk 24 Portsmouth 1 Burton 74 Attendance: 7,710
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The Independent Online
THE final whistle was greeted with chants of "Deon, Deon" from the Portsmouth fans who had braved the intense cold at the new Den, and their salute to a new hero was fully deserved. The 19-year-old Deon Burton, who came on as a first-half substitute, unravelled Millwall's defence single-handed and earned a point for 10-man Portsmouth with a beautifully arced equaliser 16 minutes from time.

Terry Fenwick, Pompey's manager, echoed the opinions of the fans when he said: "He occupied the whole of their back four and thoroughly deserved a magnificent goal. He was a thorn in their side throughout the second half and much of this good result has got to rest on his shoulders."

Burton's performance capped a splendid effort by Portsmouth, who looked to be heading for nothing but trouble as the first half ended. They were a goal down, a man short thanks to Russell Perrett's dreadful challenge on James Connor, Paul Walsh had gone off with knee ligament trouble and John Durnin was struggling with an injury that prevented him from reappearing after the interval.

Fenwick's reshaping of his side after the 28th-minute loss of centre back Perrett worked well, not least because his side had the kind of understanding that Millwall sorely lacked. "We more than matched them," Fenwick said. "We knocked the ball around and dominated them for long periods of the game."

In an evenly balanced First Division, Millwall began the match in eighth position with a game in hand on the leaders, even though last week's win at Grimsby was their first in the league for 13 games.

Portsmouth, by contrast, have taken some time to find their form this season, but they have begun to creep away from the foot of the table.

The Millwall fans may be getting to grips with Sergei Yuran and Vassili Kulkov, but the Millwall players have yet to work out how to play to the Russian internationals' strengths. In the 26th minute, Yuran decided it was time to show what he could do. Picking up the pieces of Chris Malkin's attempt to burrow his way through the Pompey defence, Yuran hit a cross- shot that Alan Knight could only palm away. Jason Van Blerk took the chance to put Millwall ahead.

Three minutes later Portsmouth were plunged into deeper trouble when their centre-back Perrett launched himself into a two-footed tackle on Connor. The inevitable red card brought a gloomy end to Perrett's second outing of the season. He had been booked in the first one.

Reorganisation cost Portsmouth their hold on midfield, but as long as Millwall continued to frustrate Yuran by ignoring him - even though he kept finding space - Portsmouth did not look in danger of falling further behind.

Portsmouth still troubled Millwall's defence and Burton, on for Walsh, might have done better on the hour with a 20-yarder that sailed over the bar. Fourteen minutes later he did do better. He took advantage of Millwall's confusion at a throw-in to steal the ball and curl a superb right-foot shot round Carter for Portsmouth's equaliser. Indeed, Portsmouth nearly stole all the points when their substitute Jason Rees surged from midfield to loop a shot just over the Millwall crossbar.