Hillier's red beginning

Oldham Athletic 0 Portsmouth 0 Attendance: 7,639
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The Independent Online
David Hillier made his mark on his Portsmouth debut but not in the manner his manager Terry Fenwick was expecting, when the former Arsenal and England Under-21 midfielder was dismissed for stamping on the Oldham midfielder Nick Henry in the 63rd minute.

Hillier, signed for pounds 300,000 from Highbury nine days ago, is clearly adjusting well to his new surroundings. He became the fifth Portsmouth player to be shown a red card this season and the suspended pounds 10,000 fine hanging over the club for their lack of discipline last season looks likely to be collected by the FA sooner rather than later.

Surprisingly, Hillier's new manager, while not condoning the actual assault, felt his man had been hard done by, having been fouled initially by Henry.

"I can't defend his actions but I thought it was a foul on him," said Fenwick, who confirmed that the player will face internal disciplinary action. "The ref missed that one but was quick to come down on the retaliation. We will have to live with that."

Despite Fenwick's loyalty to his new acquisition there could be no defence for Hillier's actions. But the Pompey manager had much stronger grounds for argument when he questioned the referee Graham Frankland's decision to cancel out a first-half Portsmouth "goal".

Lee Bradbury won a physical encounter with the Oldham fullback Craig Fleming, rounded the goalkeeper Gary Kelly and pulled the ball back for Sandy Igoe to convert into the open net. A linesman's flag, for an original foul by Bradbury, cut short Portsmouth's celebrations.

"The referee was 15-20 yards away and the linesman about 70 yards away, yet he gave the decision," Fenwick complained. "I asked the referee how that could be and he couldn't give me an answer."

Neither side could break the deadlock, even allowing for Oldham's numerical advantage in the final half-hour. They failed to seriously test the keeper Aaron Flahaven during that period - a long-range effort from David Beresford and two half-chances from the substitute Nicky Banger were the only threats.

The stalemate prevented either team improving on recent records and, despite Fenwick's assertion that "We are starting to show signs of being a force in this division," On the evidence of this display it is hard to imagine either club entering this season's promotion race.