Date: 16th March 2008 at 9:31am
Written by: glensider

Well we’ve had our fair share of the breaks when on our travels this season, so I don’t really think that we can complain too long and loud about the reversal at Fratton Park, a game in truth we should never have lost. I haven’t seen or heard any official stats from the game, but we definitely had the bulk of the possession, more shots on goal, and probably at least twice as many corners. We didn’t play badly, it was certainly an improvement on the efforts of Wednesday evening, but sadly, like it or not, this game that we all love so much, determines its winners and losers by the simple fact of which team manages to score, and which team doesn’t. Points are not handed out for hard luck stories. So, at the end of the day, its hats off to Pompey, not only for being today’s victors, but for also doing the double over us this season, something very few teams will be able to boast come the campaigns end.

It was wet and miserable as we arrived in Pompey, but the locals were totally in ignorance of the dreary climate, they are on their way to Wembley, and they want everybody and anybody to know all about it. The Pompey chimes were ringing out, creating a noisy atmosphere in the ground (it seems wrong to describe it as a stadium), even more intimidating than is per the norm. At least we travelling supporters have the luxury of a roof over our heads nowadays, a blessing indeed, particularly on days like this one.

It was very interesting to read pre-game Harry Redknapp’s programme notes. Love him or loathe him (and for me it’s the former) you have to admire the job that he’s done at Fratton Park. He wrote, ‘I can only see the Premier League becoming stronger with each season. That leaves you needing to continually strengthen your squad to stay where you are, and hopefully improve as we have done. A couple of seasons ago we could well have slipped into the Championship. We bought to survive and then added more quality in each transfer window to be where we are today, in the top half of the table, and in the FA Cup semi-finals. It has been a remarkable turnaround’.

Indeed it has, and his sentiments are hopefully shared by MON this coming summer. We have done tremendously well since the RL/MON bandwagon rolled into town, we’re definitely getting there, but we absolutely have to add to what we have in the shape of more quality and more depth. We cannot allow another transfer window to pass us by without the introduction of the type of talent to help us on to that next level. It would be inexcusable.

Right onto the game. One change, Olof in at right back for Craig Gardner, with Gabby deemed fit to take his place up front alongside Big JC.

We started brightly, the lads looking determined to put Wednesday’s drab offering well and truly behind them. The travelling Villans meanwhile enjoying the opportunity to hurl abuse at every twist and turn made by one Milan Baros. Wonder why we singled him out for such attention?

David James smothered a shot from distance from the lively Shaun Maloney, then the keeper came off his line to deny Gabby who attempted to lift the ball over him.

Muntari wasted a Pompey opportunity with a poor free kick after Freddie had fouled Baros just outside the box, but then in their next attack of note, Defoe did what he loves doing, and does with increasing and annoying regularity, namely score against us. 1-0 Pompey! He finished with precision, getting on the end of a long ball from Glen Johnson (Defoe/Johnson – two players I wish so much were plying their trade at Brummagem B6), but questions surely have to be asked about Scotty Carson’s decision to rush out from his goal? Very bad decision in my opinion, and it cost us dearly.

JC got a faint touch to another superbly flighted Ashley Young free kick, but England’s, undisputed if you ask me, number one, made a superb fingertip save. I’ll say here and now, that if we’d have had David James in our goal today, then we most certainly wouldn’t have lost.

Goal number two for Harry’s lads was as bizarre an own goal as you are ever likely to see, and I’m sorry, but once again I have to point the finger of blame at our on loan keeper.

A through pass found Defoe, and Scott Carson came off his line in an attempt to clear, yet succeeded only in kicking the ball against Nigel Reo-Coker, with the ball rebounding into an empty net. Farcical. A truly bizarre goal by any stretch of the imagination, with the ball rebounding fully 20-25 yards off of NRC into the empty net. Had Scott chosen to remain on his line, which I firmly believe he should have done, Freddie Bouma could well have shepherded Defoe away from the danger zone. But no, two errors, and we’re undeservedly 2-0 down. Time for Stuart Taylor to get a run between the sticks I wonder?

Martin Laursen took a smack in the face from Baros, and it looked for a minute as though things were going to turn nasty, with Martin convinced that it was done deliberately, and then up the other end it was DJ to the Pompey rescue again, making a fine save from Ashley’s goal-bound effort. 2-1 then and we’d have been well and truly back in it.

Into the second half, and Gabby made a complete mess of a Shaun Maloney cross, steering the ball wide of the gaping goal from five yards. Head in hands time.
Marlon came on for the unlucky Shaun Maloney, who I thought had enjoyed a decent game, and for spells we had plenty of possession without ever really creating too much. When we did, create that is, our forwards were way off target.

Carson continued to look really out of sorts, failing to hold onto Muntari’s shot, but fortunately Defoe for once wasn’t fully alert enough to take advantage. Up the other end though David James continued to impress, and it was getting pretty obvious to all that he wasn’t going to be beaten by the efforts of his old club. He made another great save from a curling free kick from Ashley, and you just knew it wasn’t going to be our day. Scotty, were you watching and learning?

Two sendings off in the last ten minutes, Muntari for them, Olof for us, but it wasn’t a dirty game far from it. Muntari’s dismissal was notable though because it came after he fouled Moustapha Salifou, the latters first real involvement of note since his arrival at Villa Park.

So, in summing up, I’d say we had enough of the possession, and enough opportunities to have won the game, even allowing for the very shaky performance from our keeper. We’ve lost our edge, no doubt about it, the sparkle was missing, and we need to get back on track, and quickly. I do think that maybe the time has come to give Stuart Taylor a run in goal. Carson just seems to be lacking in confidence. He certainly cost us today.

Well, its feet up time now. Time to kick back, take five, and enjoy a cold one or two. Been a long day, so I’m going to relax, and just think about what might have been, and what if. What if we’d have had David James in goal today….

Have yourselves a great week, don’t forget the youngsters in action on Wednesday evening, and then, bring on Sunderland!!