Date: 11th April 2009 at 8:11pm
Written by: pompeygrant01

Before the game a minutes silence was held in memory of those who died at Hillsborough 20 years ago. This was almost immaculately observed except for a few idiots in the West Brom end.

The game started at a rapid pace at a rainy Fratton Park with both sides showing clever movement and innovative play. The first chance of the game came to makeshift right-back Kaboul, who had a decent left footed effort seen past the post by Scott Carson. West Brom came back well though with, in my opinion, one of their better players, Robert Koren testing James with two fizzing shots.

A touch of controversy entered the match on 20 minutes when a penalty appeal against the West Brom defence was turned down after Mike Dean decided it was more ball-to-hand than hand-to-ball. Again, West Brom decided enough was enough and fought back, although the next chance was courtesy of Mullins and Campbell who got in each others way whilst attempting to clear the ball out of the box. The ball broke to Morrison who unleashed a shot which James dealt with. This riled the home side who turned pressure into a real chance on 25 minutes. Pennant and Kaboul combined well down the right flank and an attempted cross resulted in a corner. Pennant fired into the middle and was the chance was headed away, however, the unmarked Kranjcar took a pot-shot which might have got the slightest of deflections. For all the world the shot looked in, but as Carson looked on, the ball struck the post, bounced out, and was cleared to safety.
The cracks soon started to appear for Pompey and in all honesty, did not go away for the entire match. Mullins was poor and offered little in midfield, with too many casual mistakes. The partnership with Hughes simply did not work. They were much of the same and really didn’t combine or offer the required service to Crouch or Kranjcar. Pennant showed much willingness down the right but lacks the quality of crossing which he was loaned for. It’s easy to see why Rafa doesn’t rate him at times.

However, Pennant was in the mood for a shot or two and had a good effort from outside the box on 28 minutes which only narrowly missed the post. Pompey were pressing and showing their attacking prowess, in particular when a Kaboul cross could have so easily lead to a goal, but a lack of communication or maybe selfishness caused Crouch and Kranjcar to collide, leaving the ball to simply roll away. Nonetheless, the home sides pressure paid off on 33 minutes with a superb individual effort from big Younes Kaboul. The right back decided to have a go himself ignoring possible options in Pennant and Kranjcar and cut inside Paul Robinson, curling the ball into the top corner past the despairing Carson. Cue pandemonium in the stands!

The fans may have wanted to put the brakes on their celebrations though, when just a minute later, West Brom’s number 11, Chris Brunt, fired in a swerving shot which was pushed around the post by James. The resulting corner caused mayhem in the box with no one being able to get the ball away successfully. West Brom were pressing and Pompey’s poor defending was not helping to maintain their narrow lead. Soon after, both sides were put out of their misery when Mike Dean blew the half time whistle.

Portsmouth had been poor by all accounts with the two opportunities painting over the cracks. Overall, the midfield was too defensive with only Kranjcar able to push on. Nugent, Hughes and co. had been content to hold and clear up any defensive mistakes, of which there were plenty!

The second half started in the worst possible fashion for Pompey fans when a comedy error from the defence resulted in James not picking the ball up, but blasting it straight at Distin and Campbell. James then pulled off a marvellous save but the rebound fell kindly to Greening who blasted in a low shot from a tight angle.

West Brom extended took the lead on 62 minutes when Chris Brunt blasted in a great 25-yard free kick which left James dumbfounded and the away support in raptures. Nevertheless, it wasn’t to last long. On 66 minutes Mullins was fouled and awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal. In the middle of this, the quiet Nugent was brought off and replaced by Belhadj down the left. Kranjcar stepped up to take the free kick after much deliberation with Belhadj and Hughes. It absolutely shot in, leaving Carson no chance. Anyone who hasn’t seen the goal – think a typical David Beckham free kick, and you will get the picture.

Just a few minutes later it could have been so much more for Kranjcar and Portsmouth. A ball was whipped in and Kranjcar just had to keep his volley low and a certain goal would follow. However, from just five yards, he blasted high into the Fratton End. Portsmouth showed their dominance again soon after with a cross sent in from the right which left Crouch with a fairly comfortable header, but he couldn’t get it on target, in the end heading high and wide.

Possibly Portsmouth’s best chance to win the game came on 84 minutes, when a misplaced goal kick from England reject Carson fell to the feet of Pennant who had the option to shoot from 30 yards into an empty net or square the ball to Kranjcar. Pennant took his shot and should have done far better than sky the ball into the stand.

As the 4th official indicated 4 minutes of time added on, those around me wondered if and when Theo Gekas would make his long awaited debut. Well, it did eventually come, but far too late in my opinion. Pennant was the man to make way on 93 minutes with the Greek star getting a rousing reception. Nothing could be done though with so little time left on the clock and West Brom pressed more but the match ultimately petered out into a draw. A result the away side will be happiest with.

James – 4 Too many mistakes and at fault for the first goal in my opinion.
Kaboul – 8 Fantastic performance, capable as a replacement for Johnson. Great goal.
Campbell – 5 A couple of mistakes. Seemed to lack the motivation today and didn’t inspire others.
Distin – 7 Certainly better than earlier in the season. Controlled the defence.
Hreidarsson – 7 Played really well. Controlled the left side and showed real passion.
Nugent – 5 Very quiet. Playing left wing doesn’t suit him.
Mullins – 4 Too many mistakes and must be more creative at times.
Hughes – 4 Must learn to pass forwards. Didn’t show his usual determination.
Pennant – 6 Probably his best game for us. Improved greatly in the second half. Crosses became better.
Crouch – 5 Ran and ran but got nothing from the midfield. Conceded too many free kicks.
Kranjcar – 8 Great game. Posed a big threat and scored a magnificent goal.

‘In it to win it no.2’ – Question no.6…
Jermaine Pennant, now of course on loan with Pompey, once scored a hat-trick against with team? His only goals for Arsenal on his full debut no less, I believe.

If I said think ‘Pompey’s biggest rival’ it might give it away, oops…

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