Date: 23rd December 2006 at 5:02pm
Written by:

Pompey started the festive period by welcoming Sheffield United to Fratton Park. It’s the season of good will but we took that far too literally in the first half! After going in at half time trailing 1-0 we came back to earn three precious points thanks to a 3-1 win.

Benjani, who trained towards the end of the week came through his fitness test to take his place up front alongside Kanu, while Andrew Cole made a surprise return, being named on the bench before coming on late on. Another man named on the bench was Manuel Fernandes (who also came on) who could yet still become a Pompey player in January, although a return to Benfica is looking most likely.

An in form Sheffield United took an early lead from a man in equally good form Rob Hulse. The second half saw us come out with a far better performance, earning three points thanks to an own goal from Rob Kozluk then two goals from corners (we never score from corners!) from Sol Campbell with his first for the club and for a second weekend running Noe Pamarot.

First Half
With the match less than four minutes old an expectant Fratton Park crowd were shocked as Sheffield United gained an early lead. With the Pompey defence caught napping Rob Hulse nipped on to head home Derek Geary’s cross. This was certainly not the start we had anticipated.

Kanu’s first real involvement was to try his luck but his shot was caught by the waiting Paddy Kenny in the Sheff United goal. Shortly after this a piece of Kanu trickery, typical of the majestic Nigerian created a chance for the returning Benjani but his tame header was gratefully accepted by the Irish goalkeeper.

As Pompey struggled to get into the game Danny Webber missed a gift wrapped opportunity to put United two up on 26 minutes. When put clear through by a long ball (missed by Sean Davis) Webber was left with a one on one with David James but blew the chance as he shot wide.

Our struggles continued with us being restricted to 25-yard efforts from Kanu and Davis both failing to trouble Kenny,

Gary O’Neil at least forced Kenny into a save as the half entered the final minutes, but even after this United created a couple more chances before half time that could have seen the match dead and buried. Stephen Quinn struck from 20-yards, thankfully this was straight James and he held well. Then in first half injury time the pacey Webber got away again only to drag his effort wide of James goal.

Words were needed at half time from Harry Redknapp as we were looking poor.

Second Half
Words were obviously spoken by Mr Redknapp as the troops were out on the field of play waiting for the Blades to re-emerge a good few minutes before they did and our response was almost immediate. Benjani’s low cross took a deflection of Phil Jagielka and try as he might Rob Kozluk was unable to keep the ball out, being the unfortunate man to be credited with the own goal.

United looked like a different team in the second half and after 45 minutes of giving us nothing they had suddenly switched off, the break had certainly helped us more than them.

Five minutes after Kozluk’s own goal we found ourselves 2-1 up thanks to Sol Campbell’s first goal for the club. Sol rose to head home Matty Taylor’s corner totally unchallenged to send the fans wild, now this was more like it! It was not only the Pompey fans that went wild, blades manager Neil Warnock went berserk on the touchline as he berated the officials, or at least appeared to be, frantically waiving his arms at Graham Poll.

Glen Johnson had a chance to make it three minutes later but put his effort wide before James was called into semi-action to deny Webber before Taylor finally unleashed a much anticipated long-range effort. His 25-yarder was always rising on this occasion though.

After gaining three corners in as many minutes Pompey once again punished United for poor marking. Noe Pamarot for a second week running headed home from close range totally unopposed, this time from Pedro Mendes’ corner.

Half chances came and went at either end, mostly edge of the area of further a field and mainly in favour of Pompey, although James had to be on his toes to keep out Christian Nade’s effort shortly before Andrew Cole was brought on in place of Kanu. An appearance from Cole was a welcome boost ahead of the hectic programme that follows; even more so when you take into account we weren’t expecting to see him again until 2007!

Manuel Fernandes and Niko Kranjcar also come on as late replacements for Mendes and O’Neil respectively as we played out the game in a comfortable manor.

Match Summary
Three points was a must today and three points we got. Had this game been played straight through with no half time interval maybe things would have been different as what ever was said in the respective dressing rooms at half time only had the desired effect on one set of players.

Once again it was very encouraging to see us come back from a goal down to not only draw but win a game whereas in years gone by if we have achieved either we might have been surprised. Also encouraging was the fact that we scored twice from corners, we never do this! The poor marking did help though.

So now we can all go into Christmas satisfied that part of our festive hopes have been delivered, bring on the Hammers I fancy another three points there then would settle for one against Bolton but we owe them one for Fratton Park don’t we so why not another three?

Pompey – Rob Kozluk 48 o.g, Sol Campbell 54, Noe Pamarot 68
Sheffield United – Rob Hulse 4


David James
Matty Taylor
Linvoy Primus
Noe Pamarot
Glen Johnson
Sol Campbell
Gary O’Neil (Niko Kranjcar 89)
Pedro Mendes (Manuel Fernandes 87)
Sean Davis
Kanu (Andy Cole 84)

Substitutes Not Used
Jamie Ashdown
Andy O’Brien