Date: 26th November 2006 at 3:40pm
Written by:

Pompey travelled to St James’ Park today to face Newcastle, a team we’d never beaten in the Premiership at St James’ as we looked to end our run of three successive away defeats…neither changed!

Gary O’Neil and Benjani returned not only to the squad but also the starting eleven after injury in place of Niko Kranjcar (who dropped to the bench) and Lomana LuaLua respectively (LuaLua apparently missed out through injury.)

Matthew Taylor had recovered sufficiently from illness to take his own place on the bench along with returning goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown following Dean Kiely’s loan to Luton. Rudolph Douala also made a rare appearance on bench.

Another poor away showing saw us again leave Tyneside with nothing, Antoine Sibierski’s goal giving Newcastle a win they deserved.

First Half
Newcastle started brightly, the pace of Kieron Dyer caused Pompey problems from the start. But for Linvoy Primus’ interception, coming across the back line to clear up Dyer would have been through on goal with only David James (sporting his new haircut!) to beat.

Pompey’s most clear cut chance of the game came shortly after Dyer’s, Gary O’Neil’s run and cross saw him cut the ball back to Kanu who made himself some room before having his shot cleared away by Nolberto Solano. This effort did look to be going wide anyway.

Dyers pace again caused problems and with him breaking through a combination of Dejan Stefanovic, Primus and James cleaned up the situation at the expense of a corner, with the Newcastle fans screaming for a penalty.

Former Pompey target Obafemi Martins, another whose pace caused problems all afternoon had the ball in the net on 17 minutes. After being played through he coolly lobbed over James but was denied by the assistant’s flag, wrongly so it must be added, as although it looked close he was played on.

Most of the few efforts Pompey did have were blocked before they could even test Shay Given, the best of which came from O’Neil shortly before the half hour. His volley from David Thompson’s cross (who had seen his own shot previously blocked) looked very tasty and but for Craig Ramage’s block Given would have needed a trademark save to have denied O’Neil his first of the season.

We almost fell behind in the most bizarre fashion! James Milner’s cross was cleared by Primus only to ricochet off Pedro Mendes (sliding back trying to clear the cross himself) and loop back over James who reacted well to tip over the bar for a corner.

Shortly before the interval Emre tried his luck from 25-yards. A decent effort narrowly missed the target but James had this covered all the way.

Second Half
The half time break saw Harry Redknapp make a change. Captain Dejan Stefanovic, finding it tough to cope with the pace of the Newcastle’s wide players (along with Noe Pamarot on the right it has to be noted) was withdrawn with Matty Taylor on in his place. Gary O’Neil took the armband.

The first attempt at goal of the second half did come from Pompey, but this, a 25-yard Sean Davis drive went over the bar and into the crowd with no difficulty to Given in the slightest. This was rapidly followed up by Kanu’s own 25-yard volleyed effort which went wide.

Yet another pacey counter by Newcastle saw them break after good work and skill by Emre from the middle of the field. He eventually passed to Martins whose venomous drive was always rising as it went over.

58 minutes saw Pompey make their second change. Benjani, still clearly recovering from his recent injury, if indeed he has came off for a rare appearance from Rudolph Douala, who despite seeing little of the ball had his moments so I would certainly like to see more of him.

Shortly after the Pompey change one of Newcastle’s own substitutes Antoine Sibierski, a late first half replacement for the injured Milner had his first sighter at goal. Another quick Newcastle break saw Sibierski with an effort saved by James. Shortly after this came a goal mouth scramble that eventually saw Douala clear from near his own goal line.

It seemed inevitable that it was going to happen and on 69 minutes it did, Newcastle scored. Martins ball carved open the Pompey defence leaving Charles N’Zogbia clear. He pulled back for Sibierski to smash home from close range. Sibierski had been offside earlier in the move so should have been flagged for it, but with the Martins goal ruled out when it shouldn’t have we can’t have too much argument!

Redknapp played his last card introducing Niko Kranjcar in place of Mendes with a little under 20 minutes to play. This was meant to be the final move to rouse us into action and see us push on in search of that equaliser, but in all honesty it didn’t. Taylor’s injury shortly after this change didn’t help leaving us playing the final fifteen minutes effectively with 10 men. But I honestly don’t think things would have been that different anyway.

Martin again played a telling ball through and with Dyer looking to get on the end of it only a James interception, rushing out of his goal to act as a sweeper denied him being in on goal. That wasn’t the end of this move though James clearance found its way to Sibierski who knowing James was trying to get back in his goal tried his luck with a 25-yard daisy cutter but James recovered well to save again.

With Taylor visibly struggling gesturing time and time again he couldn’t carry on he was easily skinned by the pacey Dyer who pulled the ball back for Emre who forced yet another fine save from James, he superbly tipped the Turkish Internationals shot round the post when he had a clear opening.

Newcastle were threatening with almost every attack, the latest coming down the right with N’Zogbia again easily beating Pamarot to pull back to Martins who only managed to shot over from six-yards with a virtual open goal. Almost immediately N’Zogbia again got in on the right but rather than pulling back for the waiting Martins again this time he tried his luck but this was blocked by Primus.

James saved his best save for last. N’Zogbia’s cross found Sibierski who attempting to head at goal merely glanced on to Dyer who’s powerful volley was somehow saved by James.

The amount of injuries in the second half saw five minutes of added time, but even after eventually playing seven we caused no threat as if I am honest we hadn’t really for the previous 90 minutes before that.

Another poor performance away from home saw us got exactly what we deserved?nothing!

We struggled with Newcastle’s pace, Stefanovic and Pamarot found this almost unplayable at times and without taking too much away from Newcastle for this I think it highlighted that neither are good enough at this level! Maybe I’m being too harsh on both especially Dejan who has been playing through the pain barrier of late, so hopefully this has contributed to his poor showings. If the surgery doesn’t rectify this then it will prove he isn’t the right man to play left-back as much as we might like him for all he has done in the past.

Redknapp feels we matched Newcastle all the way but I can’t agree, obviously he has to say that but our away form is poor, we often look a totally different side away from home with Redknapp so often willing to see us sit and hold out for a point, in the hope of snatching a win.

I wish we would just be more positive and have a go! If we are going to lose we may as well lose having a go at least you can come away from a game with some pride, I felt little after this.

Newcastle – Antoine Sibierski 69
Pompey –

David James
Noe Pamarot
Linvoy Primus
Sol Campbell
Dejan Stefanovic (c) (Matty Taylor 45)
David Thompson
Sean Davis
Pedro Mendes (Niko Kranjcar 71)
Gary O’Neil
Benjani (Rodolph Douala 59)

Substitutes Not Used
Jamie Ashdown
Andy O’Brien