I set off from Cambridgeshire at 3pm, despite not knowing I was even going to go to this League Cup game only 6 hours earlier.
Still it was a great feeling to be seeing my second Pompey game already this season, even if it was a just a cup game. My new weekend job is going to limit the number games I get to go to this season anyway.
Leeds United. Never has such an opposition been openly welcomed with sinister glee by the Pompey fans. The last four meetings alone, between 1997 and 2004, have been easy wins for the blues. 3-2, 2-1 (x2) and pick-of-the-best 6-1, as well as that Leeds were still a Premiership side at the time of this fixtures. However, the sudden downfall that the northern based club since 2004 may only support the reason why Leeds United were such pushovers in those games, with financial troubles and relegation to the third tier of the football league having taken it’s toll on the Elland Road side.
When I finally got to the ground I found myself in the Fratton End, the only stand I had yet to view a game from in Fratton Park. One thing I learned from this experience is how small Fratton Park really is, but at least club owner Gaydamak has attempted to improve the ramshackle ground before the much awaited transition to the new stadium in 2011. My tinnitus acted as a Westwood radar as I was alerted by the presence of the bell ringer in this stand. As well as that, my brother had the singing voice that would probably make Simon Cowell’s head actually explode (well he was supporting his team of course), and to make things worse, some fat kid kept banging on the empty seat in front of him. I’ve never had to insult a fellow Pompey supporting stranger before, that’s how irritating he was. Still, before the game started I was able to amuse myself with made up scenarios around the Leeds financial troubles (the Leeds badge is owned by the Inland Revenue, etc) and I saw a ball boy plant himself in front of the Press section, much to the annoyance of a photographer directly behind him. The boy refused to move apparently.
The game then.
The Pompey squad predicted by the media was labelled as ‘fringe’, although when the line up ran out onto the pitch I thought the team was relatively strong, with Ashdown being the only unfamiliar face. Distin, Utaka, Benjani, Pedro Mendes all started and Kranjcar got his first game of the season, this was still very much a team that may even head the field someday in the current Premiership season. However the blues weren’t sharp in the early stages of the first half conceding multiple chances to the visitors, but the latter either sent the ball wide or directly into Ashdown. Kranjcar had a decent shot from some distance from the goal but was unlucky to see the shot hit the woodwork. The midfield attempted to produce chances for strikers Benjani and Nugent, but the chances were wasted, as the front 6 never truly threatened for most of the first half. I had seen teenagers with asbos in my science class with better chemistry than this. The defenders however were something else, Cranie and Distin weren’t afraid to get stuck in and it was PAMAROT who gave the lead on 42 minutes by deflecting a Mendes strike past the keeper. Mendes had originally attempted a low drive that probably would’ve been stopped by the Leeds keeper, but Pamarot was among the confusion of players in the box and was there to score a freak goal. 1-0 to Pompey at half time.
The second half finally saw the home team click. Any attempt by Leeds were suppressed by the back four, their only decent effort being coolly stopped by Ashdown. The midfield were able to produce a lot more chances too, but Benjani and Nugent were mostly unresponsive and out of position for through balls. With a mere 1-0 victory over a poor side in minds of the home fans, PAMAROT was there again on the 80th minute to step up with a powerful header. O’Neil sent in a free kick and the ball was then slammed home out of nowhere by the French centre-back to complete a rare brace for the defender. It seems that Pamarot will always equal ex-blues striker Lua Lua’s season scoring record. Only 4 minutes later, NUGENT finally got his first goal in a blue shirt in what was surely a moment of unique glee for the Pompey fans. Utaka played well to set up Nugent who slid the ball home with a strong finish as the ball lashed across the back of the net. I myself was bursting with joy to finally see the highly rated 22 year old break his duck, that I punched the air enthusiastically while childishly jumping up and down. I was probably in a different row of the stand when I eventually sat down.
As the exodus of train ticket carrying fans materialised, I began to sense the final whistle coming soon, but the game wasn’t over yet. The visitors had a last-ditch attack but were immediately laughed off by the no-nonsense defence. Nugent ran clear of the Leeds offside trap but should’ve done better than a poorly taken chip over the keeper which went over the bar. Eventually full time was blown and Pompey progressed to the next round of the League Cup in an entertaining win.
If you want to sound clever, you could note that Pompey fringe keeper Jamie Ashdown now has more clean sheets than regular choice David James so far this season. Nonetheless, Ashdown had a great game, considering I was nervous about him taking up between the sticks today. But my man of the match was Sylvain Distin who never let a ball in control of the opposition go near him, totally solid in the back four. The Frenchman is proving to become another Redknapp summer bargain.
POMPEY 3 – LEEDS 0
Pamarot 2, Nugent
Written by Lysimachus.
The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.
To join the Vital Pompey debate – in the forum or with comments on articles – simply take a few seconds to register an account.