After the champagne and caviar of the last month, it was back to fish and chip suppers for Pompey, an average performance was compounded by another missed penalty at the death.
Pompey in fact started brightly, the first ten minutes looked like the steamroller would rumble on, Kranjcar tested Green with a trademark smack from his inside-left position, England’s number 4 doing well to tip it over the bar. Then something happened, the ideas dried up, the midfield slackened off and West Ham had a couple of moments of their own.
Now Nobby Solano is no Peter Crouch in the air, but his lame attempt at heading in a cross right in front of the posts was a poor as an effort as I have seen, his eyes were shut, his shoulders hunched, and he missed by a yard, a major let-off for the Blues.
The rest of the half was a bit of a dirge to put it mildly, Green made one more smart save with his foot to prevent an own goal, and that was about it, neither side could get on top traded blows in midfield.
After a half-time break I felt sure Harry would have roused the troops and we would get our noses in front, but no, it was the same old routine, Benjani harrased and harried up front but no gaps appeared, Utaka was in George McCartneys pocket, and defensively West Ham were as much of a threat as we were.
Carlton Cole, the much maligned Carlton Cole nearly turned the game with a shot which crashed back off the bar, the ball landed right in front of that man Solano who only needed to tap it in, somehow though he outdone himself on his first half effort, he flung himself into a flying header, probably trying to prove he could head it, and the ball went further wide than last time!
The game was petering out into a text-book nil-niller, when Pompey surged forward in the 3rd minute of injury-time, out came Gabbidon’s arm on the very edge of the area and Referee Walton blew his whistle in Pompey’s favour for what seemed the first time all match.
We were poor on the day, but here was Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, The Hammers were screaming blue-murder, the fans did their usual steal the ball routine, and Muntari and Kranjcar both made to take the spot-kick.
A hush settled and Benjani stuck in his case, the seven goal man clearly fancied making it eight, Captain Campbell said a couple of words and Benji had the kick.
Now, I’m no psychic, but as when Kanu took the ball against Liverpool last month, a confidence didn’t settle around me, when Taylor lines up, or even when Muntari did against Reading, you knew the skin would be whacked off the ball and the thing would be whacked at 90mph. Benjani did the same as Kanu, a little John Aldridge shuffle and passed the ball toward goal for the keeper to smother.
In 2 home matches we have missed 2 Penalties now, 4 points dropped , and 2 teams off the hook.
To be fair he had little to do, rescued Campbel with a block tackle in the first half out of his area, and could do little with the Cole effort against the bar.
Back to solid defending after last weeks goal scoring exploits.
Spent the entire first-half squabbling with the Welsh maggot, even managing to get booked for being kicked!
Not at his best, but his bench-mark is very high, found the impressive Cole a handful.
Like chicken, supreme
Why oh why didn’t he stand firm on the pen?
Some nice touches, but was lucky to escape a booking on more than one occasion.
Ran his socks off, even managed a one of his long-rangers which went just wide early on.
A different player to a year ago, he tracks back a lot more to cover his full-back, but was always looking for a killer a ball or to run at a the defence when possible.
Mainly anonymous, Paul McCartney could have kept him quiet on this showing.
The usual from Benji, shame about the one from 12 yards though.
One effort shaved the post, little time otherwise.
Harry has to ascertain just who is the man with the penalty duties, if it was Muntari, why the hell did Benji take it?
Curbishley came with a game plan, and it worked, teams are coming to Fratton with the same ideals as they do at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, to stop us first, trouble is, its up to us to break them down!
Newcastle next, with the humbugs forced to atacking us at home, maybe our counter attack game will bear fruition once more, if not we have been found out!