All good things come to an end they say, Pompey’s proud unbeaten run came crashing to a halt yesterday, and we can have little complaint, Derby were far superior on the day, slicker and more fluent, while Pompey resembled the team from early August.
Pompey were struck a blow before kick-off when Nugent was forced from the team with a knee knock he picked up at Hull, this really did highlight Pompey’s lack of depth, Steve Cotterill opted to put Lawrence on the left with Halford pushing forward on the right and Utaka playing as second striker. It was a ploy that failed, with Matt Ritchie scoring again in a shining loan period at Swindon, it also made that move seem a little foolish.
I’m not going to have a pop at our manager after one slip up, but I bet he is questioning his line up on this one.
Swindon came at us all fire and brimstone, for all Michael Brown’s talk of a quick start, it was Derby asking the questions.
Pompey had Jamie Ashdown to thank after only 11 minutes, Derby got to the by-line on the left too easily, the cross found Commons who sidefooted and was almost off on a lap of honour, Ashdown though first got a toe to the ball and then pushed the ball away with a strong right arm, if it was Jamo, Capello would of been getting to recall him.
Pompey were looking ill at ease, balls were being misplaced and tackles missed, Mokoena got an early booking after twice clattering in from behind.
Pompey had a brief flurry where Kitson clipped in a shot that was turned around the post, the resulting decision to award a goal kick highlighting what was to become a grim day.
Derby took the lead on 22 minutes, Cywaka got away from Dickinson and Mokoena slid in to make a tackle, our captain only found ankle though and a spot kick was awarded. Up stepped Savage to dispatch and Derby had a well deserved lead, the only saving grace was that Mokoena was still on the field when could of easily walked.
Lawrence was finding life on the left little fun, Utaka was doing a fine impersonation of Tommy the Tortoise by hiding in his shell, while Mullins and Brown were chasing shadows in the centre, not the perfect recipe for success on the road.
Derby had further chances to add to the tally, but luckily their radar was bust, Kuqi in particular wayward with his efforts.
Second half and Pompey must be better, but Derby were to score again, the goal was almost a carbon copy of the Commons chance first half, the cross made its way through 4 Pompey defenders from the left, Green who looked uncannily like a young Ritchie Cunningham slotted home and Pompey were really up against it.
Kanu came on for Ward to at last let Lawrence switch wings, this certainly coincided with Pompey’s best period,
The passing improved a little and it was the big Nigerian who had our best chance, he rode a couple of tackles and had just Fielding to beat, but his composure slipped and he thrashed wildly wide, any chance of a miraculous comeback was gone.
Commons almost found a third with a long range punt, capitalising on a poor goal kick, Ashdown though had regained his ground and saved in the top corner, clattering the post for his efforts.
Dickinson also blasted over from the edge of the area and the clock ran out, our proud run was over and defeat tasted sour.
Steve Cotterill has been able to field a settled side recently, Nugent’s injury through him though, I only hope he holds his hands up and plays Lawrence on the right once more and goes for either Utaka or Ciftci on the left, Nugents injury effectively robbed us of 2 players on the day.
Pompey’s run has been our best since 2002-03, one feature of that season was a defeat was always followed by a winning return, can this Pompey side emulate that one by doing the same against the league leaders?