This was the game hyped up on Tyneside as Newcastles Waterloo, well if that was the case they resembled the French.
Newcastle had a few chances, two gilt-edged, but neither Owen or Martins had the composure when it mattered most, Crouch was guilty for us as well, hitting Harper when either side would of been a goal.
But Newcastle were just not what I expected tonight, they were supposed to throw the kitchen sink at us, I doubt they managed the plug!
Paul Hart was predictability personified, he named the same 11 once again, Nugent recovering from his dead leg to keep Pennant on the bench once more, Pompey were a team of ‘dogs of war’ , bought together to combat the Geordie ‘dreamteam’ strikeforce of Martins, Viduka and Owen.
The first half started as you would expect, Newcastle urged on by a vociferous home crowd baying for blood, the stats on Setanta showed a possesion count of 70-30 in the home sides favour, but James was only required to field a few loose balls into the box.
Pompey were playing counter-attack stuff, but when we did push forward it was pretty tame, Belhadj kept getting forward but lacked support, while Crouch was flicking on to a grateful Coloccini who was under little pressure.
It took half an hour for the first real chance, Guthrie who was on for the hamstrung Enrique blasting in a shot, Viduka stuck out a foot and neither guided it or controlled it and Johnson slid in to make safe.
Pompey countered and Harper had his first safe with a parry over from Davis’ well struck shot from the edge of the box.
Smith then drove one over the bar and Duff cut in on his right boot to force James to save low to his right.
On the stroke of half-time and Newcastle should really of led, the ball fell kindly for Martins in the box but he blasted well over when he should really have burst the net.
Second half and it was like watching a blueprint of the first, Newcastle were having plenty of possesion but were as toothless as Jerry Dammers, Pompey were pinging it around well when we had it, much to the Geordie crowds disgust.
On 50 minutes and Pompey had a sniff of a penalty, Crouch got in behind from the left, but tumbled under Coloccini’s challenge, Riley said no and it was a case of maybe, another day he may of got it, but it really was a 50-50 call.
On the hour and Owen’s big chance arrived, the ball squited through to him from Viduka, but with James to beat, he found the big man too big and the chance went begging, and the life seemed to drain away from St.James park with that moment.
It was all pompey now, we were winning the ball back with ease, Belhadj was seeing plenty of the onion, and hreidarsson threw off his shackles with some support runs, Pennant was bought on in place of Nugent who had run his heart out once more, and johnson decide he was going to have a few pokes at goal.
Belhadj made one break from halfway, he outstripped the defence for pace and forced Harper to turn over his fierce shot.
Crouch did what Owen and Martins did before him on 80, finding himself one-on-one with Harper, he picked neither corner and instead fired tamely at the ‘keeper when he really should of scored.
Even closer and the most unlikely of scorers struck a post, a Belhadj corner was floated over, and Hughes met it with a guided header which everyone just watched as it crashed back off the foot of a post and was hacked away, think of Hreidarsson at Stoke and you will get the picture.
The last ten were ticking by, but Newcastle were looking frantically for a plan B, but plan B said look at plan A, and Pompey’s defence mopped up what they could muster.
Pompey looked the more likely in the closing stages, but struggled to test Harper once more, and the clock ticked on and the 38th point of a difficult season was chalked up.
Pompey look almost safe now, but Newcastle look in dire trouble, with Villa and Liverpool away to come, they will have to hope Hull keep free-falling and ‘Boro keep misfiring.
Paul Hart doesn’t thrill anyone, but in the results business he is King, he has made Pompey stoic once more and deserves the plaudits for our recovery.
He is not the messiah after all, like Keegan before him, he has shown that being a Geordie diety is not enough to fire a lacklustre unit.