Date: 20th June 2010 at 4:02pm
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Before February started on the field, Pompey had to wrap things up in the transfer market. Despite looking like he was on his way to Spurs, Begovic swerved and headed to Stoke instead, something which somehow cost Pompey an extra £1m down the line for some reason. David Nugent also returned for a second loan spell at Burnley. Pompey had to find someone to fill the boots of Kaboul, and that fell to Ricardo Rocha, who Pompey signed from Standard Liege.

Things in the backroom were once again far from convincing, as wages were not paid once again. Furthermore Pompey had their 4th owner of the season, with Balram Chainrai now in charge of a club that was facing a winding up order very soon.

The first game of 6 in February was at Craven Cottage against mid-table Fulham and Pompey played like a team with no pressure on them. They played some free-flowing, delightful football and also defended well. It was a pleasure to watch and the fans who had travelled to London for the night were making themselves heard. Fulham debutant Stefano Okaka had a great chance to put Fulham in front but somehow put it wide when it looked easier to score. Once again the game came down to a poor refereeing decision when a cross ran past Zamora who was in an offside position, dummied the ball to Greening who scored the winner. It was yet another defeat stolen from the jaws of victory and now relegation loomed over the players heads, 6 points from safety and games running out. At least Pompey had a nice easy fixture coming up.

Pompey’s victory at Old Trafford in 2008 seemed like a lifetime ago and of the 18 players that showed up this time around, only David James and Richard Hughes remained from the squad that won that day less than 2 years ago. The result was never in doubt, even if Pompey did defend well for the first 40 minutes, until Wayne Rooney headed home from close range. United doubled their lead just minutes after when Vanden Borre got a foot on Nani’s cross, only to see it fly past David James. It was 3-0 early in the second half when Carrick tried a long range shot that looped off Hughes and hit the underside of the crossbar before crossing the line. Berbatov made it 4 before Marc Wilson scored Portsmouth’s 3rd own goal of the game after slicing a clearance into his own net.

If Pompey were to keep alive their slim hopes of survival, they needed 3 points from their home game against Sunderland. This task was made even more difficult by a clueless referee who changed the game after just 10 minutes, Bent was clear on goal when Ricardo Rocha was adjudged to have clipped him. Replays showed that there didn’t seem to be any contact between the two and after the referee for some reason sent off Hassan Yebda, he finally sent off Rocha instead. Bent scored the resulting penalty and Pompey had to play the remaining 80 minutes with 10 men. But Pompey showed amazing spirit and determination and were without a doubt the better team throughout the match. Jamie O’Hara and Papa Bouba Diop both missed chances and Dindane was thwarted by a fine save. Avram Grant was getting frustrated by the referee and was sent to the stand after he confronted the referee for failing to award a penalty when McCartney hauled down Dindane. The second half saw no change in terms of game play, with Dindane and Piquionne troubling the Sunderland defence. The teams were evened up at 10 apiece when Lee Cattermole was sent off for two bookings, both of which might have been seen as straight red card offences. Pompey created more chances but still couldn’t convert and when David Meyler was sent off for an elbow to Steve Finnan it was all out attack for the last few minutes. Pompey’s attacking finally paid off 5 minutes into stoppage time when Dindane headed home from a corner. Pompey deserved more than a point from this game and despite salvaging a point in the last minute it didn’t seem like enough to save their season.

Pompey’s meeting with HMRC was put back another week as the club searched for yet another owner, meanwhile they prepared to return to St. Marys to meet their biggest rivals for the first time in nearly 5 years, and this was going to be a special one. Despite being two leagues below Pompey, the home fans seemed confident, taunting fans with fake notes and chants about our financial predicament. I guess what comes around goes around. And on the pitch, things were equally as heated. Southampton were the better team first half and if it wasn’t for David James, they would have been a few goals up at half time, saving brilliantly from Papa Waigo N’Diaye and Adam Lallana. If the first half belonged to David James, the second belonged to Pompey new boy Quincy Owusu-Abeyie. His frightening pace and ability to beat players gave Pompey an added dimension, and it was he who finished impeccably halfway through the second half. This dampened most of the crowd, but one corner in particular was singing loud and proud. The home team equalised within 5 minutes to set up a tense last 20 minutes. This tension soon turned to elation for the visitors as Quincy once again cut open the defence to set up Dindane who restored Pompey’s lead. Things went from good to even better with 10 minutes to go when Belhadj was set through on the counter and kept his composure to end the game as a contest. But Pompey weren’t done yet and the fans had only just settled back into their seats when Jamie O’Hara completed his fantastic performance to make it 4-1, a scoreline that brought back some great memories. The result was harsh on Southampton, who had fought well, but nobody could deny that Pompey deserved this after all they had endured this season. The reward was not only a day to remember, but a place in the FA Cup Quarter Final, 90 minutes away from Wembley, and to get there they had to beat Birmingham at home.

A home game against Stoke would end even the most optimistic fans hopes of survival. Pompey had thrashed Stoke 4-0 in the Carling Cup earlier in the season and Avram Grant’s line up suggested he wanted to replicate this scoreline, starting out with 3 strikers on the pitch. Stoke used their predictable long throw game which Pompey comfortably dealt with. Piquionne had the ball in the net before the half-hour, but the goal was ruled out for offside (wrongly). Piquionne had the ball in the net again just after the half-hour and this time the goal stood, poking in from close range after the keeper spilt a shot from Quincy. Pompey looked dangerous coming forward, so when Stoke equalised from a simple corner routine all Pompey’s hard work seemed to be for nothing. Pompey pushed forward and by the end of the match they had Utaka, Kanu, Dindane, Quincy and Webber on the pitch, and with all these strikers, a goal was inevitable. Unfortunately it came for Stoke, when ex-Pompey player Salif Diao scored only his second goal in his 14 year career. Another result that could have went the our way, but didn’t.

The day before our final February fixture the club confirmed that there was no knight in shining armour to ready to bail us out of our financial predicament as the club declared that it had entered administration, the first time a Premiership club had entered administration. Nine points were going to be deducted soon and relegation was all but mathematically certain.

With the club now destined for second tier football it could be said that the pressure was off the players, and the first fixture since entering administration was away to fellow strugglers Burnley. This match was one to forget for Clarke Carlisle, who had appeared on Countdown in the week leading up to this match (and done rather well). However, his performance as captain on the field was far from as good as he and his fellow defenders struggled to deal with Portsmouth’s free-flowing football. Webber had the ball in the net but was deemed to be offside, and minutes later he should have scored but instead scuffed it wide. Pompey were in front after 25 minutes though when Webber fed Piquionne who made no mistake from in front of goal. The lead was short lived however when Martin Paterson equalised with a beautiful lob after a long ball set him through. In the second half Pompey were the better team and Clarke Carlisle found himself in a conundrum after taking two (legs) from the bottom (of Piquionne) which gave O’Hara, who had concussed the crossbar earlier in the match, the chance to put The Blues in the lead from the spot. However, he added his name to the list of players who missed a penalty for Pompey this season and the scores remained level. Fletcher missed a great chance for Burnley before Carlisle, not intent on conceding one penalty, gifted Pompey a second chance to win it. This time Yebda stepped up and finished confidently from 12 yards. Pompey had several chances to extend their lead but it ended 2-1, despite Pompey finishing with 10 men, as Rocha got his second red card in 2 games.

February saw players come and go, another new owner, 4 points earned and 9 points stolen, but will probably be remembered for 2 things. Administration and ‘4-1 in your own back yard’.

SEASON REVIEW: Pre-Season – here.

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