Date: 16th June 2010 at 5:41pm
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2009 was a bleak year for all involved at Portsmouth and on paper, the future didn’t look too bright for 2010. January arrived, the transfer window opened and rumours had it that Pompey were set to lose arguably their most promising players, Kaboul and Begovic, reportedly both to Spurs.

But before any deals were struck Pompey had back-to-back games against Coventry in the FA Cup. The country had been hit by severe snow storms and fixtures were being called off all across the land. The first match against Coventry was at Fratton Park, and it was the lower league visitors who took the lead half an hour in when David Bell struck and absolute beauty. This was cancelled out on the stroke of half time when Richard Hughes’ pinpoint cross found the head of Boateng. However, Pompey were unable to find a winner thanks to some magnificent goalkeeping from 2 different Coventry keepers. Kieran Westwood was the Coventry’s saviour in the first 45, so when he got replaced by Dimitrios Konstantopoulos at the break, Pompey fans could be forgiven for thinking their luck was about to change. But the Greek was equally as impressive second half and successfully earned his side a replay.

10 days had passed without a league fixture in between thanks to the weather, and Pompey made the trip to the Ricoh Arena. With both clubs experiencing contrasting fortunes this season, the lower league side were the marginal favourites to knock out their Premier League opposition, and when Leon Best turned and produced one of the goals of the round midway through the first half, the writing seemed to be on the wall. Pompey did turn up the pressure second half but failed to convert any of their chances, with Boateng twice finding himself in decent positions. Time was nearly up and Pompey were about to fall at the first hurdle of the competition that they won 2 years ago when in stoppage time, a scramble in the box saw Stephen Wright inexplicably head the ball into the top corner past his own goalkeeper to gift Pompey another 30 minutes of football. Extra time was a tense affair and Webber had a chance to win it when put through 1-on-1 with Westwood, but struck straight at the keeper. Utaka also had a similar chance, and he beat the keeper, but ran out of space while looking for the finish. Penalties seemed inevitable when in the 121st minute Pompey won a corner, which Aaron Mokoena was on hand to powerfully head past Westwood and see Pompey into the 4th round.

Looking back, how crucial was that own goal by Stephen Wright in giving our fans something to cheer in our otherwise downbeat season. In the meantime it meant we could start looking forward to a 4th round match against Sunderland, and with more postponements thanks to the weather, Pompey had their 3rd FA Cup fixture in succession.

With an embargo still in place, a winding up order in the balance, a 9 point penalty looking for and more likely and relegation a near certainty, the FA Cup was Pompey’s only hope of having something to shout about on the pitch. Off the pitch however, there were more protests before the Sunderland game. A half-full Fratton Park once again felt their hearts sink just 15 minutes into the 4th Round game when an in-form Darren Bent put the Black Cats in front. Pompey should have had a penalty after a clear handball from Da Silva, but justice was done just before the break when a long ball from Wilson was flicked over the wandering Craig Gordon by John Utaka. Utaka could have added a second after another mistake from the keeper, but soon after he was set through 1-on-1 with Gordon following a great header from Kaboul. He kept his composure and slid the ball home to put Pompey in the lead. The closing stages of the match saw Sunderland rally and have several opportunities to equalise, with some great last ditch defending and Begovic pulling off some world class saves, Pompey held on to proceed to the 5th Round, and all eyes were on the draw. Pompey’s reward for beating Sunderland? Only an away trip to the Scum!

With 27 days without a League game, Portsmouth now had to play 5 games in 2 weeks, starting off with a home game against West Ham. Both sides had numerous chances in an action-packed first half, with Boateng and Mokoena both seeing their chances kept out by the impressive Robert Green. At the other end, West Ham had some great chances to take the lead, but Asmir Begovic (in what turned out to be his last game for Pompey) was showing his worth with some incredible stops. He was unable to do anything about the opener however, as a huge slice of misfortune gave West Ham the lead. Kaboul (also playing his last game for Pompey) tried to head the ball clear only to see it bounce off Upson and over Begovic to give the Irons the lead. Pompey continued to press and Wilson really should have done better with his header from 6 yards. But it wasn’t long before parity was restored when Danny Webber came off the bench, and was set through on goal before calmly finishing past Robert Green for his first League goal for the club. Utaka had the best chance to win it but his shot was right down the throat of Green, when a few yards either way could have sealed all 3 points.

Before Pompey’s last game in January, they delved into the transfer market, bringing in the pacey Quincy Owusu-Abeyie on loan and also succeeding in extending the loan of Jamie O’Hara. However, Younes Kaboul left the club to rejoin Spurs for £6m, and Mike Williamson went to Newcastle for £1m, despite never playing a game for Portsmouth. The window was to remain open until the start of February, and Pompey weren’t done in the market just yet.

The month ended with a tricky trip to Eastlands to face the riches of Man City. But if Man City thought they were in for an easy ride they were mistaken as Pompey succeeded in frustrating their midfield and didn’t allow them to have any time on the ball. City were struggling to fashion any opportunities and the first decent chance of the game fell to Pompey, when a clever back-heel from Utaka put Vanden Borre through on goal, but his shot flicked off a defender and onto the crossbar. Minutes later Man City went up the other end and took the lead, with Adebayor smashing the ball past the returning David James. Replays show that the goal shouldn’t have counted as Adebayor was in an offside position, but Pompey were starting to get used to decisions going against them at this point. There was nothing wrong with City’s second on the stroke of half time, when Ben Haim failed to follow the run of Kompany, who headed home to double the hosts lead. Pompey battled on in vein in the second half, but once again they were left to rue their finishing and fell to another defeat.

Even with a good run in the FA Cup, January was looking to be another month to forget in a season that will always be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

SEASON REVIEW: Pre-Season – here.

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