2008/09 Pompey in review - May
With 2 points needed to burst through the 40 point mark, Portsmouth knew that a win against Arsenal would all but guarantee safety. Portsmouth were confident going into the match, after their admiral performance against Newcastle. In addition, this game for Arsenal was sandwiched in between 2 Champions League semi-final matches against Man Utd, so understandably, they fielded a much weakened team, coupled with a bench that had no recognisable names on it.
Portsmouth had never beaten Arsenal in the Premiership, and with 13 minutes on the clock, changing this would be an uphill challenge. Crouch and Belhadj had already squandered early chances, when the impressive Arshavin crossed to Bendtner, who headed a seemingly tame header at David James, but the England keeper saw it creep through his hands into the net. It was an open game and both sides had plenty of chances, but 2 minutes before the break, Arsenal had a golden opportunity to double their lead from the spot. Replays showed that Davis clearly won the ball from his tackle on Arshavin, and in a great act of sportsmanship the little Russian seemed to agree with Davis, seemingly signalling to the referee that it was not a penalty (although some argue that he thought he was going to be sent off for diving again and was appealing for that). Bendtner made no mistake from the spot and Arsenal went in with a 2 goal advantage.
The hosts came out for the second half and came forward with renewed vigour. Substitute John Utaka getting himself in a great position, only to scuff his shot. The crowd seemed inspired by this and fellow sub Kanu also had a decent chance as did Crouch. But Pompey were dealt a sucker punch 10 minutes into the half when Carlos Vela thumped home after a counter attack. Portsmouth kept pushing but to no avail, and the day went from bad to worse when Noe Pamarot was sent off with 12 minutes to go for hauling down Arshavin.
A forgettable visit to a soggy Ewood Park was next up for Pompey. Conditions didn't suit either team but it was the hosts who adapted first, missing several chances before Morten Gamst Pedersen took advantage of a half-hearted David James parry. Portsmouth struggled to create many chances, and their best of the half was Hreidarsson's header which flashed past the post. It was the same man who was at fault for Blackburn's second, handling just inside the area to give Benny McCarthy the chance to double Rovers lead. He duly obliged. Portsmouth had a great chance to set up a tense finish when Kanu forced a penalty. John Utaka, who had earlier missed a great chance after rounding the keeper, looked to send away his demons of a less that encouraging season from the spot. But it was not to be as his spot kick sailed over the bar.
Despite a poor start to the month, Portsmouth went into their last home match against Sunderland knowing that they were guaranteed Premiership football next season, due to other results going their way. It had been far from a successful season, but now Portsmouth fans could relax and enjoy their upcoming games. Paul Hart also had the chance to experiment now that his job of keeping Pompey up was done, and he started with 3 up front against Sunderland. Also David James could now be sent off to get the operation that he needed for several months, but opted to wait until he helped the Blues to safety first, this saw Asmir Begovic come in for his Premier League debut.
Portsmouth thought they had taken the lead under a great atmosphere when Crouch's header struck the post and rolled agonisingly along the line before it was cleared. Begovic was solid when called upon and had plenty to do with Richardson at the front of most of the visitor's chances. Kenwyne Jones paid homage to Peter Crouch before half-time as he saw his effort hit the post and crawl along the line in an almost identical fashion. Kanu and Hughes made way for Kaboul and the returning Armand Traore at half time as Portsmouth went in search for the opening goal, and after 20 minutes of looking like scoring, they conceded. A great counter attack was tucked away by Jones, after a fantastic run and cross from Davenport. Portsmouth weren't behind for long, when John Utaka equalised after a long ball fell into his path and he held off the defender to score his first goal of the season, albeit in slightly controversial circumstances.
It wasn't apparent to many fans at the match, but TV viewers noted that the referee blew the whistle before Utaka scored, seemingly for a penalty. But the goal stood and it wasn't long before Utaka, now brimming with confidence, unleashed his pace again to round the goalkeeper and force Phil Bardsley to poke into his own net. Sunderland pushed forward in search of an equalizer, but it was Portsmouth who scored with 2 minutes on the clock, Armand Traore taking on a defender and finishing wonderfully to give Portsmouth all 3 points. There was one last event of note, as Linvoy Primus came off the bench to make his first appearance in 2 years. His reception was deafening, and every time he touched the ball the crowd roared as if a goal was scored. A fitting reception for a Pompey Legend.
Before Portsmouth's final match against Wigan, an award ceremony was held with Glen Johnson picking up Fans' Player, Player's Player and Goal of the Season. Matt Richie won young player of the season and David James picked up a gong for his great work in the community.
It was quite presumptuous to award a goal of the season award with a game still to play, but there was nothing to worry about ahead of a Wigan match where Pompey failed to make any impact. It was a forgettable end to a season that had promised so much, but delivered little. Hugo Rodallega scored the only goal of the game to give Wigan a deserved victory after Sol Campbell slipped to let in the striker. Portsmouth had a few half chances through Utaka and Crouch, but nothing to trouble Richard Kingson.
The season was over but off the field there was a revelation as it was revealed that Doctor Sulaiman Al-Fahim had an offer to buy Portsmouth accepted by Alexandre Gaydamak. After a season which kept going downhill and a gloomy future ahead, things finally seemed to be on the turn, but with a long process involved in the takeover, Portsmouth fans had to be patient to see what their future held.
PLAY UP POMPEY!