SEASON REVIEW: November
Ali al-Faraj hadn't managed to stable the good ship Pompey, and they were now heading into even stormier waters. After seeing many of the crew walk the plank and the rest not getting any pieces-of-eight for their duties, First Mate Paul Hart's job was in Jeopardy, even more so when Avram Grant had recently been appointed Director of Football. Was the ship about to hit the fan?
November started with a trip to Ewood Park, and things were starting to look up for the Portsmouth Pirates. After 3 games without losing, winning the last 2 matches by 4 goals, Pompey had a bit of momentum, and after just 15 minutes, things got even better when Jamie O'Hara hit a daisy cutter from 30 yards which beat Paul Robinson and gave Pompey the lead. They managed to hold on to this lead until early in the second half, when Jason Roberts held off Piquionne and finished well. Blackburn threw everything at Pompey, but the visitors still threatened on the counter attack. Blackburn soon grabbed the lead, but in keeping with Pompey's season so far, it came from a wrong decision. The referee awarded a corner which should never have been given, and Ryan Nelsen was on hand to nod home and unjustly send Pompey to defeat. This was confirmed with 4 minutes left when Roberts poked home his second and Blackburn's third.
Another international break meant Portsmouth had a fortnight to compose themselves before travelling to Stoke, and once again they started brightly. After Rory Delap nearly decapitated Aruna Dindane, the referee had no choice but to award Pompey a spot kick. Kevin Prince Boateng stepped up and stroked his penalty straight into Thomas Sorensen (if only that was the only penalty he rued this season). Pompey continued to outplay the hosts and Jamie O'Hara and Dindane both had decent chances, but Sorensen was on top of his game and frustrating the Blues. It came as no surprise to Pompey fans when, despite being the better team for 75 minutes and spurning numerous opportunities, Stoke took the lead. The icing on the cake was Ricardo Fuller, the ex-Pompey (and scummer), was about to be substituted when he knocked the ball past Jamie Ashdown. Pompey threatened to equalise but it was not to be our day.
Two days after the defeat to Stoke, it was announced that Paul Hart had been sacked as manager. It was somewhat harsh on Hart, who had no doubt gotten great performances out of the players he had at his disposal, but ultimately, some dreadful refereeing decisions, an awful run of luck and a bad run of results culminated in the boards decision.
Avram Grant was the obvious replacement, he knew the players, had a wealth of experience and had great tactical knowledge. He was confirmed as manager just two days after Hart was sacked, and his first game was a home match against Manchester United.
Fratton Park was rocking for the visit of the champions, and the players looked up for it was well. Aruna Dindane missed a trio of decent opportunities and O'Hara saw his 20 yard shot tipped over the crossbar. Quite predictably, United went up the other end and won a soft Penalty which Rooney dispatched. Any complaints Pompey had the penalty they conceded were forgot about when Vidic was adjudged to have fouled Piquionne at the other end. Boateng made amends for his miss against Stoke by slotting this one past Kuszczak. Dindane had another chance before the break but the teams went in at half-time at 1-1. This changed almost the second the second half began. A great through ball from Giggs found Rooney in enough space to put United ahead. United had the third penalty of the match when tenacious play from Giggs saw him hauled down by Piquionne. A great performance from Giggs was capped in the final minute when he stuck a pinpoint free-kick into the bottom corner for his 100th league goal.
Avram's first game was a story of two halves, but an encouraging performance against the Champions gave fans and players some hope going into December.
SEASON REVIEW: Pre-Season - here.
SEASON REVIEW: August.
SEASON REVIEW: September.
SEASON REVIEW: October.