The story of the season - Hull (h)
2010/11 season v Hull in the league at Fratton, Sunday 2nd - Tuesday 4th January 2011.
My first game in what seemed an eternity - it was almost 2-months since my last Fratton one following two postponements and no trains on Boxing Day - since my last, home or away, against Swansea at The Liberty way back when!
Having missed Watford, a triple combination of finances - a lack of, family - the New Year spent with them and the booking of a train on the Sunday and where from/time - from Dawlish at 09:33 - my first game back on the horse was this one. Then again I guess Watford was not a bad one to miss!
I was back on the road, finally. My first connection was the London Paddington train; this was showing up as being 'on time' although it was a good 3 or 4 minutes late arriving. This was fine so long as no more time was lost along the way for my connection at Westbury, which I only had 6 minutes between trains for. Slipping to 7 minutes late by the time we had departed Exeter St Davids was not a good sign...
Fortunately, touch and go as it was, I made my 10:59, well 11:00, Cardiff Central - Portsmouth Harbour by the skin of my teeth. I was then able to sit back, relax and enjoy the rest of the journey, ok perhaps 'enjoy' was the wrong choice of words, this was a train I was talking about. Some work was done during my journey, although as it was 'the Sabbath' not too much. Arriving a few minutes late, I then had to nip into Tesco - having been given my orders - to get a couple of jars of Rogan Josh curry sauce as curry, with all my cousins and the kids coming round, was on the menu for that afternoon. And what a thoroughly good afternoon it was, a cracking meatball and also a chicken curry was wolfed down and then some family games, 'deal or no deal' and 'the yes no game', were played and good times had. A good way to prepare for the return of football on the bank holiday Monday!
So, Monday arrived - when my Uncle said that there was 'some snow in the air' I thought he was extracting the urine, although there honestly was the tiniest amount of this but it passed right away with rain the more likely force of mother nature that was to be felt that day, it was cold though.
With my Aunty nursing a fractured arm I was there to help do this and that, and also to try and give my cousin Matt and Uncle a helping hand, pardon the pun so my usual pre-match beer, well beers, were sacrificed so I could prepare dinner before I left, toad in the hole - the hole was prepared and all veggies peeled, washed and put in water ready to get on the go when I returned. I also had to do an online shop for my Aunty; none of them are that computer savvy. Fortunately my cousin Paul was collecting me on his way through, so come 1.30pm he arrived - we picked up Saunders and then drove down parked up and then contemplated what the afternoon would bring, there was not that much positive thought though sadly.
The next dilemma was, should we get a monster mick or not? Having walked round to the queues, with them so long and 2 out of the 3 of us, including myself, not really 'feeling' the monster we decided to have the balti pie and drink deal inside Fratton, the pie and coke for a fiver was not bad to be honest, and the pie a right touch! We joked about that being the highlight of the afternoon, upon reflection it probably was...
In terms of 'entertainment value', as frustrating an afternoon as it was at Fratton, I cannot, hand on heart, say that I felt cheated in that respect, I just felt cheated by the 3-2 defeat scoreline - then again if you do not take your chances this is what you get! Three attempts on target and three goals, Hull were most definitely clinical - whereas we had almost twenty and if a fraction of those, including the two we scored, were on target I would be amazed. Those that were rarely threatened Brad Guzan in the Hull goal. Had we been more clinical we would have been out of sight by half time and not 1-0 down. To have 3 or 4 REALLY good chances in injury-time alone and not take one just summed up the afternoons frustrations.
Carl Dickinson, whilst giving it his all week-in-week out, his commitment cannot be questioned, has to rank among the worst left backs that I have seen and he had an absolute stinker. It baffles me that Matty Ritchie is seen as 'not good enough' yet Dickinson will play all the time without question. Then again The Herminator was also poor at the back, as was Aaron Mokoena. Hayden Mullins was top drawer in midfield and Greg Halford ended his loan spell well, scoring and grabbing the man of the match award - I think I would have given it to Mullins though. John Utaka huffed and puffed but did not put an aging, and portly, Nobby Solano under nearly enough pressure. Once the Peruvian had been booked he should have been all over him like a cheap suit. All in all Utaka had a game that was synonymous of most of his Fratton career, disappointing. Dave Nugent was a willing runner as ever but his finishing left him down, as for Dave Kitson he is rapidly becoming a player that I have little time for. All in all for a few months now he had not looked 'interested' and spends more time sulking than anything.
The journey home was a sombre one, the lack of chat from most Pompey fans as we headed away in our droves was incredible - I have never known the walk through the lane and across the bridge to be so quiet, you could have literally heard a pin drop. Once back in the car Paul put the phone-in on and we listened, little talk was had still. Paul did not come in, just dropped me off and went. The results for the days games had to be put into the Vital database, so I did this whilst cooking the dinner.
Following the Christmas and New Year festivities, not to mention looking after my 1-year-old nephew Reece for a few nights recently, I was well and truly shattered so took advantage of an early night, also getting a bit of a lay-in on the Tuesday. That day, Tuesday, was spent working - I made a promise to myself that I will get back into a better split of Vital work and social life, mostly with Trina, this year and so far I have stuck to it. Vital, both Pompey and in general, is my job so I really do intend to knuckle down again, although I will get the balance right. Before leaving I also cooked a lasagna for myself, and Aunty and Uncle, heading off about 6.10pm, bumping into my cousin Matt who was on his way home from work, for my 18:39 Portsmouth Harbour - Cardiff Central train. This was on time, arriving into Westbury at 20:06 as scheduled, for my change, where I had to wait until 21:05 for my connecting train, which was late! Eventually this arrived in at 21:15. This was a smooth enough ride that enabled me to get quite a lot of work prepared, and finished - including this write-up - for the coming days, the train arrived back home, more or less on time, so it was home, wash, brush teeth and straight into bed...
Saturday sees the return of the FA cup, which is always a special time and competition, especially the 3rd round, although Brighton is going to be a mighty challenge - I know that we will not win the cup so many will say 'do we really want to win' this game, of course we do and I know that I do without doubt!
A good cup run could boost morale, not to mention boost the coffers, and money is what this club needs at the moment. Lets not forget that we do not want the embarrassment of being dumped out of the cup, we won remember not too long ago and were runners-up in last season, by one of our south coast rivals that we want to see as one of those behind us either!
Roll on Saturday, I cannot wait, lets just hope that we will be cheering come 5pm...
PLAY UP POMPEY!