Pompey edged out at the Boleyn
Pompey fans travelled en masse to Upton Park to play West Ham in a fixture that featured the last two teams to finish bottom of the Premier League, and were rewarded with a enthralling game that had everything a football game could ask for.
Portsmouth's main piece of team news was striker Dave Kitson absence from the matchday squad, replaced by Benjani who was making his first start for The Blues since returning to the club. West Ham also made changes, the most notable being Henry Lansbury making his debut after joining on loan from Arsenal on deadline day. Papa Bouba Diop didn't make the first 16, and Frederic Piquionne had to settle for a place on the bench.
One ex-Pompey player who did make the starting XI was Matthew Taylor, but he along with his new teammates could only watch as Pompey took the lead after a succession of early corners. A move straight from the training ground saw Liam Lawrence find Luke Varney in ample space 14 yards from goal, and his heavily deflected shot beat ex-England 'keeper Robert Green to put Pompey into an early lead. Incidentally, this was the first goal scored by Portsmouth in the first half in 20 games.
The joy was short lived however, as rather predictably a minute later, Super Matty Taylor lined up a free kick after Jason Pearce conceded a foul. There was only ever going to be one outcome as Jamie Ashdown was wrong footed after a deflection, which leveled the game.
Both teams looked up for it, and despite The Irons being on top for the remainder of the half it was the visitors who were cursing their luck after Pearce nearly nodded home from a corner, and shortly afterwards a well worked move saw Huseklepp force a fine save from Green, with no Pompey player on hand to poke home the rebound. 1-1 was the score at half time, but there was plenty of drama yet to unfold.
The second half started with the same tempo as the first ended, and West Ham took the lead for the first time 8 minutes in when Lansbury poked home via another fortunate deflection off Jason Pearce. Pompey were not going to take this lightly however, and after some dogged attacking deservedly found themselves level on the hour mark when David Norris headed home. The stadium announcer credited the goal to Benjani, who made sure the ball had crossed the line, but replays show that the linesman had given the goal after for Chuck's initial effort.
As with most games, there was going to be one crucial moment that decided this game, and this came on the 66th minute as another debutant for West Ham, David Bentley, was carelessly hacked down by Liam Lawrence, who was already on a booking. The Republic of Ireland international could have no complaints about being shown his second yellow and Portsmouth had an uphill battle on their hands.
This battle was not aided by Mr. East the referee, who 5 minutes later awarded West Ham a soft penalty after Lansbury dinked the ball onto Jason Pearce's hand. He had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Mark Noble duly hammered the penalty past Jamie Ashdown.
The game was put to bed 4 minutes later when a terrific cross from Matthew Taylor saw Carlton Cole rise high above the Pompey back line to make it 4-2.
Although the game was over, there was still more drama to follow in the dying minutes as ex-Pompey striker Piquionne came off the bench for the last 5 minutes, only to see himself receive a straight red card in stoppage time after an off-the-ball altercation with Greg Halford.
There was still more goals left in the game as well, as deep into stoppage time Tal Ben Haim went on a mazy run only to be brought down by Mark Noble. Ben-Haim seemed adamant to take the penalty himself, but was eventually talked out of it by Greg Halford, who converted with the last kick of an enthralling encounter which saw 7 goals, 2 sendings off, 2 penalties and many talking points.
Despite falling short against a strong Hammer's team, Cotterill will no doubt take positives from the match; the team moved the ball about well and our improved strikeforce showed that we have got goals in us. Of the 4 goals conceded, two were heavily deflected and another was a harsh penalty. From a personal standpoint, I feel Lawrence's suspension could prove to be a blessing in disguise after his lack of form of late.
STAR PLAYER: One man stood out today, and that was Benjani. He reminded us of the man we remembered from the Premiership days, chasing everything down and creating opportunities when given the ball. He could be a major factor in our season if he continues to regain his fitness.
Written by PompeyFrippy.
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