Date:Tuesday October 31 2006
The Weekend that Was…
After seeing off Premiership new-boys Reading in classy style, Portsmouth find themselves halfway to safety with only a quarter of the season gone. An own goal, an exquisite header from King Kanu and a Mendes special reminded the rest of the Premiership that Portsmouth`s good start may threaten to be a good season…
Looking at the fixture list at the beginning of the campaign, a win at home against Reading should mean as much as losing to Chelsea away. Nothing, standard results that should be coming from a team looking to consolidate itself mid-table rather than flirting with the drop season after season.
But looking at the games rather than the results, and the progress this year is put clearly into focus. Chelsea battered Portsmouth`s defence, and though you could say should have come away having scored more than two goals, found themselves almost scraping past a resilient Pompey, after Benjani`s scrambled-home goal.
Looking at Reading, and the converse is true. Newly-promoted with the novelty of the Premiership wearing off, Reading at Fratton Park looked winnable but with a degree of difficulty about drawing out the result a few months ago. But on Saturday, a new Portsmouth reared its head, one that was finally capable of putting a team to the sword at will. It was the same team that turned up at the Riverside, when Middlesbrough were thoroughly humbled, and it will hopefully be the same team that comes out time and again as the season spins on its merry way.
But let`s not get too carried away about a win against Reading. People are calling it the end of a slump, after losing four of the last five games, but one was to Chelsea and one in the Carling Cup (with a poor second team, though that`s a discussion for another time), so Portsmouth`s form isn`t really that perilous when you think about it.
Harry Redknapp welcomed back key players in defence where Reading are still struggling without hit-man Dave Kitson, the man who fired them up into the Premiership. Steve Coppell has done well with a threadbare side and budget, and one hopes that he`ll steer his side to safety, but they were on the whole toothless at Fratton Park.
The same can be said about an 'unlucky` loss to Chelsea. Countless teams have gone to Stamford Bridge and come close to getting a result, but have just fallen short. That`s why Chelsea are champions, because they can eke out the decisive performance where other teams falter. So a good performance put in by Portsmouth, but without a win, they might as well have lost by two or three more, because only results matter in this game (credit: Steve Coppell after losing this weekend)
Effectively, and in a very long winded way, I`m trying to say let`s not get carried away. Harry has done what Milan Mandaric put into motion nearly seven years ago, building a team capable of retaining Premiership safety easily. But a good performance against Chelsea and wins against Charlton, West Ham and Reading is hardly Champion`s League place worthy, is it?
So a good win over Reading should be looked at for exactly what it is. A win against a team that might struggle to stay in the Premiership once injuries and suspensions take their toll. And let`s be honest, Portsmouth could probably do with one or two additions to the squad in January, particularly in the defence, as without Campbell and Primus quite a few more goals might start leaking in.
Oh, and one more thing. Let`s hope that Benjani`s misses were a one off, and we don`t have a hard-working Heskey in the making…
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