Date:Wednesday January 31 2007
Another home match, more dropped points. Fratton became a fortress yet again before Christmas, but somebody has left the drawbridge open since then and it is now rapidly turning into open house once more. The last six league matches (home and away) have harvested just one win and three draws as a result of scoring just six times - not really Europe potential.
After such a disappointing home defeat by Charlton two weeks ago, Pompey supporters were left to believe that the players were very upset over the loss and were keen to make amends. A brave a valiant effort was given at Old Trafford against Manchester United a week later in the FA Cup, but when it came down to the bread and butter of domestic football they bombed out miserably again. Two more dropped points at home to what really can only be described as inferior opposition, opponents that were let floundering on their home turf after Pompey trounced them 4-0 at the start of the season.
Before Christmas, Harry Redknapp and his staff were only concerned in reaching the magic 40 point mark, the tally accepted as being the target to reach to avoid relegation. The common belief then was to assess our position afterwards and push for glory if it was possible. Well that moment has actually still to arrive, as Pompey are chipping slowly away at the target, falling short almost every match in recent times. The defence has been solid, the midfield needs a little shake up but it is the front line where the heart of the problem really is.
Outstanding performances away at Arsenal, Liverpool and West Ham count for little when poor displays at Sheffield United, home to Charlton, Middlesbrough, dropped points to Spurs and Aston Villa highlight the need for Harry Redknapp to sign a good striker, and quickly too. With thirteen matches left of the season, time is fast running out if we are to avoid slipping far down the table before season`s end. Harry has just sixteen hours left to make another signing, but will there be any news?
Recently, he has spoken of his aim to push for Europe now that safety from relegation has all been pretty well assured. Sadly it seems he has not told the players this, for it is as if some of them feel the season is now over instead of being able to make more of an attempt to finish higher. It has to be said that our front line lacks any fight; it has become extremely toothless and cannot offer the side anything at the moment. Contrast this with the first ten matches when all the goals came from the forward line, the midfield and defence did not score until the end of October against Reading.
Since then, the entire contingent of strikers at Portsmouth have scored only four times in fifteen matches, the midfield and defence scoring the remaining twelve. To look at it another way, Kanu, Cole, Benjani and Lualua have only scored twice in over nine hours of football - that`s nine matches. Our current form is alarming, had it not been for our excellent start then we would in fact be deep in a relegation fight yet again.
Not too long ago, Kanu was the leading scorer in the Premiership - now he is far from that. Andy Cole has popped up with a handful, but the side needs forwards with pace, something that Cole or Kanu so dearly lack. Banjani has great determination, good pace and is strong - but he cannot score, though of course he provides many opportunities for his team mates. Lualua also has great pace, skill and strength, so now that he is fit will we see him partnering Banjani or will Harry stick with the Old Boys School still of Cole and Kanu, the Untouchables? It is time for these two to be put at the end of the queue, rotate them on the bench as neither of them has the stamina to last ninety minutes but can certainly make a difference coming on as substitutes.
We need a forward who has the pace to get behind the opponent`s defence, one who can run at goal, one who can fight for the ball - in essence, another Benjani only with the ability to score. We had that once, but a certain Frenchman decided to let him go. We have not had anyone to match the likes of Yakubu since then and there has been little done to replace him.
Many will say that we`ve had a good season - yes we have, it has been our best one yet, but should we really let it all go to waste? With Europe quite reachable, we should be making a conscious effort to get there and this includes finding a proven goalscorer to help get us there. It doesn`t matter if the likes of Freddy Eastwood, Dave Nugent or others come with a huge asking price - we cannot afford to keep signing older players, we need younger ones coming in who can offer a future for the club, not a fast fix remedy.
Harry summed it up when he told Sky Sports "They [Middlesbrough] came here tonight with pace like with Downing and Yakubu, you mustn't forget Yakubu was our star player and we sold him for £8 million which is probably worth more than our whole team.' Considering we have a side that in essence is much stronger, with an £8million striker in the shape of Yakubu we`d not be scrabbling for points like we are now.
It matters not how sides come to Fratton Park - it is up to our players and management to find a way to break them down, not to give a post match comment 'But there is no easy game and Middlesbrough came here and played very well, they are a good side and it was a tough game for us."
Perhaps we were "punching above our weight" for most of the season, but we really should be winning matches at home against the likes of Middlesbrough, Charlton, Fulham, Tottenham. When you consider that the remaining thirteen matches of the season include the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal, more dropped points are almost inevitable, hence why the recent performances really are simply not good enough.
Maybe we have become the new Charlton, a great start then burn out towards the end? Whatever it may be, we have still to make it to that elusive 40 points mark and at the moment that appears to be a very tall order. But I am still very proud of what has been achieved at Fratton Park this season, it is just a shame that it all appears to have almost finished already.
Date:Wednesday January 31 2007
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