Pompey season review - November
Summer, August, September and October 2006 have been reviewed with Pompey currently sitting in 4th place, but what would November bring?
Saturday 4th saw the month start with Pompey on the road again, the daunting trip to United awaited. Old Trafford is not one of the places you want to go at the best of times, but would be even lower on your list if you had defensive injuries to contend with! Glen Johnson, Linvoy Primus and Sol Campbell were all ruled out so Andy O'Brien - for his first league start of the season - and Noe Pamarot were two names to come in. Not meaning to sound harsh but a defence with these two along with Dejan Stefanovic - who had been far from his best - did not feel me with too much confidence. Another change from the Reading match saw Kanu drop to the bench, Manuel Fernandes and Niko Kranjcar the others than came in.
Worries we had before the game were materialised with Pompey making the worst possible start, conceding two goals in the opening ten minutes. It was either Dejan Stefanovic or Andy O'Brien - maybe a combination of both - that gave United and early penalty and Louis Saha made no mistake on 3 minutes. Cristiano Ronaldo's thunderbolt of a free kick in the 10th minute left David James with no chance and an already tough task made an impossible one. We could only hope to keep the score down and James made sure of this. The 66th minute saw Nemanja Vidic score the third and final goal for United.
We had suffered our worst defeat of the season after the 3-0 defeat to United but we retained 4th place.
The first home game of the month saw 19,563 fans at Fratton for the match with Fulham. Three changes were made from the United game. Linvoy Primus and Sol Campbell were fit to return - so did, along with Kanu. Injury restricted Benjani to a place on the bench - and a late cameo role - with Lomana LuaLua coming in for him. Andy O'Brien, Manuel Fernandes and Niko Kranjcar were others to drop out.
In what was one of the most frustrating matches that I have ever seen at Fratton, chance after chance went begging. Missed opportunities and a wasteful final ball left you fearing the worst. These fears materialised when Zat Knight headed home a corner on 57 minutes to give Fulham the lead. After hitting the woodwork in either half the cavalry arrived with Andrew Cole thrown on. Less than 10 minutes later finally the equaliser came as Cole scrambled home (74 minutes) to 'earn' a point that should have been more.
The 1-1 draw with Fulham saw us drop a place to 5th.
Saturday 18th and we were at home again. 19,738 fans were at Fratton to watch us take on relegation threatened Watford. The changes from the precious week saw Matty Taylor and Gary O'Neil out and David Thompson - for a rare start - and Niko Kranjcar in.
Many expected an easy three points - we might have eventually got them but they were far from easily gained. In the 32nd minute the almost unthinkable happened as Jay DeMerit headed Watford ahead. As half time edged ever nearer Kanu's 43rd minute goal made sure we went into the break level. Things stayed at 1-1, with a draw looking more and more likely until DeMerit brought Kanu down to give Pompey a penalty. Lomana LuaLua wanted it and he won the game in the 89th minute by converting.
The last gasp 2-1 victory over Watford moved us back up to 3rd.
Sunday 26th saw us make the long trip to St James' Park for the second time in a month, having previously faced Newcastle in the carling cup the month before. Gary O'Neil returned from injury in place of Niko Kranjcar, but Lomana LuaLua missed out as Benjani returned.
Newcastle were struggling at the wrong end of the table so it was hoped that it would be a good time to face them. But an overall poor showing saw us go down at a whimper really with Antoine Sibierski scoring the winner in the 69th minute. It should have been ruled out for offside, but Newcastle had seen a first half effort wrongly ruled out so things evened themselves out. I think this was the game that saw David James sport his 'Clark Kent' style hair cut - he certainly pulled off some super-saves if memory serves me right?
The disappointing 1-0 defeat to Newcastle saw us drop a place back to 4th.
The month concluded with a midweek trip to Anfield for the match with Liverpool on Wednesday 29th. Matty Taylor, Richard Hughes - for his first league start of the season - and Niko Kranjcar came in with captain Dejan Stefanovic, Sean Davis and Kanu making way, Stefanovic through injury.
We packed the midfield with only one intention - not to lose. Liverpool had most the possession but failed to do that much with it and rarely threatened David James, with Steven Gerrard missing the best chance for them.
A gritty performance earned us a 0-0 draw with Liverpool and saw us move up a place to 3rd in the table as a result.
The month saw transfer activity at Fratton with two keepers going out on loan. Dean Kiely - not best pleased at being left out of the side for a 'Hollywood' goalkeeper - left for a spell with Luton and young keeper Asmir Begovic joined Macclesfield.
Despite a stuttering month we still managed to move up a place having started in 4th spot. 3rd place in the Premiership after four months - how unbelievable was this. Any thoughts of relegation had long since gone, thoughts were starting to turn towards Europe and the Uefa Cup.
PLAY UP POMPEY!