Wigan 1-2 Pompey 29-04-06
29th April 2006, it is one of those dates that will forever be etched into the memory - and one that will not be easily forgotten.
A week earlier we had beaten Sunderland, if we could do the same at the JJB we were safe - providing Birmingham could not win…
I remember putting on the 'lucky shirt', which to this day I still wear on match days - although I now have this seasons Benjani one that might eventually take over? Anyway, this shirt, which does not get washed if we do not lose, had previously been on a monstrous month long wash-less run, covering 6 games, the 7th a defeat to Charlton. The foul stench of defeat - as that is all it was! - was washed away and a new run started with the 2-1 win over Sunderland - but that is a story for another day.
Shirt on, I took my place on the futon - made up into a sofa at this point - put the radio on, as I could not be at the game, and sat through the match.
Svetoslav Todorov could have soothed the nerves early on had he not headed over, but then Henri Camara had a host of chances, Dean Kiely denying him twice, when he did beat him the gods must have been looking down on us as the linesman, sorry assistant, ruled it out for offside - maybe it was meant to be I though?
After Sean Davis had an effort cleared off the line Wigan were ahead minutes later as Camara was on hand to turn home a rebound in the 34th minute. I just sat there motionless, probably letting out a few blasphemous words. Wigan had plenty more chances, but we got away with it and almost levelled on half time, however Gary O'Neil saw his effort come off the bar - maybe it was not meant to be afterall - could the great escape explode in our face?
It was now a case of basically 45 minutes of make or break football, once again Todorov missed a golden opportunity, this time from only 2 yards but in this half we kept up the barrage of pressure, forcing Mike Pollitt into several saves.
Finally, shortly after the hour the pressure finally told.
Pollitt was beaten by Matty Taylor but even then the post was not, but who was on hand to score the easiest goal possible, but a goal he so desperately wanted and deserved - Benjani. He headed into the empty net from a few yards, the escape was back on and the 5000 strong Pompey fans made even more noise.
It could have been easy to maybe settle for the point, but Wigan were on the rack so the pressure was maintained. Still I remained unmoved from my same position - although clearly I had celebrated the goal.
Pedro Mendes was brilliantly denied, then the fantastic Andres D'Alessandro who was absolutely fantastic that day - as he had been for most of our run in after signing on loan in all fairness, how I wish we could have signed him permanently - narrowly chipped over.
Then the moment came, with no fingernails left the ageing process that I had gone through not only in the previous 70 minutes but several months was all worth it. Having scored one Benjani wanted another, but he was denied by Gary Teale - but this was via the use of an arm so he was given a straight red card and Pompey a penalty. Up stepped the ever dependable Taylor to convert, from 1-0 down we were now 2-1 up with a little under 20 minutes to play.
I let out more of a celebration that time, but still stayed on the futon - but I was up when O'Neil was played through, clearly not being able to see this as I was listening to it on the radio I could only imagine and hope, but surely this was the moment to confirm the 3 points? Nope, he was denied but despite a late Wigan scramble we made it through, we just needed to know the Birmingham result now…
This came through, they could only draw 0-0 with Newcastle - we were safe, the fans at the JJB went wild, as did I at home along with every Pompey fan around the globe. I was jumping around like a mad man, screaming and shouting. I finally left the solitude of my room to run down the stairs and slide like a kid across the wood flooring in the dinning room - of course I could not control this and crashed into the freezer!
What an amazing feeling, a team that looked dead and buried, even for some time after Harry Redknapp returned had performed the unbelievable.
This is the first in what I hope can become a series of articles in which our thoughts are shared on previous encounters with our upcoming opponents - ideally more of you will share your accounts, as you do not want to hear my ramblings each week. Remember it does not need to be limited to just one persons account either, others are more than welcome to share.
As this was such a special day, which meant so much to all the people of Portsmouth I will also share a few of the comments that some of you made when I initially put forward this new feature.
russellm: Yep Wigan will be in my memories for the rest of my duration, LoL unless I get Alzheimer's. It was the game I realized my second love understood she was in my relationship with Pompey and bought me flight and match ticket. Then seeing the team at the airport. Glorious.
storagematt: Wigan will always conjure up the survival day of 2006. A fantastic moment in our recent history. I had to work thus missed the match. Suffered the first half on the Internet vidiprinter, watching them score first. Driving home on the motorway when we equalised & threw my arms in the air, forgetting the steering wheel for a moment. Pulling up to my house, switching on the radio as we take the penalty. Screaming the street down at FT. Family were out & neighbours were understanding. I was 39 at the time but I looked 70 by the time final whistle went.
eastneydave: I was in the garden taking a break from the tension when Matty rolled in the penalty. It was greeted by a chorus of blaring horns and cheering from all over the area - a wonderful moment and it showed what Pompey means to the whole city.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
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