Pompey 1-4 West Ham
Fri 26-12-08, 1pm
Portsmouth played hosts to West Ham in a Boxing Day thriller, with the home side looking for three points to turnaround their recent bad run of form. Marc Wilson made his first league start in place of Noe Pamarot, and Glen Little and Nadir Belhadj replaced Papa Bouba Diop and Hermann Hreidarsson respectively.
West Ham had the best of the early play, with Bellamy wasting a free kick and Jack Collison looking lively down their left. Pompey were wasteful with their crosses, until Jermain Defoe found Glen Little in plenty of space out wide. Little's ball in was just about controlled by Crouch, who laid the ball inside for Belhadj to slide home the opener.
This seemed to inspire Portsmouth, who then passed the ball around with ease, but constantly lacked the final ball in good situations. West Ham were reliant on Craig Bellamy, who was chasing down through balls and being a nuisance.
On 20 minutes, Little pointlessly gave away a free kick by clipping the attacker's heels, and was still in conversation with Steve Bennett when Noble took the free kick quickly. This caught Portsmouth cold, and the ball was worked to Collison on the edge of the area, who fired home through the legs of the unsighted David James.
Portsmouth came forward once again, with a cross being cleared as far as Sean Davis, who let loose with a fantastic volley, only for Rob Green, who had already saved a volley from Crouch, to dive down to his right to deny Davis his second goal of the season.
West Ham were still looking lively on the break, and Craig Bellamy almost put the visitors ahead when he latched onto a long ball, only to fire wide of the far post under pressure from Wilson. The West Ham goalscorer, Jack Collison, almost made it two when Little failed to clear when he had the chance, resulting in him playing a poor ball to David James. The attacker got to the ball before David James and when the ball came to Collison, his shot couldn't beat Sol Campbell on the line.
Never to be outdone, Rob Green made a similar mistake at the other end, and this time it was Glen Little who failed to make the England international pay.
Portsmouth should have had a penalty when Peter Crouch was held by Davenport in the area, but Bennett yet again waved play on, his favoured decision all game long. Portsmouth, however, did get a penalty in injury time, when Crouch has held this time by Lucas Neill. The ineffective Jermain Defoe confidently stepped up, only to fire wide of the left hand post. Defoe joined many names in recent years to fail to score a penalty at the Milton End, most memorably Benjani in the last minute of the same fixture last year.
The second half yet again began lively, with Portsmouth putting constant pressure on the West Ham goal. Defoe finally found himself in space, only to fire straight at Green. Kranjcar was equally wasteful, shooting high and wide whenever he was given the opportunity. Belhadj and Little looked the most likely source of a goal, but the crosses came to nothing, until West Ham managed to break from one, resulting in Carlton Cole finding the net after Bellamy had made a good run to set up Collison, who`s shot crashed back of the post for the former Chelsea man to slot home.
Despite this setback Portsmouth kept pressuring, and with Traore poised to come on, exceptional work yet again by Glen Little forced a corner. Marc Wilson won the aerial challenge, only to see his header crash back of the post into the path of Kranjcar. The Croatian moved away from goal, then was needlessly dispossessed by Ilunga, who cleared the ball into the path of Bellamy. The pacy Welshman almost rounded James, who tipped the ball to the side, only for Bellamy to rifle West Ham`s third goal into the net.
Traore was subsequently brought on, but for some reason he replaced Glen Little, who was having an exceptional game compared to Kranjcar. Kanu was also brought on, and despite the booing from the fans, it was the correct decision to bring off Defoe, who hasn't played well for a long time, and wasn't on his game yet again today.
Despite the substitutions, and all the effort from Traore, Portsmouth just couldn't grab a goal back, and it was no surprise when West Ham yet again scored on the break. Cole found himself inside the area, and squared for Bellamy to score his second of the game.
The rest of the game was played out without any incident of note. Fratton Park was half-empty when the whistle went, but the fans who stayed made the most of the occasion with a verse of "Always look on the bright side of life".
The only positive performances were from Belhadj and Little. Belhadj gave his all and was a constant threat all game, whilst Little put in probably the right-midfield performance of the season from a Portsmouth player (apart from Johnson vs Vitoria). Yes he made some mistakes, but he was tricky and put in the effort, and was a constant thorn in West Ham`s side. Crouch, Davis and Hughes gave their all yet again, and deserve a mention ahead of players like Defoe, Kranjcar and Campbell. The latter two haven't put in a good performance between them since returning from injury, and it would be wise to drop these two just to show them that they aren't "untouchable".
Next up for Portsmouth is Arsenal away on Sunday, a game that could be messy if we put in another performance like we have done against Newcastle, Bolton and West Ham. Next up at Fratton in the league is Man City, who will be looking to add to the 6 that they put past us in the opposite fixture back in September. First at Fratton is the first game in our FA Cup defence, with Bristol City looking to upset the odds and put their name in the hat for the fourth round draw.
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