Pompey 1-1 Reading
Portsmouth 1-1 Reading
Ciftci (8), Kebe (87)
Fortress Fratton had an uncertain summer as to whether it would ever witness a game of football again, but at 2.55 on Saturday the 14th of August, Portsmouth returned to Fratton Park for their first competitive game since their 3-1 beating of Wolves 116 days ago. Now they were back with a different outlook on football, a much changed team and a different league to contend with, and with it a new set of problems.
Today's visitors were Reading, who'll fondly remember coming here last time around, scoring 4 times and still getting a beating. The 7-4 extravaganza last time around was the highest scoring match in Premier League history, and some fans would be hoping for a similar outcome today, however the defenders won't be. Only Jon Utaka remained for the Pompey team that played 3 years ago, and Gunnarsson was the sole survivor from the Reading side.
As for the team news, new signing Carl Dickinson came straight in and replaced Joel Ward as the only change from the team that beat Stevenage on Monday night. As for the atmosphere, it was as electric as ever as the teams emerged.
The opening exchanges were played at a fast pace, dictated by the Blues, and it wasn't long at all before the deadlock was broken. Nugent won a corner which was well worked by Ciftci and Ritchie, and the former of the two smashed a shot past Adam Federici, via a deflection to send the Fratton Faithful into hysterics. Nadir Ciftci claimed the goal which was his 2nd goal in as many games, this one coming right in front of the Linvoy Primus Community Stand.
Reading responded with some good movement and a series of dangerous crosses, but it was Portsmouth who nearly doubled their lead on the counter attack when Utaka broke free, but he was forced to pass to Ritchie who shot wide. The were question marks as to why Utaka pulled up, but these were soon answered when he was replaced by Joel Ward, a possible hamstring problem for the Nigerian. His replacement, Ward, seemingly instructed to play behind Nugent.
The visitors started to get back into the game, with Jimmy Kebe managing to get past Carl Dickinson a number of times, and Jobi McAnuff also giving the defence something to worry about.
On the half-hour, it should have been 2-0. A massive mistake from Gunnarsson gave David Nugent a dream chance to break his dry spell, but decided to take his shot first time when he had acres of space, and shanked it about 5 yards wide. 18 months without a goal for Portsmouth and counting.
The first half ended with chances for both sides, Kebe once again being a thorn in Portsmouth's side, and at the other end Nugent had a chance but overhit his pass to Joel Ward. Portsmouth would have been happier to hear the whistle as they were starting to lose their shape, and at half time it was Portsmouth 1 - 0 Reading.
The second half started how the first ended, with chances for both sides creating opportunities, and Reading looking slightly more dangerous. The Royals came within a posts width of equalising when a great free-kick from Gylfi Sigurdsson curled round the wall and off the post, with Ashdown well beaten.
Pompey continued to have opportunities though and another perfectly timed run from Nugent saw him go 1-on-1 with Federici, but once again Nugent showed his lack in confidence as he stroked the ball two yards wide.
In the final 10 minutes Reading started to press forwards more and more, in doing so taking off old Pompey boy Griffin, and replaced him with Rasiak, who got the appropriate response for someone who played for that lot down the road. Their breakthrough came in the cruellest of ways as a deep corner was scrambled goalwards by Kebe, and the goal was given despite the protestations from Portsmouth players that the ball never went in.
In stoppage time both sides pushed for a winner, and after a great save from Ashdown, Michael Brown had a great chance to win it, but Federici was equal to his shot and the game ended 1-1. Pompey led for 80 minutes and this will no doubt feel like 2 points lost than 1 point gained, but we're off the mark for the season and all in all a decent performance by a side that epitomises the phrase 'bare bones'.
A final word on the crowd, 16,497 is about what we were getting for most matches last season, and the noise they made today was as deafening as ever. Hopefully we can keep this up in the upcoming months as it makes a big difference to the teams morale.