Date:Tuesday March 20 2012
Pompey have lived a cliched life the over the last decade, a case of "What goes up, must come down", "Taking the good times with the bad" and more recently "Just when you think things can't get any worse…"
After failing to score past a mediocre Bristol City on Saturday in what many saw as our last chance to salvage anything from our season, high flying Birmingham were the next to visit Fratton Park just 3 days after the stalemate.
Pompey were unchanged, with Pearce and Varney appearing in what many believed to be at least one of their last appearances. But the main news before the game is that Pompey's administrator Trevor Birch had come out in an interview with ESPN and has been quoted as saying "Any concerns about the club's future are now over." Whether this has any substance is yet to be seen, but with the main concern at the moment being Thursday's loan transfer window, time will tell how important this statement may be.
Back on the pitch however things did not start brightly for the hosts as after a scrappy first 7 minutes the visitors took the lead when Marlon King found Nikola Zigic in space to forge a path and fire Birmingham into the lead. As the half progressed it was clear that Pompey were struggling to create the opportunities that they did against The Robins 3 days before.
Michael Appleton admitted before the game that Pompey faced an uphill battle to survive in the Championship, but he wasn't prepared to give up hope just yet, and his half-time team talk must have been Churchillian-esque as the same 11 players came out after the break and gave a performance that we could be looking back at in 6 weeks time as a turning point.
No turning point could have been more pivotal than Jamie Ashdown's fantastic save just minutes after the restart, keeping out Marlon King's goalbound effort. 5 minutes later, Pompey had scored from open play for the first time since Erik Huselkepp netted against Blackpool, over 720 minutes beforehand. Chris Maguire scoring his first goal for the club, drilling home after a clever ball from Greg Halford.
The pendulum swung even more in the favour of the Blues when Maguire once again showed some neat footwork to beat his man, only to be upended by David Murphy, whose complaints fell on deaf ears when shown his second yellow card of the night to earn the luxury of being the first to jump in the nice warm bath in the away dressing room (we paid our heating, right?).
Pompey took advantage of the extra man instantly with Halford's free kick fell kindly to Chuck Norris, who buried the ball past Boaz Myhill to give Portsmouth a lead which gave the 12,186 in attendance a reason to make even more noise.
Birmingham weren't prepared to lay back and threw extra attackers on to try and steal something from the game. Appleton responded by bringing the pacy Kelvin Etuhu on to exploit the inevitable gaps they would leave. Birmingham did threaten several times, but failed to breach the solid Pompey backline, and from a counter attack it was Etuhu who doubled the lead with a sublime finish after being found by Maguire.
The time between Etuhu coming off the bench and netting was just under 4 and a half minutes, but when Pompey sunk the final nail in the Brummie coffin it took even less time for the latest substitute to make his impact, with Marko Futacs scoring less than 3 and a half minutes after coming on, with Halford completing a hat-trick of assists. In the dying embers of the game Ashley Harris came on to make his first appearance for the Blues to a great ovation, and even had the cheek to beat a few tired defenders and threaten to make it 5! But Pompey had to settle for 4-1, and as the full time whistle blew Fratton Park celebrated a victory which felt had been months in the making.
So where does that leave us now? With other results favouring us to an extent, we are now only 5 points off safety with a game in hand. Saturday sees us travel to the Ricoh Arena in what will be a crucial 6-pointer, and it's fair to say that with a much superior goal difference almost being worth an extra point, the Greatest Escape is well and truly on.
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Date:Tuesday March 20 2012
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