Back To Winning Ways
Saturday 14-10-06, 3pm
With the International break over Pompey returned to Premiership action with Harry Redknapp's former club West Ham United the visitors to Fratton Park.
Back to back defeats had greeted this break so we were hoping that Redknapp could maintain his record of never having been beaten by West Ham since his departure in 2000… which he did!
Pompey's starting line-up had a familiar look to it with Redknapp using the team most often used this season, the one exception saw Manuel Fernandes come in for his full debut in place of Sean Davis.
Thanks to goals from the in form Kanu and a late home debut goal from substitute Andrew Cole we ran out 2-0 winners to move up to second, albeit temporarily with Chelsea pushing us down to third a couple of hours later.
In front of the usual fantastic support the game got underway with Glen Johnson having the opening effort at goal, his 20-yard effort going wide of the target. One of West Ham's own full-backs Paul Konchesky had the first sighter on goal for them, his own 20-yarder dragged wide of David James' goal.
The lively Konchesky made a good run down the West Ham left finding Matthew Etherington who crossed into the area, this cross being safely claimed by James. Shortly after as Zamora looked to get onto the end of another pull back James again claimed as Linvoy Primus left the ball to his keeper.
With Pedro Mendes not afraid to shoot from long distance he tried his luck from 30-yards, with his effort dipping wickedly before narrowly going over the bar for a corner, having taken a deflection of a West Ham defender.
Having carried the ball a long way Manuel Fernandes then showed some silky skills to beat West Ham's captain Nigel Reo-Coker who pulled him back thus earning himself a yellow card in the process.
On 25 minutes Kanu rose to head Pompey into the led with his sixth goal of the season. Johnson's cross found Kanu who beat Roy Carroll who made not effort to save the ball having felt Anton Ferdinand had been fouled. He wasn't, if anything Ferdinand was fouling Kanu, but nevertheless surely he should have made the effort to stop Kanu's six-yard header. But we are happy he didn't, Pompey were ahead.
With Pompey criticised for not creating enough clear cut chances in recent games with half an hour on the clock one such opportunity saw Kanu have one. The ball was cut back to him but from some 14-yards he dragged the ball horribly wide. Moments later Konchesky tired his luck from range once more, putting over the bar for a goal kick from 30-yards.
On his return not only to the West Ham starting line up but also to Fratton Park, Teddy Sheringham had his one and only real effort on goal. His long ranged effort was safely gathered but James.
The opening exchanges of the second half proved to be very stop start, with neither side really able to find their rhythm, however Fernandes came up with the opening effort of the second forty-five minutes but one of his trade mark 25-yard efforts went wide.
A good Etherington cross almost found Sheringham who but for Sol Campbell's fine defensive header might have equalised? Sol's clearance went behind for the relative safety of a corner that was headed away by Primus. This clearance found Konchesky who yet again had another West Ham effort, this long range effort was superbly saved by James.
Ironic cheers met a free kick awarded for a foul on Gary O'Neill on the edge of the West Ham penalty area. This free kick was well struck by Matty Taylor and had to be turned over by Carroll for a Pompey corner.
As the game entered the final half an hour somehow Pompey were denied a second following an almighty goal mouth scramble. Campbell's header from Taylor's corner was cleared off the line coming back to Dejan Stefanovic who's volley was blocked by a combination of West Ham defenders. With the ball still free neither Kanu nor Benjani could get the touch needed to guide it into the net as West Ham scrambled away for a corner.
In order to freshen things up Harry Redknapp decided to make a change with 25-minutes for go. Lomana LuaLua entered in place of goalscorer Kanu.
Shortly after Etherington had been denied from 25-yards by another good James save, to a great ovation from the West Ham and Pompey fans alike Sheringham joined Kanu in coming off, with the Pompey fans breaking out into song in honour of Sir Teddy!
Having had something of a running battle all afternoon following a foul, I believe it was Johnson on Konchesky the two squared up to each other. Thankfully it calmed down as quickly as it got started in the first pace, with both receiving yellow cards.
Benjani, who has again been a willing runner without really getting too much of the ball or having too many clear cut chances made way with 15 minutes to play, Andrew Cole coming on in his place for his home debut for Pompey.
Shortly after the change Fernandes had his latest long range effort, this time his 25-yarder narrowly missed Carroll's goal both in terms or height and width, an inch or so lower or further towards the goal on either count could have seen the match wrapped up, with LuaLua going even closer moments later. Having brought the ball down tremendously well he got away from his markers before firing narrowly wide.
Would the narrow misses cost Pompey once again? But for another James save from Reo-Coker's fine effort from the edge of the area this could have been the case. James superbly turned away the West Ham captain's effort for a corner to a chorus of "England's number one, England, England's number one!"
Having seen another 25-yarder from Fernandes saved, quite comfortably by Carroll the game was wrapped up with less than ten minutes to play. Cole played a one two with Taylor and although the return didn't cleanly find Cole he was still able to dig the ball out and with his back to goal swivelled in one swift motion to shot home giving us a 2-0 lead. Cole Celebrated his 35th birthday a day early with his first goal for the club on his home debut.
The game was all but over, and other than a few half chances for West Ham Pompey cruised home and could have had another one or two of their own, the best of which fell to LuaLua who had his effort well saved by Carroll.
Pompey get back to winning ways with a much deserved win. West Ham created little threat with the openings they might have had, and even when they did the Pompey defence was more than a match, as was David James when he was called into action, making several very difficult saves looks very easy. You fear that his England days are over but yet another fine performance will not go unnoticed. Even opposing fans are starting to question Steve McLaren's decision to continue to overlook Jamo!
Pompey - Kanu 24, Andrew Cole 82
Dejan Stefanovic (c)
Kanu (Lomana LuaLua 66)
Benjani (Andrew Cole 77)
Substitutes Not Used
Making his full debut the Portuguese International showed the kind of quality that has seen him linked with Man Utd. How many 25-yarders will he score this season? I'd dare not guess, but early signs are there could be quite a few as he's more than comfortable from that range.
With many having good games, and despite Linvoy Primus, Sol Campbell and Pedro Mendes once again having very good games Primus almost edged it for me once again. The defence may not have had a lot to do but what they did they did very well once again, with Primus in particular always seeming to be in the right place at the right time.