Pompey frustratingly held!
Saturday 11-11-06, 3pm
On a cold afternoon at Fratton Park as Lomana LuaLua made a rare start and Sol Campbell and Linvoy Primus returned having missed the United game Pompey were frustratingly held to a 1-1 draw with Fulham.
Things could have been worse thought, and for a while looked as thought they would! Zat Knight's header for Fulham looked as though we may be denied anything at all, only for substitute Andrew Cole to force home from close range to gives us the very least we deservedů a point.
Having dominated the match for the most part missed opportunities, several fine saves from former Southampton goalkeeper Antti Niemi and the woodwork looked like denying Pompey the three points we deserved but at last we got one!
With Lomana LuaLua making only his second start to the season he quickly got into the stride of things following one of his trademark "I'm going to go all the way without passing the ball" runs, following a slice of luck he did eventually pull the ball back for Kanu but he appeared to snatch at the opportunity and dragged wide from 12-yards.
A few minutes later came one of Fulham's few real chances, and in all honesty even this wasn't really meant as a chance. Liam Rosenior's attempted cross had to be tipped over by David James as it appeared destined for a fortuitous goal.
It didn't take Pedro Mendes long to try his luck. With him always told to "SHOOT!" by the Fratton faithful at any opportunity he duly obliged less than ten minutes in. His 35-yarder may not have tested Antti Niemi but it gave him food for thought.
Then came the first moment that had you thinking maybe this isn't going to be Pompey's day! From a fine Dejan Stefanovic cross former Fulham star Sean Davis (so keen to end his goal drought) leaped like a salmon to head at goal, only to be denied by the upright.
With Pompey having all of the ball LuaLua first sent a header wide then from a 25-yard free kick tested Niemi to his fullest. A wonderful curling effort was superbly tipped over by the flying Finn to deny Pompey the games opening goal.
Fulham were really finding it hard to get into the game but our lack of telling passes (not always down to the player passing I must add) or final touch always worried you, well it did me. Then Fulham almost stole the lead. Carlos Boconegra's had to be well saved by James, diving low to clutch the ball in his grasp.
Niemi looking as though he had something of a point to make having been in goal for Southampton in our 4-1 hammering of them in their relegation season denied us a couple more times before half time, the first from LuaLua again and the second in first half injury time somehow denying Kanu. The Nigerian saw his header tipped round the post.
Having seen chances come and go ten minutes into the second half came the moment we feared. Against the run of play from Claus Jensen's cross Zat Knight headed Fulham in front, which I have since been made aware with the aid of a deflection off Stefanovic, at the time I didn't see this.
As you'd expect this only seemed to rouse the best supporters in the land yet more and this in turn again filtered through to the players, but you still had this thought or worry "is it going to be one of those days?"
Stefanovic with an effort attacking the Fulham goal headed wide from another superb Gary O'Neil cross. Followed shortly after by a goal line clearance by Rosenior from Linvoy Primus' header.
Then came a moment that thrilled the Fratton End, having given Niemi a barrage of abuse because of his past and for him constantly "cleaning" his boots against the goal post at every free kick he was finally booked for continuous time wasting, with him shortly after denying Kanu from 20-yards. The effort although testing was straight at him.
With 25 minutes to play a change was needed and rather than the much expected by those around me Andrew Cole for LuaLua Harry Redknapp opted to remove the ineffective (if I'm honest on today's showing) Matty Taylor instead, which I thought he was going to do anyway. Although I wouldn't have minded LuaLua off (as although he was doing things he just wasn't passing!) I had this feeling this was the change Redknapp would make.
Thoughts that it really was going to be one of those days were almost compounded when another spot on O'Neil delivery saw Noe Pamarot's header come back off the bar!
Then with 15 minutes to go come the moment we had all prayed for and the moment our efforts deserved at the very least, a point was gained thanks to Cole's poacher's goal, scrambling home from six-yards out. I've only seen the goal as it happened but I was certain that Niemi had been fouled at least one, probably twice and had expected the goal to be ruled out but much to all of our delight referee Steve Bennett saw nothing wrong the goal stood!
Having scored the equaliser you felt we would surely go on to win all three points and despite throwing on Benjani in place of Kanu, who had run himself into the ground we couldn't find a way past Niemi again with the Finnish International denying Benjani with a smart save from close range and LuaLua once again in injury time.
The game ended on a very sour note for us though with Gary O'Neil being carried off. Having come through a fitness test to feature today it looks as though a thigh or hamstring problem has been picked up which could see him out for some time?
Going into this game I said to a friend we would hope from six points from our next two games, four points our minimum so we must now go and beat Watford next weekend at Fratton.
This was just one of those games you have, we dominated without playing to our best for large periods but were almost robbed but at least we got the point. In times gone by we wouldn't have! If only men were following up so many pull backs and parried saves we could have seen easy tap ins...
Pompey - Zat Knight 57
Fulham - Andrew Cole 75
Dejan Stefanovic (c)
Gary O'Neil (David Thompson 87)
Matty Taylor (Andrew Cole 66)
Kanu (Benjani 83)
Substitutes Not Used
LuaLua was a handful for Fulham but despite receiving rave reviews most places I've looked I feel the fact that he again refused to pass so often put a dampener on what was a good performance from the DR Congo man but it's a team game.
Pedro Mendes again got the job done in midfield but purely on his delivery and all round distribution O'Neil gets my vote for Man of the Match. His crossing was spot on at times, almost on a plate but for very good last ditch defending, missed efforts, good saves or fortune at other times the ball was in the right place even if players weren't!