Late Pompey Winner!
Saturday 18-11-06, 3pm
Pompey had to come from behind to secure the three points we all felt we needed to be getting against Watford today thanks to a late Lomana LuaLua penalty.
With Gary O'Neil missing out through injury David Thompson came in, whilst Matty Taylor not only dropped out of the starting eleven but also the squad, Niko Kranjcar came in for a first Fratton Park start. With Andrew Cole not yet ready for a starting role LuaLua again partnered Kanu up front, with Cole keeping his place on the bench. Benjani's injury however saw him miss out altogether.
Jay DeMerit gave Watford the lead before Kanu equalised on the stroke of half time. LuaLua's 89th minute penalty secured the 2-1 win our second half pressure looked like bringing.
With an expectant Pompey following looking for a bright, quick start things almost went totally against plan with Malky MacKay, recalled in place of Danny Shittu. Poor Pompey defending allowed the former Scottish International his chance but he shot over from close range.
Moments later came Pompey's first effort. MacKay's foul on Kanu gave us a free kick within shooting distance and David Thompson, making a rare start, didn't hesitate. His 30-yard effort had to be parried to safety by England's current third choice goalkeeper Ben Foster.
Lomana LuaLua and Hameur Bouazza both had long ranged effort from 25 and 20-yards respectively, neither of which troubled the goals were the next notable efforts before Sean Davis, still seeking that illusive goal tried his luck from distance. His 20-yard shot at least forced Foster into a save.
Another effort from LuaLua this time from the edge of the area again failed to trouble Foster before the first real moment of controversy. After Dejan Stefanovic had blocked Ashley Young's volley for a corner the resulting passage of play eventually saw a Young cross totally bamboozled David James before being cleared by Linvoy Primus, but not without a hint of a hand involved?
The latest in a series of Watford corners (which was later proved that it should never have been so) then saw them take a 1-0 lead. Would a match that we really could not afford to lose go against us? Young's corner was met by the head of American Jay DeMerit who beat a "flapping" James who had more chance of taking off than taking the cross, to head home with a free header. Stefanovic AGAIN needs to take his fair share of blame for this goal also as he made little or no effort to get to his man DeMerit!
A few minutes later, as is happening so often Sol Campbell was unable to direct a header on target! His header from a Pedro Mendes corner was headed over the top.
A minute before half time however came the Pompey equaliser. Foster superbly saved from Kanu's initial effort but the Nigerian reacted well to scoop home the rebound for his eighth Premiership goal of the season.
We still had time for a trademark Mendes long ranger! This time he went for placement over power though. His curling 25-yard effort from the edge of the area was bending into the top corner but for Foster's fine flying save.
The second half saw a Watford change in goal. Foster was unable to continue so substitute goalkeeper Richard Lee came on in his place.
You would have though, or at least hoped that the goal would have spurred us on and we'd come out all guns blazing but it was Watford that had the second half's opening chance. Darius Henderson's opening from as little as six-yards was closed down well by James.
Davis' locks, gaining in length each week got onto the end of Stefanovic's cross but he couldn't direct his effort on target with our first effort of the second half. It wouldn't be another disappointing home draw would it… Niko Kranjcar's 20-yard effort then also failed to trouble Lee.
With just under 30 minutes to play last weeks goal hero Andrew Cole was again introduced. Harry Redknapp clearly wanted to turn the one point into three as he brought a forward on for a midfielder in David Thompson.
With time running out LuaLua missed a chance that its creation really deserved an end product. Kranjcar's back heel found him but he could only shoot straight at Lee. The substitute goalkeeper still hadn't really been tested.
It was looking like we would have to settle for a point until Kanu was pulled down by DeMerit for a penalty. Up stepped LuaLua and I have to admit I was worried! But despite Lee's hand being closer than I would have liked the ball struck the back of the net to give us a last minute lead and surely all three points.
Watford still had time for a 20-yard MacKay effort but this provided no problems for James and victory was achieved.
As anticipated we got the three points that we very much wanted and indeed needed.
The encouraging thing from the last two games has been our ability to fight back from a goal down to not be beaten. In years gone past we would have lost the Fulham game instead of drawing from one down and would arguably have done the same here, rarely would we have come back to have won!
With the way other results went we've moved back up into third place at least for 24 hours.
Next up for us is Newcastle next Sunday at St James' Park. We've already been there once this season and lost 3-0 in the Carling Cup but this will be a different match. The result in that game could determine how genuine our top six, dare I say even top four challenge really will be.
Pompey - Kanu 44, Lomana LuaLua 89 (penalty)
Watford - Jay DeMerit 31
Dejan Stefanovic (c)
David Thompson (Andrew Cole 62)
Substitutes Not Used