Stalemate At Fratton
Tuesday 30-01-07, 7:15pm
Premiership action returned for Pompey tonight with Middlesbrough the visitors to Fratton Park in a must win match, we couldn't manage this as the game ended 0-0.
Djimi Traore returned to the starting line-up after being cup tied with Benjani also returning, Niko Kranjcar and Andrew Cole making way, the latter taking a place on the bench alongside the returning Lomana LuaLua after an injury layoff.
A frustrating night at Fratton Park saw clear cut chances for Pompey few and far between, if anything Boro will feel they should have won with the late chances they had.
With Pompey keen to make amends for the Charlton defeat last time out at Fratton Park it was important that we made a good start and despite some neat play from Boro it was Pompey that had the better chances in the opening fifteen minutes with Kanu and Pedro Mendes having early chances, both shooting wide from outside of the box. Kanu would again miss; this time from six-yards as would Linvoy Primus who volleyed narrowly over from a similar distance.
The returning Yakubu was looking lively but was lacking support but could still have been in but for good clearing challenges from Sol Campbell and Primus. He was causing problems but it was Pompey creating the openings; we just weren't finishing them, not that many, if any were that clear cut. Mendes did force stand in goalkeeper Brad Jones (playing because of injury to Mark Schwarzer) to make a save (the only save of the half) with a typical out of the area strike.
Benjani, returning to the starting line up having missed out in the last couple should headed wide from the edge of the six-yard box from a Mendes cross, with another effort from Primus, this time with his head from a Matty Taylor cross also being directed inches wide of the target, rippling the side netting.
With half time approaching with all the chances, even if not clear cut coming to Pompey, the last of the half feel to Taylor but he was unable to keep down a drive from a difficult angle. The mandatory minute of injury time was played out and the players came off with a 0-0 scoreline, something, anything was needed in the second half.
I thought to myself during the half time interval Harry Redknapp will have words with the boys and they'll come out in the second half and take charge… wouldn't they? The earlier exchanges suggested maybe not but then twice in a matter of minutes Pompey tested Jones in the Boro goal. First of all he had to be alert to keep out Pedro Mendes' 35-yard drive, then and more after being tested more he parried away a Taylor volley from the edge of the area to keep the scores tied.
Time was passing and there was little more sign of a goal, Taylor being the only man trying his luck. The first effort another long ranged volley from all of 30-yards but this failed to trouble Jones, the second a curled free kick also from 30-yards again over the bar. Between the two efforts Traore was forced off with injury Rudolph Douala coming on in his place.
With less than twenty minutes to play Redknapp felt that some Lomana LuaLua magic was needed and on he came for Benjani. And almost immediately LuaLua almost produced that magic, his shot after cutting inside from outside the area was tipped over the bar to frustratingly keep the match goal less with time running out
So the match entered the final ten minutes and the final roll of the dice was taken by Redknapp a goal was needed and a man you feel can usually get one Andrew Cole arrived with Kanu coming off. But it was Middlesbrough that came closest to winning it in the end, had David James not made good saves in tipping over a Yakubu effort, a Malcolm Christie long ranged drive or saved Stewart Downing's 25-yarder all in the final and after looking comfortable most the evening we could have lost
Where are the goals? We're not creating enough and not taking chances like we were. Had it not been for David James in the end a comfortable albeit not really good enough one point would have been none when we our goal was rarely troubled for 85 minutes.
This is definitely a missed chance as it was an almost must win game. The importance of wins over Wigan (away), Man City (home) and Blackburn (away) before Chelsea visit Fratton at the start of March has grown. Winning all would be massive, seven points from the next three is a must.
I'm dreading our trip to the JJB on Saturday now as their run of eight straight defeats has to end some time… I just pray it isn't this weekend!
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Djimi Traore (Rudolph Douala 69)
Kanu (Andrew Cole 81)
Benjani (Lomana LuaLua 73)
Substitutes Not Used