Reading 0-0 Pompey
Saturday 17-03-07, 3pm
Pompey didn't have to travel far this afternoon to face Reading, a team battling with us for a place in the UEFA Cup next season. A good match, end to end from two teams who played some good football saw the points shared after a 0-0 draw.
Glen Johnson returned after being ineligible for the Chelsea game with Dejan Stefanovic also returning after a long injury lay off, also regaining the captain's armband. Niko Kranjcar and Arnold Mvuemba came in to the midfield in place of the injured Pedro Mendes and suspended Sean Davis with Kanu and Benjani resuming their partnership up front.
Reading had the better of the first half, Pompey the second and but for the woodwork would have won the match through Richard Hughes late on. His superbly struck 30-35-yard effort deserved a goal but it wasn't to be.
The Pompey faithful started in good voice as ever but it was Reading who had the better as you would expect being the home side, and created the most openings but were all snuffed out by some good Pompey defending, although when they did have chances they should have scored. Firstly through Leroy Lita Reading should have been ahead. Lita was played through but wanted too much time and the chance was put wide. Then a good cross found Dave Kitson but he headed wide of David James' goal, who was looking far from comfortable early on.
Twenty minutes in and I was certain we were ahead. Gary O`Neil watched the ball as it fell to him and struck a sweet volley inches wide with Marcus Hahnemann well beaten. Neither O'Neil nor myself, or the travelling Pompey contingent could believe it didn't go in.
A needless foul by Michael Duberry gave us an opportunity to deliver a dangerous ball. Niko Krancjar whipped in a cross shot which Hahnemann misjudged and was almost caught out but to his and Reading's relief it went narrowly wide.
After doing well to cut out a Reading attack Sol Campbell then cleared poorly to James Harper who controlled the ball, brought it down and then shot at James' goal but his effort caused no problems at all for Pompey.
As the half time interval approached but for a fantastic last ditch challenge from Linvoy Primus we would have been one down. A great Reading move saw Dave Kitson clean through but Primus defended superbly as he has all season to make a saving challenge.
Right on half time reading pilled on the pressure, firstly Glen Little's snap shot was a half chance with a another fine Reading move seeing them play their way through the Pompey defence but a fine clearance from Campbell snuffed out the danger but only at the expense of a corner. The head of Steve Sidwell met this corner but Richard Hughes did enough to block of his effort.
Pompey came out with much more purpose in the second half and after a poor Reading clearance if O'Neil could have just turned inside of Duberry he would have been clean through, as it was he couldn't and couldn't find the space to work the opening he wanted.
It seemed as though Harry Redknapp has really had words with his charges at half time as we started the second half really well with Kanu heading over from another good Krancjar free kick. He'll feel he should have done better but I think Primus was offside anyway.
Just after the hour mark Hahnemann was forced into his best save of the game to date. A flowing Pompey counter saw Benjani, who had been having a disappointing afternoon give away the ball at the back, win it back and then set us away. Benjani got himself on the end of the move and his venomous strike needed turning away fro a corner.
A nothing Pompey break saw us two on one, with Kranjcar's through ball finding O'Neil but he was denied by Hahnemann but the flag was already up for offside.
The second half was flowing from end to end and Reading had a chance next but a good defensive clearance from Campbell forced Reading wide and the pull back couldn't find anyone.
Yet another Pompey break saw us awarded a free kick some five-yards outside the box after a cleaver Kanu run saw him pulled back cynically by Sidwell. Kranjcar stepped up shooting narrowly wide of Hahnemann's goal.
The freshness of Kevin Doyle saw him see off Primus before finding Little who's fine pull back was well cut out by James, who was looking far more comfortable in the second forty five minutes. Immediately from the block James set Pompey away and if O'Neil could have put a little less weight on his ball through Kranjcar would have been away as it was it was just too long.
With ten minutes to play Pompey deserved to score, a strike from Richard Hughes would have proved a worthy winner. A quite breath taking strike from a player that had had another very good game came back off Hahnemann's post with him well beaten from all of 30-35-yards.
This was a much better Pompey away display than we have seen in recent weeks, well the second half certainly. We arguably did enough in the second half to win but once again, and again worryingly we failed to score, a clean sheet is very welcome though.
Before the game we would have taken a point as not many felt we`d get even that, but for the woodwork Hughes' cracking strike would have won us the match and not unfairly so although after Reading had the best of the first half and us the second maybe a draw was a fair result.
Niko Kranjcar's delivery was very good today and he is showing signs of the player we hope he will be, let's hope we see plenty more over the years. Richard Hughes again had a very good game controlling most thrown at him, doing exactly what was asked of him, with Sol Campbell and Linvoy Primus again looking solid at the back.
Redknapp made his first change right at the death, Matty Taylor coming on for Niko Kranjcar but time ran out and we had to settle for a point.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Niko Kranjcar (Matty Taylor 89)
Substitutes Not Used
Arnold Mvuemba was very impressive for me, covering every blade of grass and kept running for the full ninety minutes. It's the first I've seen of him and I want to see more. He just seems frightened to shot at times though when you are crying out for him to do so.