Reading 0-2 Pompey
Tues 01-01-08, 3pm
It was a 'stuttering' end to 2007 to say the least; we were looking to start 2008 with a bang as we travelled - hangovers and all for many - to Reading hoping to kick off the New Year in style, and we did with a 2-0 win.
The only changes from the last game saw Glen Johnson return from injury in place of Lauren - who dropped to the bench - and Sulley Muntari come in for Kanu, who also dropped to the bench. There was no start for Dave Nugent though as had been hoped for, if not expected...
An early penalty miss from Niko Kranjcar did not prove costly, as Sol Campbell soon made up for this. Chances were missed against the 10 men of Reading but John Utaka wrapped up the win in the 2nd half.
Preceding the game there was a minutes applause for Phil O'Donnell who tragically died last weekend playing for Motherwell, this was impeccably carried out.
3 minutes on the clock and with Benjani clean through he was brought down by Ibrahima Sonko - there was no option but to not only give a penalty but give Sonko a red card. Niko Kranjcar stepped up, he tried a John Aldridge shuffle but this did not work at all as he hit the post and Papa Bouba Diop could not follow up.
Immediately after this Reading broke away and Bobby Convey then missed a glorious chance to put the 10 men ahead, as he put the ball wide - he was then sacrificed as a change was made.
Despite the missed penalty we did take the lead after just 8 minutes. Marcus Hahnemann dropped the ball and Sol Campbell tucked home from close range.
They might have only had 10 men, but Reading to their credit were still playing there normal game and this was giving us more chances, which but for a better final ball, or players arriving we could have had more in the opening 20 minutes or so.
It was a good open and even game, but Pompey were looking much more like scoring again and a switch of flanks between John Utaka and Kranjcar was a good idea as Graeme Murty is lacking in pace and Utaka was able to expose this.
Shortly after the referee possibly bottled sending off Murty when he could have got a second booking Reading almost forced a leveller but David James saved Dave Kitson's effort - then Sulley Muntari forced Hahnemann into a safe, albeit a comfortable one.
Our delivery has let us down recently, but this on the whole was much better today and this was causing problems to the Reading defence, particularly the keeper as he was looking susceptible so we had to put pressure on him.
In his almost traditional way Bouba Diop missed another virtual 6 yard sitter... this was almost made a worse miss when Kevin Doyle got in beyond the defence but James denied him.
Just before the break a patient well-worked move saw us almost double our lead. Great play from Glen Johnson saw him deliver to the far post but Benjani's header came back off the bar, this was then followed up by Hermann Hreidarsson but his header was saved by Hahnemann.
We stared the 2nd half in patient fashion, keeping possession well making Reading work hard, making them use up extra energy - but they did start well and created a few half chances, more than enough to worry me.
On 63 minutes Harry Redknapp made his first change of the day, Kanu coming on for Benjani - I was not amused...
The much-needed 2nd goal came on 66 minutes, as Utaka's pace was utilised. He skinned Nicky Shorey running from the halfway line when put through by Muntari before rounding the keeper and scoring.
The impressive Johnson tried to force a third, but his effort was brilliantly turned away by Hahnemann for a Pompey corner.
Reading still proved late on that they were still a slight danger as Doyle beat Campbell to cross to Stephen Hunt but a complete miss kick saw another great chance missed.
A worrying sight, with the African nations coming up saw Richard Hughes come off, looking like he was carrying an injury. He was replaced by Lauren, soon after this a decent strike from Muntari went close.
In the dying moments the final change was made as Matty Taylor came on for Kranjcar. Soon after this mistakes at the back almost cost us a goal but we escaped and saw the clock out to start the year with a win, and another clean sheet.
A fantastic way to start the New Year, hopefully a way that we can move on from? We played well today, not at our best but we did what was needed. Some missed chances were a little worrying but 3 points was the most important thing today.
I was disappointed not to have seen Dave Nugent play a part in this game at all, even more so when Kanu got on ahead of him - but Harry Redknapp is the boss, so he selects the side not me or anyone else... hopefully this does not mean that he will be leaving though?
Next up is the FA Cup, again on the road. It will not be easy but we should be looking to get into round 4.
PLAY UP POMPEY!
Pompey 2 - Sol Campbell 8, John Utaka 66
Papa Bouba Diop
Richard Hughes (Lauren 82)
Niko Kranjcar (Matty Taylor 88)
Benjani (Kanu 63)
Substitutes Not Used
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