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December Review

December Review
December is renowned for being a busy footballing month, with many games being crammed into the festive weeks, but despite having 6 games scheduled for the month at the beginning of the season, only 3 were played thanks to rearranged fixtures and extreme weather conditions. Pompey's visit to Loftus Road had been rearranged for February, and a home tie against Burnley had been postponed due to heavy snow.

This made the trip to Carrow Road to face an in-form promotion chasing Norwich the first match for the Blues since upsetting Swansea 15 days prior. Norwich had gone 6 unbeaten coming into this game and had a great opportunity to extend that run early on, but Jamie Ashdown came out on top after Simeon Jackson was put clean through. Norwich continued to pile the pressure on, but Ashdown was on top of his game throughout, stopping shots from Henri Lansbury, Wes Hoolahan and David Fox.

Pompey, as they often do, came out the traps in the second half and within a few minutes of the restart Liam Lawrence struck a piledriver from all of 30 yards that cannoned off the post. The game remained goalless until with 15 minutes to go, when Nugent and Kitson linked up well, and the ginger ninja slid the ball home to end his dry spell to give Pompey a scarcely deserved lead. Norwich saw wave after wave of attacks repelled in the closing stages, which allowed Pompey to counter, allowing Nugent through on goal before being tumbled by Leon Barnett. A penalty and a red card was the verdict, which was duly dispatched by Halford for his third of the season. 6 unexpected points from 2 tricky away trips saw Pompey 5 points off the play-offs with a game in hand.

After the game Steve Cotterill revealed in his post match interview that two of Pompey's most consistent performers, Richard Hughes and Michael Brown had a contract clause which stated should they play a certain amount of games they triggered an extension, complete with Premiership wages. This number was almost up, and failing the waive the contract, it was possible that they would never play in blue again.

Another 15 days separated Pompey's win at Norwich from their Boxing Day clash against Millwall, their first game at Fratton Park for 6 weeks and the first start in 9 months for Hermann Hreidarsson. It was a lively match which produced many chances, and it was the visitors who took the lead midway through the first half, Liam Trotter heading home after Ashdown parried Steve Morison's shot into his path.

Despite being outperformed in the first 45, Portsmouth looked the sharper side after the break. Hayden Mullins struck the woodwork with a snap shot and David Nugent had a goal disallowed for offside before the equaliser came in the 73rd minute after Nugent reacted quickest to poke home Kitson's knock down. Both teams had chances to win it, with Mullins and Nugent guilty of missing the target for the hosts, but a draw seemed like a fair result.

Pompey's final game of their 'annus horribilis' was a trip to Elland Road to take on a Leeds side flying high in third. Despite some encouraging performances on the road recently, this match seemed all but over in the first 10 minutes, with Max Gradel and Jonathan Howard putting Leeds 2-0 up while some fans were still looking for their seats. David Nugent gave Pompey hope just after the half hour after a cross from Richard Hughes found the striker and the teams went in after an eventful first half with one goal separating them.

Leeds came out second half adamant on extending their lead and moments after Ashdown done magnificently to stop Max Gradel from grabbing a second, Leeds made it 3-1 through Bradley Johnson, who drilled home after a scramble from the resulting corner. Pompey clawed their way back into the game within a minute however, after a Richard Hughes shot took a heavy deflection of Andy O'Brien and past Kasper Schmeichel to set up a tense finish. Leeds had plenty of chances to put the game out of sight, and also had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down, before the final twist came deep into stoppage time. Ex-Pompey defender Andy O'Brien showing compassion for his former club by turning Ciftci's cross past his own keeper for his second own goal of the game. Pompey even had a chance to win it seconds after the kick off, after Schmeichel miscued a backpass, but instead had to settle for a point after the enthralling 3-3 draw.

Following the match, the dubious goals committee awarded Pompey's second goal to Richard Hughes, which was his only league goal for the club after 9 years in what turned out to be his final appearance for the club.

A difficult December with limited fixtures, yet Pompey emerged undefeated, gaining valuable points from what seemed to be tricky fixtures. 3 times Pompey had travelled to a top 6 sides in recent weeks, and came home with 7 points, somewhat eradicating the poor start to the season.

With that, the year that gave Portsmouth an unlikely trip to Wembley for the FA Cup Final was over, and would no doubt be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Administration, relegation and near liquidation, seeing the club transform into a Championship outfit which required a change of manager as well as an overhaul of the squad. With 2011 labelled the year of the rebuild, Pompey entered it a shadow of the team they were 2 years previous, but with financial security the reward it was a sacrifice most fans were happy to accept.

Pre-Season Review - here
August Review - here
September Review - here
October Review - here
November Review - here

Written by PompeyFrippy.

The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.

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