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February Review

February Review
Pompey were without a victory since the turn of the year, and with a trip to Loftus Road on the cards as the opening fixture in February, things weren't expected to change as the hosts were top of the table and in fine form. Pompey were looking for revenge after they were robbed of 3 points at Fratton Park thanks to a dubious penalty, and started the game the better; Halford almost opening the scoring in the first minute.

Dave Kitson was next to threaten and did well to beat a few defenders and lift the ball over the advancing Paddy Kenny, but also inches over the crossbar. Halford had two more chances before the break but Kenny thwarted him from a free kick and he headed over from the subsequent corner. The breakthrough eventually came 15 minutes into the second half, when Adel Taarabt struck a tame shot which Ashdown let slip through his fingers and agonisingly across the line. Jonathon Hogg had a perfect opportunity to score his first for the club and level, but scuffed his effort wide before Clint Hill doubled Rangers lead to take all 3 points.

With Pompey in a slump, their fixture against Derby at Fratton Park was well timed, as the visitors had also been on a losing streak, having not won in 6 coming into the game. In a dour first half with little to pick between the sides, Derby managed to come out on top, when Steve Davis scored a well taken volley 10 minutes before the break. The second half was just as scrappy as the first, with Lawrence and Kitson both mustered up half chances, but David Nugent was guilty of missing 2 guilt edge chances to tie the game up. These misses were redeemed in the final minute when Kanu teed him up to curl a delightful goal into the corner from 18 yards.

The point was important, but the effect that a late goal could have on confidence can have a huge impact on upcoming games, as the late equaliser by QPR proved earlier in the season, and after 10 games without a win, Nugent's late strike suggested the tide was turning.

Pompey were in 20th place, just 4 points clear of the relegation zone when they travelled to Doncaster for their first game in the Keepmoat Stadium. Both teams were on a poor run of form going into the game, but it was Portsmouth who started the brightest. Ward had a long range shot saved and Lawrence couldn't convert after the ball fell kindly for him. The pressure eventually paid off when just before the break, Kitson was on hand to head home after Halford`s shot cannoned off the post. The lead was doubled 5 minutes into the second half, when the impressive Ward coolly dinked past the advancing keeper after Nugent flicked the ball into his path. The hosts had half-chances to pull one back, but Ashdown kept them at bay, before Hogg harshly received a second yellow card in the final minute for a deliberate handball.

Pompey secured the services of David Cotterill on loan prior to their next game at Fratton Park against Barnsley and the Welshman came in for the suspended Hogg, and looked very impressive in an otherwise poor match. Portsmouth struggled to break through a stern Barnsley midfield, whilst the Tykes barely pushed forward throughout the game. Kitson and Mokoena had Pompey's best chances, but both headed safely into Luke Steele's arms. The game changed when Kanu replaced Ward and gave Pompey a creative outlet, and with 5 minutes left, Kanu started and finished a fine move, heading home from Halford's cross to give the Blues their second win in two games, moving them 10 points clear of the drop zone.

Pompey looked to continue their most recent resurgence with another home tie 3 days later against Crystal Palace, and the Blues showed their newfound confidence with some fine free-flowing football. Cotterill Jr. was again impressive on the left, and seemed to be at the forefront of every attack, with Ward and Nugent both spurning chances from his crosses. When the goal came 20 minutes into the second half, it was accompanied by a stroke of luck when a long throw from Halford was flicked on by Kitson to Nugent, who scuffed the ball into the ground and saw it loop over the static Julian Speroni. Norwich nearly instantly equalised, but Patrick McCarthy couldn't hit the target from 6 yards as Pompey hung on to an important 3 points, which changed conversation topics from relegation candidates to possible playoff contenders.

The final game in February would test Pompey's guile with a tricky trip to take on Paul Jewell's Ipswich. Portman Road was a happy hunting ground for David Nugent, who scored 6 goals on his previous 7 appearances here. But it was the hosts who started the better here, and the Tractor Boys should have been in front when the highly rated 17 year old Connor Wickham was denied by several fine saves from Ashdown, before missing an open goal from 4 yards out. Ipswich continued to dominate, but it was Pompey who opened the scoring against the run of play, with Nugent on hand to lash home Cotterill's cross 10 minutes after the break. Nugent repaid Cotterill 20 minutes later, with a precise through ball which allowed the on-loan Swansea man to lift over the advancing Marton Fulop.

Despite not playing well, Portsmouth had earned their 4th win in 4, boasting a quartet of clean sheets to accompany them. The 12 points accumulated had put them 14 clear of the drop and only 9 off the play-offs, with the team playing some very attractive football. If March was as kind to Pompey as February was, a trip to Wembley was not out of the question.

Pre-Season Review - here
August Review - here
September Review - here
October Review - here
November Review - here
December Review - here
January 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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Date:Monday July 11 2011
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