With 8 games remaining, April was to prove to be the defining month in Portsmouth's season. After a decent run of form, the play-offs were only 6 points away, so the Blues needed to continue this fine form to avoid missing out. The first of these 8 games was against Reading, who themselves had mustered up a late play-off push and sat 3 points ahead of Pompey, and 3 points outside the play-offs going into the match at the Madejski.
The early exchanges were of a frantic nature, and Pompey thrice nearly took the lead, firstly after Kitson headed wide against his old club, second after Nugent found himself through on goal, only to be thwarted by Alex McCarthy, and finally Kitson had a chance at redemption, only for McCarthy to pull off a great fingertips save. Pompey were made to rue these chances on the half hour, when Shane Long drove home a daisy cutter from around 25 yards after a swift counter attack.
Portsmouth's misery was doubled minutes after, when Long was played through on goal only to be taken down by Rocha, who rightly saw red. But the moment was not without controversy, as the foul seemed to occur well outside the box, but the referee who was 40 yards away, gave a penalty which Shane Long made no mistake in converting. Despite being two goals and a man down, Pompey rallied in the second half, and both Kitson and Nugent were unlucky not to get on the score sheet. With 5 minutes to go, Danny Webber came off the bench to make his first appearance in 13 months after rupturing his cruciate ligaments.
Feint hopes of the play-offs were fleeting, and anything other than 3 points at home to a struggling Preston would end even the most optimistic fan's hopes. Preston themselves were experiencing a resurgence in form under new manager Phil Brown, who had steered his side to 3 wins in 4, and it was the visitors who took the lead when Eddie Johnson found Iain Hume, who calmly slotted the ball past Ashdown. Greg Halford equalised just after the hour mark, heading his 5th goal of the campaign from a Hayden Mullins corner, but neither side was able to find a winner. Ward and Nugent had the best chances for Pompey, whilst Hume had a chance to upset the hosts late on, but a draw seemed like a fair result.
With the season effectively over despite having 6 games to play, Portsmouth hosted Coventry in their second home game in 3 days. Danny Webber made his first start since his return, and had a chance to give the hosts the lead early on, but his shot was ballooned into row Z. Kitson also had a chance well saved, but Coventry opened the scoring against the run of play 20 minutes in, as Ricardo Rocha, returning from suspension was harshly adjudged to have impeded Gary McSheffrey, and Marlon King stepped up to score. Pompey continued to pile on the pressure, but Webber and Kitson failed to find the net, and when Nugent finally did, the linesman disallowed it for offside.
Coventry came out for the second half and looked like the better team, doubling their lead 10 minutes after with a towering header from McSheffrey, and after both teams had struck the crossbar the game was put beyond any doubt, when Marlon King slotted home a second penalty after a Hayden Mullins handball, an incident which the somewhat inept referee deemed to be a red card offence. 3-0 was very harsh on the hosts, although the scoreline suggested that some of the players were already on a beach somewhere (and not Southsea).
Another trip to Wales followed the disappointing defeat to Coventry, to take on a Cardiff side looking to secure automatic promotion and a first venture into the Premiership, and it wasn't long before the hosts were in front after Seyi Olofinjana's header beat Ashdown after a pinpoint cross from Bellamy. Portsmouth's discipline had come into question in recent weeks, and after 20 minutes Ricardo Rocha once again got himself sent off after he and Jay Bothroyd clashed off the ball. Rocha had a lacerated face, and seemed to have taken a heavy punch from Bothroyd, so why the Portuguese man saw red was a mystery to everyone. Cardiff went on to dominate and Jay Bothroyd, who was lucky to be on the pitch, grabbed the Bluebird's second on the stroke of half time. Peter Whittingham ended the rout with 20 minutes to go with a composed finish following another assist from Bellamy.
Ricardo Rocha's second red card in 4 games meant a 4 game ban, which meant missing the rest of the season, and the first of these was at against Swansea at Fratton Park. Despite finishing goalless, it was a lively encounter which saw both sides come close, Aaron Mokoena missing the target with a free header 6 yards out for Pompey, and Nathan Dyer poking the ball agonisingly wide in the dying seconds, but neither side were able to move the ball around as fluently as they would have like, which meant a point a piece was a fair result which did little to help either team.
The final game of a disappointing month was 2 days after the Swansea game, with the Blues travelling to Turf Moor on Easter Monday. The first half was a even encounter with the visitors enjoying large periods of possession, and the Clarets looking dangerous coming forward. The opening goal came 10 minutes into the second half, when David Nugent, who had spent the previous season on loan to Burnley, scored a magnificent goal, blasting the ball into the top corner from outside the box after a perfectly weighted lay-off from Kanu. The strike was worth of winning any match, but the hosts had not read the script and piled on the pressure, finally breaking through the resilient Pompey backline with 15 minutes to go, Chris Eagles with another impressive strike. As Burnley searched for a winner, David Nugent nearly found it at the other end after being put through 1-on-1 with Brian Jensen, but as happened on so many occasions this season, the 'keeper came out on top and Pompey had to settle for a point.
With so much unexpected build up going into April, it was somewhat of an anti-climax when any lingering hopes of a play-off place were spurned. Perhaps more disappointingly, Pompey had now not won in their last 6 games having seemingly 'switched off' for the season. With a lot of players out of contract or expecting a move on they were doing no favours to themselves and their future endeavours.Pre-Season Review - hereAugust Review - hereSeptember Review - hereOctober Review - hereNovember Review - hereDecember Review - hereJanuary Review - hereFebruary Review - hereMarch Review - hereWritten by PompeyFrippy
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