POMPEY 2010 REWIND: Part one
By Site reporter
Monday 27 Dec 2010 16:43:00
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All this week we're reliving Pompey's high points of 2010. We start with a day that will live long in the memory of all those who were there and plenty who weren't - February 13, FA Cup fifth round, Southampton 1 Pompey 4.

Move over Lomana Lualua. Step aside Yakubu, Arjan De Zeeuw, Patrik Berger and the rest. You may have fashioned four goals in the first 26 minutes of Southampton’s last visit to Fratton Park – but now your feat has been bettered.

Incredibly, Pompey managed the same number of goals in an even-shorterl spell as they not only knocked their neighbours out of the FA Cup but also sent them home with their tails firmly between their legs. Pompey may not have deserved to win by three goals at St Mary’s – but did any one fan in blue care about that on a day when other troubles could be forgotten? Absolutely not.


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After six months of turmoil, this was just the sort of day Pompey needed, some would say deserved. Fans, players and management have been through a lot together this season, lurching from calamity to disaster to court threat, and plenty more. But after seeing their team triumph in such a stunning manner at St Mary’s, some will now say it’s the best season they’ve had in ages.

The Southampton fans, of course, will be quick to point out they didn’t deserve to lose 4-1. They’re right – after 65 minutes it was still 0-0 and it was anyone’s game, one of those where you feel one mistake is more likely to settle it than one moment of brilliance.

David James had been the busier of the two keepers, especially after half-time, when he had to make three or four excellent saves to keep it goalless.

Before the break, neither side could manage more than a couple of half-decent potshots – with Pompey’s best efforts coming from Jamie O’Hara, who forced Kelvin Davis into a superb tip-over from one well-hit volley and then went close with another.

But the feeling after an hour was that there was very little quality on show, just plenty of huff and puff. Pompey played some neat little patterns at times but gave the ball away far too often; Southampton had plenty of possession but seemed to carve out their chances more through Pompey’s poor marking of their front two than through their own limited levels of talent.

One moment changed the game and Avram Grant can take the credit for it … the introduction of Lloyd Owusu-Abeyie on 58 minutes in place of Angelos Basinas, one of several Pompey players who had struggled to impose themselves on the game.

Eight minutes after coming on, a loose ball span around the edge of the box before falling to Owusu-Abeyie. He took a touch and curled a low shot past Davis and into the corner of the net. It took a moment for the 4,200 Pompey fans at the other end of the ground to register it had gone in – but how they celebrated when they realised they were 1-0 up.

The rest of St Mary’s was silent, but the homr support's gloom didn’t last more than four minutes.

Dan Harding lofted a free-kick into the area and David James seemed in two minds whether to come for it – allowing Rickie Lambert the space he needed to head firmly past the despairing dive of James, who now realised his mistake, and in.

It was the home fans’ turn to gloat and another quick break two minutes later looked like it might end with them snatching the lead.

But not for the first time, their front two didn’t take advantage of the worrying amount of the space Pompey’s makeshift defence, which had Hermann Hreidarsson in the centre and midfielder Hayden Mullins at right-back, had given them.

Again it was anyone’s game, but Pompey were back in front five minutes after being pegged back – and again, Owusu-Abeyie was the man to thank. He ran at the Southampton defence before threading a pass through to Aruna Dindane, who’d had a relatively-quiet game after his super show against Sunderland on Tuesday.

Dindane clipped his shot over Davis and although the keeper got a hand to it, it had just enough to roll into the net. Like the first goal, it all seemed like slow motion to the away fans but what a feeling when they saw the back of the net ripple to signal a 2-1 lead.

Surely Southampton couldn’t come back again – and when they bundled the ball in during an ugly six-yard-box melee only to have their celebrations cut short by an offside flag, you felt Pompey were on the home straight.

Certainly they were over the final fence when Nadir Belhadj ran on to O’Hara’s volleyed clearance to surge into the area and, unchallenged, by any defender, slot a low shot under Davis for 3-1.

Pompey fans had hardly had a chance to tell themselves it must be all over when the Blues took advantage of their hosts pushing too many men forward in an unlikely bid to save the game, and got a fourth.

Belhadj and Owusu-Abeyie created the goal this time as another raid down the left had Southampton back-pedalling ineffectively.

Eventually it fell for O'Hara, whose action-packed display deserved the goal that resulted.

Inevitably the Pompey fans got greedy and chanted ‘We want five’ - that's when they weren’t singing ‘Ea-sy ea-sy’ or ‘We’re gonna send the Scummers down’.

Once or twice in the final five minutes Pompey did threaten that fifth, while at their own end, only one or two weak efforts which James saved without exertion gave the home fans any hope of further consolation.

When Howard Webb blew at the end of three added minutes, the on-pitch TV cameraman didn’t know quite which Pompey scorer to head for first, but eventually settled for a quick shot of each of them followed by a lingering stalking of Avram Grant as he shook his heroes’ hands and then went to show his appreciation to the fans, whose return offering had him bowing to them. Another lovely moment, that, from and for the fans' new man for a crisis.

The Pompey fans were kept in by the police and stewards as they tried to disperse the home support outside, but few in red and white were hanging about inside to exchange any more chants with their visitors.

They’d had their fun, waving £10 notes at the Pompey contingent and resorting to reminders about the taxman when they knew their team were beaten. But it was the Pompey fans who had the real fun.

Plenty of Blues fans were supremely confident going into this game, pointing out that when all the local rivalry was stripped away, this was League One v Premier League. This website, by the way, tipped a 3-1 win, in case you'd forgotten.

Despite Pompey’s struggles to put results together in the league and the fact they were still under-strength, the smart money was on a Pompey win. And when the dust settles, the fact they did it without finding a classy performance, or even without the need for their best display in their last two games, will matter not.

What Pompey’s followers will remember of February 13, 2010, is that their team scored four goals in 19 minutes to secure their first win at the St Mary’s Stadium.

A tougher game will follow in the quarter-finals – though we are now, remarkably in this of all seasons, just one game from our fourth trip to Wembley in two years – and bigger battles loom fast both on Premier League pitches and in the Royal Courts of Justice in a couple of weeks’ time.

But for one day, one weekend, the ongoing soap opera of Fratton Park’s off-field troubles can be forgotten. And perhaps the result that allows it to be forgotten can be a springboard to brighter times.

Beating Southampton 4-1 sure does remind you why you put yourself through supporting Pompey. Maybe it might also show someone out there who are so far unattached to the club that it’s a club worth taking a gamble on.

Pompey: James, Mullins, Hreidarsson, Wilson, Belhadj, Basinas, Diop, O'Hara, Yebda, Utaka, Dindane. Subs: Ashdown, Hughes, Tosic, Webber, Kanu, Piquionne, Owusu-Abeyie.

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