Portsmouth 1-1 Millwall ~ Match Report

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At last we are back to some sort of normality as the festivities of Christmas are put aside for another year and football is back on the agenda.

So with my already fuller figure enhanced by copious amounts of turkey, roast taters and vegetables of all denominations I squeezed myself into the Bonemobile and with MrsB for company we headed off into the southern tip of England for our encounter with Portsmouth.

Boxing Day traffic can be notoriously unpredictable but we had a relatively easy journey down until we actually got to Portsmouth where we joined a queue of traffic that all had the same intentions as us.

We finally got to park in a school for the princely sum of five pounds and we made our way to the ground. Note the terminology here, ground, not stadium. How this antiquated place manages to put on football matches is beyond me.

It is piss poor by third division standards and the pathetic roof they have put over the infamous open end is about as basic as you could get. It is said that King Richard, on his return from captivity in Austria in 1194 landed in Portsmouth and set about re building the place. His handiwork at Fratton Park is still there to be wondered at...

The pitch itself looks like the old King might have been buried in the goal mouth (still on his horse) as the lumps and bumps are all over the place, the whole place needs renovating or bull dozing, whichever is quickest, it is a rotten example of a professional football ground and a poor advert for Portsmouth itself. Isambard Kingdom Brunel must be turning in his lathe at the sub standard work that has made Fratton Park what it is.

The faithful following had turned up in droves for this Boxing day encounter and it is hard to judge but there mustíve been a good 1500 Millwall fans congregated behind the goal as the teams came out and although the rest of the place was pretty full the atmosphere was as flat as a festive pancake.

Mr Jackett had to make a forced change to the team as we learned that Danny Shittu had pulled a hamstring and was not available. Whether that is just a smoke screen to allow us to start functioning without the big man because he is leaving us is just pure conjecture but his absence meant a start for Tony Craig as a partner to Ward at the back.

The team line up was as follows: Forde, Barron, Craig, Ward, Dunne, Henry, Abdou, Mkandawire, Puncheon, Trotter and Morison.

It was a sort of 4-4-1-1 type of line up with Trotter taking up a role somewhere between midfield and forward behind Morison.

Referee Philips got us going and Portsmouth set their stall out early as we began stroking the ball around with a crunching two footed challenge on Morison from Mokeana who was arsehole lucky not to have been given a straight red.

But we didnít stoop to their level and continued playing some very decent measured football and took the game to the home side with some aplomb.

Our first real chance was not long in coming as we swept through the Pompey back line with ease and a Henry shot brought out the first of many fine saves from the home Ďkeeper, Ashdown. Puncheon was first to the parried ball but the lino flagged him for off side so the chance had gone (but Ashdown still made an impressive save from Puncheons effort).

It was rally all Millwall as the half progressed with Pompey forced onto the back foot and relying on a half arsed counter attacking system that was hopelessly ineffective.

On the twenty minute mark we shouldíve taken the lead. Puncheon made good progress down the flank but his cross field pass was half intercepted by a Pompey defender but the ball went straight to Trotter. He pulled the trigger with just Ashdown to beat but his shot cannoned off the post with the ball falling kindly for Henry but the energetic winger hurried his effort and it skewed well wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.

But we didnít have wait much longer for the deserved breakthrough as within about five minutes Trotter did the business as Ashdown again saved, this time from Dunne, but Trotter was on hand to head in the rebound. 0-1 and well deserved it was too. The away fans, boisterous to begin with now went into overdrive as the home fans retreated further into the shell.

We looked confident, composed and we really should have had the game dead and buried as we continued to dominate the game. Trotter again found himself in acres of space in front of goal but his blushes were spared for his glaring miss as the lino already had his flag up for offside.

Then we had Morison breaking free of his marker and racing, in a now familiar mode, towards goal but again his one on one technique let him down as Ashdown pulled out yet another decent save.

We kept the pressure on them right up the half time whistle with the final act of the half was another outstanding save from Ashdown from Morisonís point blank effort.
All in all a good first half, but the general consensus of opinion was that we really should have had the game dead and buried.

The second half, however, was not all one way traffic as the home side came out of the blocks in a frenzied opening ten minutes or so where they changed their game plan and we were suddenly in defence mode.

And it didnít look too pretty to be honest as Craig and Ward were suddenly called on to make their partnership look viable and they did make a decent fist of it but we clearly lacked the self assuredness of Shittu in the back four.

Brown had a shot that was cleared off the line by Barron (I think) and then Nugent did have the ball in the net but the lino had his flag up for offside long before the strike.

Then the eternal ginger tosser Kitson showed that Morison isnít the only striker who can have trouble with one on ones as he managed to miss the goal completely when he was clean through with just Forde in his way.

It looked like we had weathered the storm as we slowly got back into the game and we nearly got a mildly lucky break after a bit of a goal mouth scramble saw the ball hoofed to safety after Morison had fired in a low ball from the left and ball was deflected goal wards by a Pompey defender.

They made a double substitution around the hour mark and one of their subs was Sonko who, I grudgingly admit, then won almost every ball he challenged for and really bolstered up their defence.

The substitutions seemed to revive Portsmouthís earlier momentum and when Mullinís shot beat Forde but clipped the bar we feared the worse and soon after our fears were realised when Lawrence, the butt of our cat calls all afternoon proved his uselessness even further when he miss hit a shot woefully wide but the ball went wide to Kitson and even he managed to head the ball in the wrong direction but it fell to Nugent who had a simple header into the net. 1-1 and once again we had failed to take our chances and got punished accordingly.

To our credit we went hunting for the winner and but for more heroics from Ashdown in the Pompey goal we had have got what we deserved. Morison mustíve thought heíd cracked it with a close range volley but the agile keeper made an astonishing save to keep the ball out.

Even with five minutes of added time and with Schofield on for Henry, we could not find a way through a resolute defence and you know when the home side are whistling like crazy for the ref to end the game you are clearly the better side but the ref did what was requested and brought the game to an end and even though it is a point away from home it felt like we had lost the game.

Still, no time to dwell on this as we have Sven Goran Eriksonís boys due to arrive at the Den on Tuesday so we regroup and go again.

See you all there?
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