April 11, 2014

As I Seen It - Pompey (a)

TIME TO WORRY?

Portsmouth 1 Pools 0,   League 2  Saturday April 5th 2014

Match report by ALREET at Fratton Park

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Edith had decided to join me for the trip to Portsmouth where she would visit the shops while I attended the footie. Her presence did nothing to improve my luck on the Underground though as our planned journey was dashed due to the familiar “overrunning engineering work”. Nevertheless, I said that we could change at Embankment and still arrive at Victoria in good time for our train. Not as simple as I thought, however. Sitting on the train thinking to myself that it must be at least twenty years since I last paid a visit to Fratton Park, Edith suddenly observed that Embankment station was closed as an interchange due to yet more works so we had to resort to Plan C; something unheard of by the majority of Pools managers. This occurs frequently and pees me off greatly as they rarely bother to announce such ‘minor’ alterations over the train announcements leaving passengers completely in the dark. 

Anyway, finally arriving in Portsmouth, we had a spot of lunch and I caught the train back to Fratton and walked to the ground. This walk was like turning the clock back as the road took me alongside the railway sidings passing several burger vans en route, down side streets consisting of low terraced houses then along alleyways before arriving at what is still very much a traditional ground despite undergoing a few changes in recent times.

Pools kicked off proceedings attacking the home end with Rafferty taking Flinders’ place between the sticks. A run through the centre of our defence was dealt with by the new boy before we conceded a foul on the right, level with our area. The kick was taken by their No.11 (Holmes) whose ball to the far post was headed back across goal. Rafferty managed to parry the effort only for it to land kindly at the feet of the lurking Webster who was the first to react and simply could not miss as he tapped it home from the centre of an empty net. One nil down and there weren’t even two minutes on the clock. 

Before they had time to draw breath, Burgess dived in on their forward and brought him down in the area. Penalty. This was becoming a nightmare but Rafferty prevented a complete disaster by diving to his right and pushing the ball away before Holmes hit the rebound over. 

Pools won a corner which was taken by Walton but the ball was cleared by the blond, long haired central defender, Whatmough. Barmby flitted into the action with some neat footwork but his shot was off-target. Duckworth made a couple of decent runs, one leading to a chance for Barmby who lost possession. Walker gave the ball away but Duckworth was on hand to clear the danger. 

Holmes, a small, quick and tidy attacker on their left flank, was causing us a few problems as Duckworth was often left exposed by a lack of midfield cover. Both he and their similarly statured No.19 were playing neat triangles and looking dangerous. Poole wriggled his way through near the halfway line but just as he looked to be in a position to have a dig, he decided to pass it to Compton who was flagged offside anyway. 

Holden wasted a long free kick from the left which sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick. Walker played a good ball into James who was upended but no foul was given. At the other end, Holmes beat Duckworth but his cross was put behind for a Pools goal kick.

The second half saw the introduction of Hawkins for the ineffective Compton. James had an early sight of goal but his centre from the right was tipped over by Carson. Their No.20 then picked up a yellow card for flattening Duckworth, which could have been interesting as he had earlier escaped a similar fate for kicking the ball away. The resulting free kick nearly bounced over the keeper’s head. 

Barmby put in a good cross which just evaded the onrushing James before the former was replaced by Franks. A low shot from the right was saved by Rafferty at his near post. Burgess made a good run into the opposition half but curled his low pass into a defender. Poole turned his marker in left midfield and headed goalwards but his hard, low cross just eluded James as he tried desperately to get on the end of it. James then had a shot saved by Carson who parried the ball behind him and Whatmough cleared. 

Burgess took a knock and was eventually replaced by Harrison who looks to be a reasonable addition to the team. Franks had a corner saved by their keeper and another disappointing afternoon was brought to an end after six minutes of injury time.

In summary, Pompey, despite their endeavours, were a limited outfit but Pools weren’t even that good. We always seemed to be second to the ball and had too many inconsistent performances. Rafferty didn’t let the side down and the defence generally held up well. 

James, as always, worked his socks off but he had little support and even less chance of success, being the solitary player trying to do something with the long punts upfield. This ‘tactic’ (???) only highlights the absence of Harewood and that of Monky for his ‘presence’. 

Apart from the obvious lack of goals, our glaring problem is in midfield, who seem to go missing all too often. Pompey got at our back line far too easily at times and when we managed to get the ball forward, our options were limited, apart from anything else, by the lack of bodies occupying threatening positions."Apart from the obvious lack of goals, our glaring problem is in midfield, who seem to go missing all too often."
Barmby, like a flickering flame, flits in and out of games but rarely gets stuck in and unless he produces a special strike, his overall contribution doesn’t amount to much. Walker had an off day and Poole, apart from the occasional clever turn or incisive pass, mirrors Barmby. 

Compton was virtually invisible and I have to admit he is a great disappointment to me. Earlier in the season and prior to picking up his red card, he was producing some sparkling performances with great touches, passes and goals. To say that he is now a shadow of that player is an understatement.

Glancing at the programme, I noticed that No.12 in the Pompey Squad List was “Pompey Fans”. I know that this is an expression that is often trawled out by clubs as being “worth a goal start” but in this case, never a truer word was spoken. They were, simply, magnificent. They did not let up from the first minute right through to the last minute of extra time and then beyond. Irrespective of one’s opinion of Pompey as a club, they were The Full Bifta and no mistake.

Sitting on Fratton station while waiting for the train home, I had a few words with a Pompey fan who told me that the support had been two hundred per cent better than normal. He said that the crowd had been so disillusioned in some games that they couldn’t even be arsed to boo the players off at half-time. He added that their No.36 (Jack Whatmough) who was named Man-of-the-Match was only seventeen and had come into the team from their youth squad. I agree that he was impressive but still think that he was outshone by their No.12.