View From The South – Portsmouth 4-2 Birmingham City

Posted on March 17, 2008 
Filed Under Articles By Bazza

What I love about Bazza’s articles is the absolute belief that everything goes against us and that we should always be better rewarded than we have been. I used to be like that and I loved my football a lot more when I was. We all need to be a bit more like Bazza, I think.

Thanks again for the article, Baz!

The trip down to Portsmouth is a relative hop skip and a jump for me compared to the usual forays up to St Andrews. The distance concerned is only about thirty-five miles and doable in a weekday. I had already obtained tickets for my eldest son and me and we were looking forward to the game with anticipation. We made the trip easily and to my astonishment I found a place to park with no problem which has never been the case before on previous occasions down to Fratton Park. On the subject of the mode of transport I did look into going on the train to Fratton station from Farnborough but there was at least one change and the trip was to take 1 hour 41 minutes stopping at every station on the way.

It was touch and go whether we would arrive in time and there was absolutely no leeway if the train was held up by fallen trees, acts of God, Sod’s Law or the wrong type of wind! So it was to the car we turned Mr Chancellor because as I saw it there was no reliable alternative, such is the transport infrastructure in the heavily taxed south. Where was I?

Oh yes!

We had arrived about half a mile from the ground where for the first time in my lifetime of watching our great and glorious lads on the road, I viewed the new roof on the away end at the dump that is Fratton Park. This long overdue development will be welcome for many fellow fans from all over the country as I cannot be the only one who remembers all too vividly getting absolutely soaked to the skin during previous encounters with Pompey.

The game started and in virtually the first attack Pompey were awarded a penalty. Whatever your opinion of the ball to hand debate, all everybody in the game and the fans on the terraces want is consistency. I must have seen at least a couple of dozen instances this season where blatant use of the hand in the penalty box have been waved away by referees. I’ve also witnessed awards of penalties when it was clear that the player couldn’t possibly get out of the way of a ball hammered at him at speed. The incident concerned here was in my view one such occasion. The penalty award was a truly awful decision which set the stage for a rotten performance by the referee. Defoe of course scored and we were 1 – 0 down and the match had barely started.

Less than a ten minutes on the clock and it’s 2 – 0 and I had visions of us being avalanched. Taylor made two saves before Defoe, who is deadly from two yards, netted the final parry. I thought the little sod was going to have a hat trick before the 15 minute mark. The fixture was turning into a catastrophe but the resilience shown by Blues since the arrival of Big Eck came to the fore when miracle upon miracles Fabrice Muamba scored his first goal for Birmingham pouncing on a flick on from a corner. 2 – 1 and barely 10 minutes gone!

Blues began to settle and it was pleasing to see us knocking the ball about and not letting Portsmouth have it all their own way. Zarate delighted with driving runs at their defence, Forssell was winning his fair share of flick-ons and Larsson and McSheffrey were making inroads down their flanks. For all the flawed decisions that seem to come thick and fast from the referee, he was at least allowing the game to flow which made for an entertaining spectacle. Just before half time, Steve Tanner, the referee finally awarded us a free kick just outside the Pompey box to loud ironic cheers of the gathered faithful. (It was a clear foul by Glen Johnson on the Forss so he had no choice really). Sebastian Larsson stepped up and planted the most beautiful swinging ball into the top corner past the helpless David James who has built the good part of his reputation on saving such efforts. Another magnificent strike from our Swedish winger and Blues had recovered deservedly to 2 – 2.

The second half started badly when an unlucky ricochet landed at the feet of Hreidarsson six yards out and was promptly deposited into the back of the net. For the rest of the half we put Pompey on the back foot and played some of the best attacking football I’ve seen from us all season. Despite bombarding the Pompey penalty area with crosses we couldn’t seem to get the break that they had enjoyed for their third. The best move of the match resulted in Cameron Jerome’s volley bound for the top corner brilliantly saved by David James.

What sticks in my craw however, is a double incident that occurred when we had them under enormous pressure. A defender, I think Sol Campbell, had the ball hit his hand in the area. The incident was virtually identical to the penalty award of the second minute of the game. What does Steve Tanner do? Yes, he waves the appeals away. However, there is more the ball bobbles around in the box and another defender, this time Glen Johnson, controls the ball with a hand. Once again a loud shout, once again the referee waves it away. The second part of this drama was definitely deliberate intent and should have resulted in a penalty kick.

It is this incident that Alex McLeish is referring to I think when he diplomatically suggested that consistency is needed from officials. This unevenness cost Blues a well deserved point at least. It was the pivotal issue of an otherwise splendid game which was entertaining to watch. We certainly didn’t deserve to lose 4 – 2. The final goal occurred as we were caught chasing the equaliser and the ultimate score line flattered Portsmouth. The goals resulted from only three meaningful attacks by our hosts in the second period when they were largely outplayed.

It seems such a pity that one of our best performances of the season should result in 4 – 2 defeat. Despite the inadequacies of the referee, we weren’t quick enough to the breakdowns in the first ten minutes. After that we were more than a match for them and in the second half the better side. Football is unfair sometimes, life is unfair much of the time but our team is good enough to stay in the Premier League but points have to be obtained. If we play like we did last evening, particularly second half, those points will be provided come May.

KRO, SOTV.

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This section of the site covers the blog portion of J&S from 26th April 2006 - when the site returned after a catastrophic hosting failure causing the loss of over 500 articles - to 28th April 2008 - when I decided to have a prolonged rest from the site.

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- Aff, 03/08/08.