02/12/06: Premiership Matchday #16: Pompey 2 Aston Villa 2
This high octane game really got going when David James brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor in the box to allow Gareth Barry to bury the resulting spot kick and give Villa the lead. After the break, Pompey were galvanised by the performance of Matt Taylor who looked like he was trying to win the match by himself at times.
Taylor headed in from Benjani's cross to equalise and then scored a penalty after Barry's handball in the area to give us the lead with just 10 minutes remaining. However Sol Campbell's hashed clearance dropped straight to Juan Pablo Angel who fired in a deflected shot for the equaliser and any hopes we had of getting the winner were doused when Uriah Rennie dismissed Pedro Mendes for a second bookable offence.
This was one of the most entertaining games of the season, but more was to come during an entertaining month, starting with an outstanding strike against Everton.
09/12/06: Premiership Matchday #17: Pompey 2 Everton 0
This was another crunch game where Everton could jump us if they had won, and they were used to winning at Fratton Park by getting jammy. However the tables were turned as the Toffees were completely outplayed and beaten by goals of outstanding quality. Matt Taylor volleyed a loose ball from the halfway line over a bemused Tim Howard and straight into the back of the net to send Fratton Park mad! In the eyes of many (but not the BBC, fools), the strike was the best of the season and can be viewed again (and again, and again) by clicking here (YouTube link).
Kanu produced a first-time volley of his own from much closer distance (outside the box) across the goal that beat Howard to make the result comfortable before half-time. James Beattie was tormented for being a useless lump but both Benjani and Kanu left the field injured to put a slight blot on what was otherwise a very good result for us that put us back to third.
There was outrage by loyal Pompey fans earlier in the month on the way the ticketing allocation was handled for the first visit to the Emirates Stadium. Because of an error with the implementation of the online ticketing system, customers' historical data was lost meaning that the tickets were allocated randomly and so some loyal fans who hadn't missed a game in years would miss out in favour of the daytrippers which caused many of the Fratton Faithful to become angry. It's a shame too, because they missed one hell of a match...
16/12/06: Premiership Matchday #18: Arsenal 2 Pompey 2
This was personally my favourite game of the season (barring the United win) despite not winning due to the range of emotions I experienced during a thrilling 90 minutes. Pompey played a 4-5-1 with Kanu only half fit yet some of our passing was superior to that of Arsenal's. When the Gunners did manage to create opportunities they were either denied by some great defending or a great save by David James.
A 0-0 was looking good for us at the interval but then after the ref gave us a free kick in stoppage time, Matt Taylor curled it into the box and David Thompson headed the ball onto the post only for Noe Pamarot to knock in the rebound to put Pompey ahead at half-time. This would prove to be the birth of the "European Tour" song as Pompey fans sung it continously in the Emirates Stadium concourse during the break.
Things got even better after the break as Pompey continued to attack Arsenal and Thompson's shot in the box bounced outside to Matt Taylor who struck another sweet volley into the top corner to double our lead and sent the Pompey fans into total delerium! It looked like we were going to be the first team to beat Arsenal in their new stadium, but then Arsene Wenger sent on Emmanuel Adebayor...
The Togo striker made an immediate impact as they piled on the pressure. Adebayor scored and just minutes after David James couldn't hold Toure's fierce shot and Gilberto capitalised to equalise. Pompey joy turned to extreme tension as Arsenal's relentless pressure continued but some heroic defending and the Gunners misfiring meant we held on for a well deserved point in this breathtaking encounter.
During the week after the game it was announced that Manuel Fernandes would not be signed permanently for £12 million but the better news was that Kanu said he would not be going anywhere in January. Struggling Sheffield United were the next team to visit Fratton Park.
23/12/06: Premiership Matchday #19: Pompey 3 Sheffield United 1
The Fratton End began chanting "Are you Scummers in disguise?" and the Blades replied by scoring in the first five minutes and could have easily gone 2-0 up before half-time as Danny Webber fluffed a one-on-one chance with James. Pompey came out a completely different side in the second half and forced Rob Kozluk to put the ball in his own net early on. Sol Campbell then headed in Matt Taylor's corner to give the home side the lead and Noe Pamarot headed in the third to settle the game.
Jekyll and Hyde
There was hardly any time to reflect on the fact we were 6th after half the season gone as Pompey travelled to Upton Park to play West Ham for the second consecutive Boxing Day.
26/12/06: Premiership Matchday #20: West Ham United 1 Pompey 2
Everyone was expecting the Curbishley effect to be in full force during this game but it took some divine intervention to put things right as devout Christian Linvoy Primus was rewarded for his faith (or simply West Ham's bad defending) by scoring two identical headers from set pieces. The Pompey fans taunted the home crowd by singing "Linvoy's on his hat-trick! Linvoy's on his hat-trick! La La La La! La La La La!" during the rest of the game. Pompey old-boy (literally) Teddy Sheringham scored against us (again) late on but it wasn't enough as Pompey recorded their 3rd, and last away win of the season.
Primus in his Prime
Pompey ended an eventful 2006 in the most anti-climatical way possible: a trip to Bolton.
30/12/06: Premiership Matchday #21: Bolton Wanderers 3 Pompey 2
Pompey began the game by playing Bolton off the pitch with some outstanding football having gone ahead very early on through Matt Taylor. Bolton then began to impose their physical, dreadful style of play on us and levelled with Faye's header. The home side then took the lead with a scrappy Ivan Campo goal whilst Andy Cole should have equalised at the other end. Nicholas Anelka scored their third after James saved Davies' initial shot and whilst Andy Cole scored a decent individual goal late on it was too little, too late.
Beaten by Bolton
The defeat by Bolton provided another reality check in what was otherwise a fantastic 2006 for the club. Sacha had invested into the club, we had somehow managed to avoid relegation and we were 6th heading into the New Year. Things were looking very bright for Portsmouth Football Club as Europe looked a real possibility...
Premiership Table After Matchday 21
3rd: Bolton - 39pts
4th: Liverpool - 37pts
5th: Arsenal - 36pts
6th: Portsmouth - 35pts
7th: Everton - 31pts
8th: Tottenham - 31pts