A 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough is hardly the result you want when you are supposed to be gunning for Europe, but that was what we got courtesy of a severe lack of creativity on the pitch and Boro's stubborn tactics.
We created a few decent chances in the first half. The main ones coming from a Benjani lob in the box that went agonisingly wide and a volley by Linvoy of all people. Middlesbrough played their part and had a succession of corners that had to be dealt with, whilst Yakubu might have notched a goal against his former club when he was one on one with James, only to be stopped by a superb saving tackle by Sol Campbell.
In the second half we had a lot of the ball but didn't do anything with it. The visitors rarely threatened in the second half and it was obvious from the start that Gareth Southgate had told them to "copy Charlton" as they played 4-5-1 and resorted to time-wasting in the form of Julio Arca. Our set-pieces were bad and our passing was of League Two standard at times. It was just not good enough...
There are only two positives we can take from this game.
a) We kept our first clean sheet in over a month due to a fantastic performance by our centre back pairing.
b) Our next game is against Wigan who have lost their last 8 games, which is probably actually a bad thing as far as we're concerned.
We really did lack spark in this game. In my opinion having two defensive players on the right in Johnson and Lauren does not work. Matt Taylor was our only real offensive player as Mendes and O'Neil didn't create much in the centre, although it could have been because they were outnumbered.
This draw has taken us onto 38 points which equals last season's total. As much as I'd like to be happy about that it's difficult after such a poor result. Overall, you'd expect a top 6 team to take at least 10 points from the fixtures we've had this month. We have taken just 3 and have blown a massive opportunity to put some distance between ourselves and the chasing pack. With a difficult looking fixture list from March onwards we now face an uphill battle.
Put it this way, if we are going to qualify for Europe we're going to do it the hard way (a.k.a: the Pompey way).
Pompey Player Ratings
David James: 6 - Nothing major to do in truth. Marshalled his area well.
Glen Johnson: 6 - Better than his previous outings.
Sol Campbell: 8 - Excellent performance.
Linvoy Primus: 8 - Also excellent. Had Yakubu in his pocket (again).
Djimi Traore: 7 - Pretty good until he went off injured.
Lauren: 6 - Did OK but doesn't offer any pace or creativity on the right, something which we desperately need.
Pedro Mendes: 6 - Solid, but no creativity.
Gary O'Neil: 5 - Quiet game for the skipper, despite playing in the centre.
Matthew Taylor: 6 - The only player who wanted to get forward, but the Boro defence stifled him like they did the rest of the team.
Benjani: 7 - Was our best creative player on the pitch.
Kanu: 5 - Didn't do anything of note.
Rodolphe Douala: 6 - Came on for Traore and gave some pace and endeavour to the team.
Lomana LuaLua: 6 - Did alright but was a bit too keen with the ball at times which cost us possession.
Andy Cole N/A - Not given much time to influence the game.