Day to forget

Last updated : 15 January 2005 By Keith Allman
Much like Man City and Everton this season, not to mention Charlton and Leicester in our last campaign, this is one of those games that I'll be trying desperately to pretend ever happened.

Faye appeals for offside in vain
Unfortunately, it's not going to be as easy as those mentioned above, because we're going to be feeling the fall-out from this one for quite some time. Aside from the fact we lost, we've got the prospect of injuries to Steve Stone and Diomansy Kamara, suspensions for Amdy Faye and Lomano LuaLua, and not to mention the dim view I would expect the FA to take of the whole match. Eight bookings, two red cards, various missiles thrown at Blackburn players, constant scuffles throughout the game, Joe Jordan accusing the referee of an "inept" performance - expect the Fratton Park mailbox to be bursting with letters regarding "bringing the game into disrepute" within the next week or so.

A lot of the reason for such an explosive game, in my opinion, is down to one man - Andy D'Urso. Now I'm not saying that we lost the game because of him - we were going about our business of turning in a poor performance before he stole the limelight - but I'm sure a referee of his supposed stature and experience should be able to actually control a game of football, rather than every single tackle degenerating near enough into a fist fight.

What REALLY ticked me off was during the first half, when Kamara was running through on goal. With only one defender to beat and two men running away either side of him, it was clear that there was a very real possibility of a goal - until Mokoena clipped him from behind. It was deliberate, cynical, and stopped the development of an promising attacking move. Of course, Mokoena knew that there was a defender back, so he couldn't be the last man, so he couldn't be sent off. But surely that's a professional foul? Surely it deserves a red because a goalscoring opportunity looked clear, and he knew what he was doing? Either way, he got a yellow.

"Poor" - Joe Jordan
Then soon after, O'Neil got booked for winning the ball in a sliding tackle. And after that, I don't think anyone in the ground could take him seriously again. Still, what do you expect from a man who turned a perfectly calm game against Wolves last season into a match with eight yellow cards and sent Redknapp to the stands, as well as his claim to fame this season in giving Barry Ferguson two yellow cards but failing to actually send him off - an action that led to him being struck off of refeering duty for 28 days.

I haven't seen the two red card incidents again so I can't really comment, although I thought if LuaLua got sent off then surely Todd had to walk as well. It seemed like Lua was just retaliating - that's not a defence, you just can't do that in the game - but Todd, hardly a player with a record for keeping his head, surely deserved his marching orders too for appearing to strike out first. Faye, despite an otherwise fantastic performance, seemed to be determined to be sent off and continually got involved in scuffles, so perhaps it was no surprise when he got punished for going in on the keeper. Funny how Dickov avoided a second yellow for doing exactly the same to Shaka, though.

Lua sees red
Another thing that irritated me (I'm full of rage here, can you tell?) was when the board for added time went up at the end of the match. Now, let's just recap. In the second half there had been sendings off and bookings. There had been a goal. There had been substitutions and, particularly for Blackburn, they had taken as long as possible in coming off. Every free kick and throw in, Blackburn took forever and a day to actually take it, ensuring to waste as much time as possible. Then the fourth official shows six minutes of added time, and Mark Hughes throws his toys out of the pram. Usually referees are too frightened to stick up a big number and just plump for two or three instead, but perhaps the only thing D'Urso did right all afternoon was to ensure a big long slice of extra football was ordered - shame that Mark Hughes found it so hard to believe and had to have a little/prolonged whinge.

Although let's be honest, we could've added seventy-six minutes and not scored today. The defence was solid enough, but the midfield - Faye accepted - was all over the place. I'm not really sure what our tactics were but with O'Neil on the left wing and Stone at right back, things certainly seemed a bit mixed up. Even with three strikers on the pitch for the first half and a bit of the second, we never troubled Friedel seriously. There just seemed to be a lack of urgency and passion about the team; quite happy to go through the motions and get to the end of the game without doing too much. What was most concerning was the complete and utter lack of any sort of shape - especially towards the end of the match everyone just congregated in the centre of the pitch, with no thought of width or actually trying to get back in the game.

The bottom line is, we need to get back that winning feeling at Fratton. Zajec's tactics seem to be much more suited to playing away from home; letting teams come at us and dealing with them individually, then trying to play on the break. Unfortunately, after Harry Redknapp's "all out attacking" philosophy, people are coming to Fratton expecting to see the exact opposite - us imposing ourselves and making the opposition worry about us. And perhaps, we do need a little bit of that, whilst keeping our defensive solidarity.

Just typical though - as soon as we slay our old demons and learn how to win away, it's now a month and a half since we secured three points at home!