Frustration At Fratton (again)

Last updated : 18 September 2005 By Keith Allman

Good evening dear reader; rather than try and arrange my post-match thoughts into the tried and tested formation of "positives" and "negatives" I'll just throw it all together and let you make your own mind up on it all.

- Pre-match, I thought if we got an early goal we would go on to a two or three goal winning margin. Sadly, after the (slightly jammy) fourth minute opener I thought we were fairly dire in the first forty-five. That's not to sad we were bad especially - I mean, we went through the motions - but we really didn't do much else. No urgency. No real passion. No desire to push on for the second goal or to really take the game by the scruff of the neck. Pretty much waltzing around the pitch, almost expecting the game to take off as if by magic rather than any player being big enough to step up and try and make anything happen.

- Relating to the previous point, when the team isn't really functioning at top notch you want your big game players to earn their corn. Yes, I'm talking about the likes of Robert and LuaLua. Sadly the previously aforementioned

were absolute toilet today. Robert was the better of the two - full of running and getting into the odd good position - but his crosses! Oh lordy his crosses! I think "bad" would be a generous way of describing them. And don't even get me started on LuaLua - for all the good he did last week, for all the way at Goodison that he was always looking to play for the team, always looking to move the ball on and always looking for the pass, today he was back to his very worst. All "me me me", trying to take on the entire opposition, nutmeg eight players and then bend a 35 yarder into the top corner. I don't like to have a go at him because in some games he's our only attacking threat but on games like today he makes me want to pull my hair out. Just pass it sometimes, that's all I ask. It won't kill you. Someone else might just be in a better position than you. And don't sulk like a big girl when you get substituted after playing badly.

- As one of the constant themes this season, I thought our defence unit played very well indeed. O'Brien had possibly his best game in a Portsmouth shirt although I doubt he'll get the credit he deserves, mainly because he goes about his business in a quiet and almost anonymous manner. Stefanovic played a good solid game as per, and Priske seems like one of our best buys of the summer. And yet, time and time again, despite our defence being fantastic for eighty nine minutes and fifty nine seconds there still seems to be a split second where they all switch off at exactly the same time and cost us a goal. I hope this collective cock up per match doesn't come back to haunt us come May.

- Having given credit to the defensive lads just previously, there is one problem that concerns me - playing against tall target men. Heskey absolutely dominated us in the air this week, much like Ferguson did last time out (even if "Big Dunc" turned out to be more deadly in his own box than he did in ours). Admittedly we won't come up against too many more strikers in that sort of mould this season but it is still quite a concern that, despite being great up against players who run at us and try to beat us with trickery, in a physical challenge there seems to be a bit of a struggle for our boys.

- Goals win games. No particularly great football insight there, more like

Silva in flight
common sense, but it's still something we seem to be struggling with. Barring LuaLua's wonder strike against Aston Villa every single goal for us this season has come from a set piece, and that's not something that's especially reassuring. I'm still (naively, some might argue) holding out hope for Mbesuma to be a "fox in the box", and Silva who seems to be fairly decent based on the couple of games he's played so far. But there's no doubting that we really, really, REALLY need to start converting our chances. I've said previously on this site that as long as we keep creating chances I won't be worried - we'll take them sooner or later - it's when we STOP creating chances that it's time to panic. And, scarily, today we didn't create as many chances as we have done previously.

- Inconsistency could be a massive enemy for us this season. How can it be that the same team and formation who were so world-conqueringly awesome at Everton could be so decidely average today? There will be many theories on that of course; Everton are a crap side this year, we weren't up for it today, we're better away from home because our style of play seems to suit the counter-attack - either way it's a slight boggle that we can go from a side seemingly on top of our game to a side seemingly petrified and not especially willingly to go for the win just seven days on.

- A word for the new signings; Diao was pretty much as solid as he was at Goodison last week, even if he didn't seem to be in the game as much. Silva looked confident on the ball although the service wasn't quite there and was unlucky to be denied by a good save late on. Vukic showed some great touches (especially his one-two with Robert) and will be kicking himself over his one-on-one miss, but there's certainly promise for the future.

- A side note for the boo-boys; Karadas did well when he came on and won a couple of promising knock downs, seemed to fit into the game well and made the same sort of "super-sub" (don't laugh) impact as at Everton. Personally I would've brought him on for LuaLua earlier since a) Lua was being a lazy nonce and b) Silva and Lua were being dominated by the height and strength of the Birmingham defence all game, whereas Karadas started fighting back a bit when he was brought on.

- There's no way I can leave without making some comment about the referee. I've got to point out that he's not an excuse for us failing to win - we made sure of that ourselves - but he was certainly absolute bobbins and managed to ruin my evening. My first problem with him is that he absolutely ruined the game with the sending off of Butt. As far as I've seen from every replay it simply wasn't a red. Yeah, he swung his leg a bit and it was petulant but if I was the ref in that position I would've said yellow card to Silva, yellow

Bell end
card to Butt - now both stop being knobs and get on with the game, rather than dishing out a needless over-the-top red and spoiling the game as a spectacle. And I'm not just saying that because we always seem to do badly against ten men at Fratton. My other problem was with his consistency and how identical bad tackles would occasionally result in a free kick one way, but occasionally result in absolutely nothing the other. And let's not even mention how Birmingham's ridiculous time wasting resulted in only three minutes of injury time - the first minute of which Gallagher completely wasted by mucking about with substitutions and looking completely confused about what was going on. Oh, and we certainly won't mention the most stonewall penalty you're likely to see this side of Brad Friedel rugby tackling Ricardo Fuller. I think I can end this rant by saying that he wasn't just biased, he was rubbish - and the Premier League should take note of the fact that not just Pompey fans, not just Birmingham fans but the entire ground were joining in with the chant of "You're not fit to referee" at the end of the game. Sadly (and typically) they'll probably just bury their heads in the sand and pretend that Mr Gallagher is a great ref (despite the fact he's been absolute wank every time I've ever seen him in charge of a Portsmouth game). Ho hum!

- Gazza O'Neil. Last kick of the game. What were you doing son?

- Upon reflection, four points from Birmingham at home and Everton away would've been seen as "good results". Admittedly if I'd told you that we'd beat Everton and then face a half against Birmingham with ten men you'd get greedy and think "six points! six points!" but even so, it's still not a bad return.

- Although I do realise this column hasn't been full of positives and reasons to go shouting from the roof tops, it's well worth remembering that we are still 14th in the Premier League. It's not wrist slitting time, it's not doom and gloom - boringly mid-table will suit me come the end of the season. It's often said that the best time to judge a team is after ten games and if we're still in a similar position after ten games then I'll sleep happy. Yeah, we haven't played any of the "big teams" yet this season - but if we can beat last season's 4th place away from home then we shouldn't have too much to fear.

Now let's get some confidence by racking up a few at Gillingham on Tuesday! Um, please.....?!