Leaving It Late
The 14,336 fans that turned up to Fratton Park on a wet and windy afternoon were treated to some quality football by Pompey. To my surprise Harry Redknapp named probably his strongest side availible. Matthew Taylor filled in at left back for the injured Noe Pamarot so Niko Kranjcar started on the left of midfield. Andy Cole replaced Kanu up front but otherwise the team consisted of the usual first-team faces.
We should have had the game wrapped up by half time as numerous chances were created by the home side. Benjani had a shot cleared after he had gone past Mike Pollitt in the Wigan goal, Niko Kranjcar put a point blank header just wide whilst Andy Cole also had a couple of decent attempts saved.
Emile Heskey did go clean through on goal but was stopped by Sol Campbell. Apart from that, the first half was complete cruise control from Pompey but we had no goals to show for it. Going into the break I felt it wasn't a case of who was going to be the winner but just a question of how long Wigan would hold out for.
The answer would be 19 minutes as Andy Cole produced a quality finish in the box to rifle the ball into the top left corner when it looked like nothing was going to happen. The goal was the least Pompey deserved as they continued to control the game, despite Wigan improving in the second half.
There's an old cliche in football though. They say "one goal is never enough" and for all our dominance and good football that proved to be the case as Wigan grabbed a goal out of nothing as substitute Gary Teale provided a cross for Lee McCulloch to volley hard into the net in the last 10 minutes.
It was a goal that nobody in the ground saw coming given the fact we had been winning this game at a canter. Yet what was supposed to be one of our easiest victories of the season looked like it would turn into an unlikely draw and give both sides a replay that neither wanted.
Still, a miscarriage of justice was avoided as in stoppage time a cross from the right was met by the head of Kanu who had risen above all of his challengers in the box to score his 10th goal of the season and secure our passage into the next round of the FA Cup, despite two Wigan corners after that where we looked a bit tense.
All in all, the fans were sent home happy after a good exhibition of football from Portsmouth. Wigan were easily second best today and although Kanu's 92nd minute winner may be harsh on them, we got what we deserved after controlling the game pretty much from start to finish.
The draw for the next round is 1:30pm on Monday. A nice home draw against lower league opposition would be nice, so no doubt we will get Chelsea away.
A final thanks goes to Sam and James Westerby who had me on their Hospital Radio show after the game. I enjoyed it very much!
Pompey Player Ratings
David James: 7 - Dealt with everything very well, although he had little to do in truth.
Glen Johnson: 7 - Did his job well, supported the attack and provided the cross for Kanu's winner.
Sol Campbell: 8 - Very good in the air and made one great challenge on Heskey when he was clean through on goal.
Linvoy Primus: 7 - Solid performance as usual.
Matthew Taylor: 7 - Got forward often and had to do two mens defensive work as Kranjcar offered hardly any defensive cover.
Gary O'Neil: 7 - Gary's best game in a while. Decent passing and overall workrate.
Sean Davis: 6 - Did his job and almost scored, though his shot was cleared off the line.
Pedro Mendes: 8 - Crisp and accurate passing. Seemed to be at the centre of everything.
Niko Kranjcar: 5 - Missed a great chance to open his Pompey account and lacks defensive grit. Needs more time to settle in.
Benjani: 6 - Tireless running but missed a great chance. Subbed off for Kanu at half-time but not sure if it was forced or tactical.
Andy Cole: 8 - Man of the match. Decent hold-up play and looks razor sharp. It would be stupid to sell him and Harry has already said there's no way he is letting him go.
David Thompson: 6 - Adequate replacement for Kranjcar relatively late on.
Kanu: 7 - Got in the mix and got that very crucial late goal.