No Friend For Pompey As Hammers Win

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 14 January 2012

Pompey fell to only their third home defeat of the season at the hands of West Ham in a bad tempered game not helped by some "inconsistent" decisions from referee Kevin Friend.

Friend has never endeared himself to Portsmouth fans over the last couple of years.

Last season he sent off Ricardo Rocha and awarded Reading a penalty-that-never-was in the league at the Madejski Stadium, he also took charge of the 1-1 home draw against QPR that saw the ball hit Liam Lawrence's chest in the box, only to give a penalty then and sent the skipper off.

The season before that saw him take charge of the night game at home to Sunderland when Rocha was sent off, the Wearsiders awarded a penalty and Avram Grant sent to the stands for his famous rant at the referee.

After today there is a case to add this game to Friend's growing list of games where he has got decisions wrong which might have cost Pompey a result.

The first half didn't start too well for either side with players from both sides playing long balls and getting in each other's faces. It was difficult to create chances with defences on top and James Tomkins produced a brilliant challenge on Mullins in the box to deny Pompey an attempt at goal.

There may have been cries for a penalty at the other end when Julien Faubert went down in the area but Kevin Friend did award a penalty soon after when Ben-Haim was harshly adjudged to have pulled Winston Reid down in the box.

Mark Noble just about converted the resulting spot kick as Stephen Henderson got his hand to it, but the shot was too powerful.

Aaron Mokoena was injured and had to be replaced by Erik Huseklepp as Pompey started playing some good football.

The Norwegian teed up David Norris whose shot drifted narrowly wide and then a neat move led to Liam Lawrence forcing a save from Robert Green.

The former England goalkeeper then had to be quick as Jason Pearce's header looked destined to go in but he got his hand to the ball just in time as Pompey finished the first half strongly.

Unfortunately that momentum did not carry into the second half as Sam Allardyce's men imposed their drab and sometimes dirty style of football onto the game as if they had Steve Cotterill in charge of them.

There were a couple of heated exchanges in the half before Norris was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Reid as he tried to win the ball.

There has already been much debate over whether he deserved the red card but in my opinion it was stupid of him to go in two-footed when that has been the hot topic of the week following the incident in the Manchester derby last week.

Going down to ten men virtually ended any hopes of making a come back against one of best sides in the (mediocre) league, having not created a good chance since the break.

The Hammers were happy to keep the ball and open Pompey up on the counter-attack as both Noble and Kevin Nolan missed the chance to make the game safe for their team with skewed efforts from the edge of the box.

Greg Halford also almost gifted the Irons a second goal when he chested the ball to his own goal and forced Henderson to scramble across and stop the ball from embarassingly crossing the line.

Adam Webster was introduced with 15 minutes to go for his Pompey debut at right back with Halford coming off. He has tweeted to say it wasn't because of injury but he had been feeling ill before the game.

Benjani also came on late on to try and salvage something from the game and Marko Futacs came closest with a thunderous strike that sailed over the bar.

But the frustration was summed up by two decisions in stoppage time to confirm it was just not going to be our day.

One for when Papa Bouba Diop got away with a blatant body check on Lawrence to instigate a West Ham counter-attack and then at the death when a Pompey free kick was deflected for a corner, only for Friend to blow the full time whistle.

Whilst it might be easy to blame the referee for this defeat (and many Pompey fans will) it's easy to forget that we didn't get going ourselves and struggled to play against a team which has had Big Sam's style of football stamped all over it.

With the quality of players they have, it's always going to be difficult for a mediocre Championship team to break them down. But we weren't helped by Kevin Friend who seemed to give them everything despite their own players guilty of being "overly physical" at times.

Still, this defeat hasn't done too much damage due to the dire nature of the teams at the bottom. Judging by the results from the bottom teams this week, I think Pompey should be safe from relegation if the points deduction is avoided.

I just hope we might be able to bring a new owner who isn't a complete chancer and maybe even a player or two before next week's trip to Cardiff.

Pompey Player Ratings

Stephen Henderson: 6 - Almost saved the penalty and did well to deny Halford an own goal.

Greg Halford: 5 - Not his best game, might have been feeling effects of the illness.

Jason Pearce: 6 - Our best defender on the day, shackled Cole quite well.

Aaron Mokoena: 6 - Decent until he came off with injury.

Tal Ben-Haim: 6 - Didn't stand out.

Liam Lawrence: 5 - Set-pieces were poor.

Hayden Mullins: 6 - Average showing.

David Norris: 5 - No real impact until his red card.

Joel Ward: 5 - Bad first touch often meant West Ham stole the ball back.

Dave Kitson: 6 - Worked hard as always but no cutting edge.

Marko Futacs: 6 - Difficult job to play up front on his own with so many claret & blue shirts surrounding him and no support.

Substitutes

Jamie Ashdown

Adam Webster (Halford 75): N/A - Can't be judged on 15 minutes of fame.

Erik Huseklepp (Mokoena 33): 6 - Added some spark in the first half but not in the game in the second.

Ryan Williams

Benjani (Mullins 83): N/A - No time to make a difference.

Portsmouth Match Reports


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