Pompey Suffer Late Welsh Heartbreak

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 22 January 2012

Craig Conway's long range stunner caused Pompey to fall to a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium yesterday.

Regular readers of this site would know I usually type my match reports on the day of the game, but after facing that sinking feeling whilst surrounded by over 20,000 ecstatic Bluebirds fans, my spirit was broken for the day.

It had already taken a battering following the news that Portsmouth FC had failed to pay their taxes for the last two months, totalling £1.6 million. No doubt HMRC will be breathing down our necks and more players will have to be sold to ease the problems in the short-term.

As for the match yesterday, Pompey were sluggish in the first half and some poor defending from a corner after Stephen Henderson wasn't quick enough to react to Peter Whittingham's delivery, which allowed Kenny Miller to fire home from an angle.

The Pompey goalkeeper did manage to prevent Miller from scoring again by saving his curling effort and the Scottish striker missed a sitter when Don Cowie played him through on goal with the defence nowhere to be seen, but he somehow missed the target.

Darcy Blake also fired wide as Pompey's back four were being opened up far too easily and apart from a small spell of pressure earlier in the half, Michael Appleton's men had been second best.

However, that all changed when David Marshall fumbled Erik Huseklepp's cross straight into the path of Marko Futacs, who had the easy task of accepting the gift from the Cardiff 'keeper and tapping in the equaliser.

From then on, Pompey were the better side and took the lead in the second half when Liam Lawrence's corner wasn't dealt with by the home side, leaving Greg Halford free to slot the ball past Marshall from close range.

It was a strange feeling to see Pompey winning away from home and the travelling fans certainly lauded it by singing a song that "questioned Cardiff's quality" in a mocking way.

However, the game changed when Michael Appleton brought off debutant Kelvin Etuhu and replaced him with Benjani who played up front with Futacs and Kitson playing wide off him.

That tactical decision didn't really make sense as Futacs and Kitson had been rendered completely ineffective whilst Benjani's only contribution to the game was to give away free kicks.

The tide turned as Pompey went from comfortably in front to conceding an equaliser due to some extremely sloppy defending from a throw in.

The Cardiff players were given too much time on the ball and Craig Conway crossed for an unmarked Mark Hudson to head the ball past Henderson.

It was one-way traffic after that as Malky Mackay's men spurned opportunities from free kicks to take the lead and it seemed like Pompey would hold on for a precious point.

But Benjani gave away another soft free kick in the last minute of stoppage time and it was played quickly to Conway who rifled the ball into the net from 30 yards to deflate every Pompey fan in the ground.

The shellshocked travelling support were quick to point the finger at the tactical change from 'Appy that saw Cardiff take control of the game.

There is some sympathy for the manager as it's not like he had many other options but Ryan Williams could have come on and Lawrence could have moved into the centre midfield.

As much as I loved Benjani during his first stint at the club I think his return has been a complete failure. His legs have gone now and if Swindon are interested in taking him for a fee, then I think Pompey should let him go.

Despite the gut-wrenching defeat, which still hurts now, there were some positives to take from the game.

Etuhu looks like a tidy player who is good with the ball at his feet. When he has had some match practice I think he will be a key player for us.

Also, it was good to see the players pass the ball out of defence rather than aimlessly hoof it out of danger only for the ball to come straight back at us.

I like Michael Appleton's philosophy that he is building here but unfortunately it seems like issues off the pitch will threaten to destroy everything he has worked for.

With HMRC issuing another winding-up petition there is a serious concern that more players will have to be sold this month just to pay the bills in the short-term.

It looks like it'll be yet another difficult week for us and this result certainly hasn't helped matters.

Pompey Player Ratings

Stephen Henderson: 6 - Some good saves but should have done better with the first goal and may have cost us another.

Joel Ward: 5 - Too sluggish.

Jason Pearce: 6 - A couple of important blocks.

Greg Halford: 6 - Goal poacher but struggled at the other end at times.

Tal Ben-Haim: 5 - Gave Cardiff's wingers too much time and space.

Liam Lawrence: 6 - Continues to improve.

Hayden Mullins: 5 - Didn't see much of him.

Kelvin Etuhu: 6 - Good with the ball at his feet.

Erik Huseklepp: 5 - Got lucky with his cross but did little else.

Dave Kitson: 5 - Useless when played out wide.

Marko Futacs: 6 - There to poach the goal but, like Kitson, out of the game when moved out wide.

Substitutes

Jamie Ashdown

Ricardo Rocha

Adam Webster (Huseklepp 89): N/A - Brought on to preserve a point. Not that he's to blame for Cardiff's winner, of course.

Ryan Williams

Benjani (Etuhu 64): 4 - Did nothing but concede free kicks. A shadow of his former self.

Portsmouth Match Reports


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