Pugh Sends Pompey To Another Defeat

A single header from Danny Pugh was enough to see Pompey defeated once again after another predictably poor performance.

Steve Cotterill decided to give Stephen Henderson his first league start ahead of Jamie Ashdown after the latter's poor performance on Tuesday but refused to play two up front in a terrible first half from the Pompey fans' point of view.

Leeds piled forward during the first 45 minutes and made one of their many corner kicks count when Pugh got away from his marker to head in Robert Snodgrass's corner.

Snodgrass himself almost scored when he was allowed to jink his way past Pompey defenders and shoot wide past the far post from inside the box.

If it hadn't have been for a couple of timely interventions from Jason Pearce then the scoreline might have been worse going into half-time, the highlight of his performance being a perfectly timed challenge to divert Pugh's goalbound effort out for a corner.

Pompey did pose a goal threat in the first half as Andy Lonergan had to be at full stretch to claw away Greg Halford's looping header. The ball remained in play to be crossed back to him but his second attempt was headed onto the crossbar and the Leeds defence managed to clear it.

Halford then tested Lonergan again late in the first half with a powerful free kick that the Leeds 'keeper had to get down well to save. That ended a poor first half from Pompey who were second best for the vast majority of the game up to half-time.

There was a sense of irony after the break as a man who made it perfectly clear during the fans' forum a few weeks ago that he didn't think the 4-4-2 formation worked, decided to bring off the poor Riise for Kanu and changed for formation to, you guessed it... 4-4-2!

And by doing so the nature of the second half was different as Pompey began to pressure Leeds in their own half but failed to really test Lonergan with any shots, with only a couple of "nearly" moments from Norris and Ward to get excited about.

There was late pressure from the away side as a team who hadn't kept a clean sheet all season began to sit back and nervously defend a narrow lead but Pompey couldn't make that pressure tell and fell to yet another defeat with the visiting fans leaving Elland Road angry.

The support for Steve Cotterill seems to have completely disintegrated now. Even the hardcore vocal support did not sing his name (they were too busy fending off over-zealous stewards and protesting about paying £36 to get into the ground).

His tactical decisions continue to baffle people. Why on earth did he take off Norris and replace him with Rocha? Ward was pushed forward but does he really possess more attacking prowess than Norris?

I also don't understand why it takes so long for Cotterill to change things. Why bring on Ryan Williams with just minutes to go? He had no time to settle into the game but if he had more time he could well have beaten the nervous Leeds defence.

His excuse for this latest defeat is pretty pathetic, too. The players are too tired? They certainly didn't look very tired and our opponents have had to play the same amount of games in the same amount of time. Fatigue cannot be used as an excuse, this defeat was down to poor tactical decisions by a manager who seems to be losing the plot.

You could debate Cotterill's shortcomings for the next fortnight and it's easy to criticise him in hindsight. However, the men at CSI are businessmen and good businessmen know that you have to keep your customers happy.

Currently, the customers are angry at their team currently languishing in 19th in the Championship table and I expect many will vote with their feet come the Barnsley game unless something changes.

Two wins from eleven games this season with a squad full of Premier League experience and international caps is simply not good enough. Perhaps the owners will act on this and we will see changes sooner rather than later.

The headlines in the local news tomorrow may well be worth reading...

Pompey Player Ratings

Stephen Henderson: 6 - No chance with the goal and made a couple of good saves late on.

Joel Ward: 5 - Struggled again and missed a good chance with a header.

Greg Halford: 6 - Pompey's biggest threat, which should tell you all you need to know.

Jason Pearce: 6 - Some crucial interventions.

Tal Ben-Haim: 5 - Guilty of losing the ball too often.

Hayden Mullins: 5 - Wasn't really noticed.

Liam Lawrence: 5 - Delivery is hit-and-miss.

David Norris: 5 - Got better in the second half.

Bjorn-Helge Riise: 4 - Poor crossing capped a poor performance.

Erik Huseklepp: 5 - Wasn't in the game.

Benjani: 5 - Needs a strike partner.


Jamie Ashdown

Aaron Mokoena

Ricardo Rocha (Norris 69): N/A - Not a player to bring on when you're losing.

Ryan Williams (Ben-Haim 86): N/A - Brought on far too late.

Kanu (Riise 46): 7 - Changed the game with his forward thinking.