Relief

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 18 November 2006
A late goal in each half earnt Pompey a very hard fought 2-1 win against Watford who had taken the lead in an extremely frustrating game at Fratton Park.

This game was by no means our best performance. In fact it could be considered one of the worst performances of the season as we struggled to play any kind of passing football against a Watford side who were very physical and direct, much like Bolton were.

Niko Kranjcar and David Thompson replaced Matthew Taylor and Gary O'Neil respectively. Thommo had quite a good game for the time he was on though this wasn't the game for Kranjcar to showcase his talents. The nature of the game wasn't going to suit his style of play, but that could be said about a lot of the players out there today as we were second to nearly every 50/50 ball and outfought on more than one occasion.

That's not to say that Watford deserved to win the game. You can see why they're down at the bottom. They lacked any real quality, whenever the ball came near their goal they hoofed it upfield and tried to win the second ball, which to their credit worked more often than not but they created little.

The visitors did take the lead when the ball supposedly went out for a corner (replays showed it should have been our goal kick) and then from the resulting corner some slack marking mixed with James rushing out to claim a ball he would never get left Jay DeMerit unmarked to head in the opener for the Hornets. The goal was virtually a carbon copy of the one Fulham scored last week and you can imagine that Tony Adams must be doing his nut over some of the goals we have conceded recently.

From that moment our game lifted a notch and just before half time that man again, Kanu nabbed an equaliser after Ben Foster could only parry a shot that the Nigerian blasted into the top of the net from a yard out. Pedro Mendes then hit a curler almost straight after the equaliser but Foster palmed away before the ball could hit the top corner of the goal.

This wasn't a game we wanted to draw but I thought that was what we were going to get as we just couldn't break Watford down often enough and rarely tested the Watford sub 'keeper. Pompey struggled to win the midfield battle which left the defenders with plenty of work to do and the forwards not enough work. When we did look to get the ball forward LuaLua was caught offside more often than not whilst Kanu and Cole were bundled out of the game in the second half.

The frustration looked set to be complete as a free kick from Sol Campbell went directly over Richard Lee in the opposition goal and into the net. A lot of the ground had thought we'd scored only for the ref; Chris Foy to disallow it for a supposed "foul" on Lee. It was a very soft decision from Foy who let Watford get away with manhandling our players at times and he also missed an elbow on Kanu too.

Then in the dying minutes of the game Kanu was fouled in the area and Foy gave us a last minute penalty! Lomana LuaLua immediately grabbed the ball and refused to let anyone else have it. It seemed like he really had a point to prove to the fans who have criticised him in recent weeks (something he was vocal in the media about today.)

You just know if he had missed then he would have been abused by everyone in the crowd, who were already voicing their disapproval over his decision, would have game him a ton of abuse. Thankfully he blasted it into the net and sent Fratton Park absolutely mental! I ended up jumping round the southern enclosure like a nutcase as we had stolen a victory that on the balance of it, probably didn't deserve. That could be a huge goal for us as we turned one point into three.

So in summary, we struggled against a poor man's Bolton for much of a game that was devoid of any real quality and chances. Our will to never give up pushed us on and eventually we got the break we needed to come back from a goal deficit to claim victory from the jaws of a draw. It felt a major relief to win a very frustrating game that looked like it was going to finish 1-1. We will need to play better against Newcastle to take something from them next week but then they should allow us to play our passing game, whereas Watford didn't.

On a final note, this result has pushed us up to third in the league! Who would have thought that with a third of the season gone already?

Pompey Player Ratings

David James: 6 - Came out for the first goal when he didn't need to but made a couple of crucial claims when Watford put the ball in the box.

Dejan Stefanovic: 4 - He had an absolute mere today if I'm being honest. Struggled to cope with Watford's physical presence.

Sol Campbell: 8 - My Man Of The Match. Gave an exemplary performance on how to handle physical players.

Linvoy Primus: 7 - Solid, battling performance as you'd expect from Linvoy.

Noe Pamarot: 7 - He had another good, strong performance at right back. He's definately winning me over.

Niko Kranjcar: 6 - We learnt a bit about Niko today. He looks to have a great pass on him but lacks any sort of defensive quality that was needed in this game today. What happened to Matty Taylor?

Sean Davis: 5 - Struggled a bit today. Passing was well off his usual standard.

Pedro Mendes: 6 - Not the sort of game he could influence although had a great shot saved by Foster.

David Thompson: 7 - He did well until he was subbed. Possibly because he had been booked early on and with Foy being erratic he could have been sent off.

Lomana LuaLua: 7 - His work on the ball could not be faulted. He played like he had a point prove at times and passed it a bit more. He needs to be more aware off the ball though, got caught offisde too much. Kudos to him taking the penalty though, he head was on the guillotine there.

Kanu: 8 - Well taken goal and did his best to hold the ball up despite getting bullied by Watford's defence virtually all the game.

Subs

Dean Kiely

Andy O'Brien

Manuel Fernandes

Ognjen Koroman

Andy Cole: 6 - Did what he could but never had the influence Harry would have liked.

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