Neville's Cup Final Diary: Part II
By Jim Bonner
Updated Wednesday, 21st May 2008
The conclusion of Neville Dalton's Wembley experience.
Neville Dalton is a journalist with the BBC News website and a
First half: Not feeling totally comfortable, but neither too upset. For much of the first half-hour,
Big Sol has been caught out by a couple of over-the-top balls to the left flank. Glenn Johnson is looking more uncomfortable (in that laid-back way of his) than I've seen for many a month.
But I'm not panicking. Kanu hits the post. Later it seems he was universally condemned for spurning such a great chance.
It was hard to tell how easy it was from where I was, but to be honest, the sublime build-up and trickery compensate for missing what still to me seems a pretty difficult chance from a pretty acute angle.
At least we've created something.
I don't have to wait long for that history-defining moment. Kanu again. A simpler chance, much like the one he scored against
Am I the only one who realises the ball's gone in? Everyone seems to stop; Kanu's celebration is bizarre and fitting for a man who never runs when he doesn't need to.
It seems like several seconds before the rest of the crowd join in my - gradually more muted - cheer.
It was the one positive thing I thought Utaka did in the whole match. His early cross was excellent - low, hard and in that danger area that the goalkeeper and defence must deal with.
Enckleman is not up to the challenge (although I think he was a little unfairly criticised) and Kanu is quicker than his markers to react.
His instincts always take him into those positions. Unfortunately, his legs often don't - but they do on this occasion, thank goodness!
My nerves ease, and for most of the rest of the first half, Pompey do their best to reassure me further by playing the best football of the match so far.
Half-time: Richard and son (see Part 1) slip away, presumably to make room to top up. They don't return for a good half an hour, missing 10 minutes of the second half.
£80 for a seat at the Cup Final and you spend half the match with your back to the action, abusing your fellow supporters or down in the bar and bogs.
Maybe they've got more money than sense.
Second half: When will Pompey learn?
They've struggled against set-pieces ever since the semi-final, and here they're facing a team relying on them for a large chunk of their game.
Throw-ins, corners, free-kicks - they're good at them all.
Yet Pompey continue to give away throw-ins, corners and particularly free-kicks.
It's probably the biggest blot on their otherwise tremendous season. They sometimes overdo the physical bit and nearly always seem to give away more free-kicks than their opponents, putting unnecessary extra pressure on the defence.
It's not helped by a second successive inept display at Wembley by the referee and one of his assistants.
This time it's Mike Dean blowing for perceived fouls that aren't there; failing to give them the other way and when he does give Pompey the benefit of the doubt, appearing to allow Cardiff players more latitude in their interpretation of how far 10 yards is.
But Pompey don't help themselves. Johnson and Lassana Diarra in particular are repeat offenders in playing player instead of ball, fouling when there was no need to rush in and pushing and grabbing when in all honesty, nine times out of 10 they could probably have won the ball fairly.
We continue to survive the set-piece onslaught, though.
Impressed by Ledley and Parry's directness in the first half in particular, I find myself applauding an excellent piece of control, side-step and quality clearance by
But I'm even more encouraged by the skill and enterprise of one of my particular favourites, Niko Kranjcar, who (and I seem to be alone in this) is my man of the match.
Funny, Krunchy is one of the slowest players on Pompey's books; Utaka one of the fastest.
Yet when the latter gets the ball, he invariably slows down our attacks, pausing and hesitating, as if frightened to take on the defender and generally passing inside, or more often, backwards to Johnson.
Nothing wrong with retaining possession, but I can't help thinking he'd be so much more effective if he stuck to his strengths of pace and directness.
Kranjcar, on the other hand, always seems to speed up proceedings when he picks up the ball, shifting gear and direction to outwit an opponent, and generally using the ball incisively and positively.
His back-heeled, right-angled pass beyond the defender to Diarra is my personal highlight of a memorable day.
Four minutes of additional time to play. It seems a bit much, but I'm not surprised. Several substitutions and lots of brief hold-ups for petty free-kicks - and after all, Pompey are winning.
I've been feeling pretty comfortable, considering. But
It's a surreal moment. I've dreamed about it for more than 40 years; I've pictured a Pompey captain walking up those Wembley steps to collect the cup.
I've always imagined I'd go berserk at such a moment.
But I don't. I release a roar as much of relief as joy. I shout: "Yes!", and I hold my right arm aloft, rather as one of my boyhood heroes, Allan Clarke, had done after scoring the winner against Arsenal in 1972.
My first sight is of
They may have been underdogs, but they clearly believed they would win. Their disappointment is palpable.
Then I see the Pompey players, happier than I can recall. They seem to be as excited and delighted as we fans.
It's funny, but now we have a bunch of big-time Premier League footballers, many of whom have tasted success at all levels of the football stratosphere, I expected them to act cool.
It's just another win for these laid-back dudes, with fast cars, mansions, beautiful women and Pacman computer games (or whatever it is youngsters play with these days).
But they're absolutely ecstatic. They seem genuinely proud to have won the FA Cup.
In a funny way, that sends a glow through my heart that I really did not expect.
It's over: Presentations; on-field celebrations and shenanigans with the cup; polite applause from what is left of the
Pompey - FA Cup winners. Uefa Cup entrants.
It still hasn't sunk in, but I'm determined to make it last and soak up every bit of pride, joy and happiness along the way.
I watched my first FA Cup Final on a tiny black-and-white television at my grandparents' house in May 1967.
Two months earlier, I had watched my first Pompey match at
Here, we were, 41 years on, same opponents, rather different circumstances.
But when Sol went up to lift the FA Cup, I was there.