Season Review 05/06: Part IX: March
By Jim Bonner
Updated Saturday, 20th May 2006
Mission: Impossible beginsMiles away from safety, optimism low, already written off by pundits and Scummers getting their "Welcome" banners out for us for next season already. That was the situation Pompey were in and it would still get worse before a moment of magic sparked something quite incredible. So much to say about a season defining month!
04/03/06: Matchday #28: Aston Villa 1 Pompey 0
Villa are a dire side themselves with an awful home record, this game in hindsight could have been the catalyst for a decent run if we could take advantage of this injury ravaged side. On the way up to the game I listed to pundits on the radio say that the race to avoid relegation was between West Brom and Birmingham with Pompey "already down" so all that talk would spur my team onto a good performance. Or so I thought...
What followed was probably the worst Pompey game I have ever seen and I know there have been a fair few! There was just nothing from either side at all and when Villa got a corner late on in the first half I was screaming for someone to mark Milan Baros as he had acres of space around him. Corner taken, Baros header, goal. That would make up for the Phillips miss earlier but that is all I can remember about this match in which Pompey offered absolutely nothing all day. A truly awful game between two awful sides only we were more awful than the other. On the way back from Villa Park I stuck the radio on again and even Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson are saying the relegation fight was between their sides now and at this time who would disagree with them? We looked like a Championship side and that was probably where we were heading.
11/03/06: Matchday #29: Pompey 2 Manchester City 1
This game would prove to be the last chance saloon in Pompey's bid to escape relegation. The majority of fans had already consigned themselves to trips to Luton and QPR next season and even the most optimistic fans knew that anything but a win here today would extinguish all hope.
The first half we didn't play too badly but couldn't find that cutting edge needed to break the City defence. Our problem to this date is that none of our players could seem to score in a brothel so it seems like they'd try anything just to stick the ball in the back of the net. Pompey win a corner midway through the second half, D'Alessandro takes it but it's easily cleared by City but only to fall to the feet of Pedro Mendes. He hammers the ball and it finds the back of the net and Fratton Park goes absolutely crazy! This was the first time we'd scored in a while and I'd almost forgot what celebrating a goal felt like and what a way to get your first goal for the club Pedro!
Pompey battled on whilst City started applying the pressure. They won their first corner of the game as the tension grew around Fratton Park. The ball is whipped in and after a bit of ping-pong Richard Dunne heads in a heartbreaking equaliser. I stood there in silence. For so long I believed this would be our day today so for City to score with what was their first real attack of the game left me feeling numb and I'm sure I wasn't the only one experiencing this. Some fans began to leave in the knowledge Pompey were relegated with all hope depleted. The fans that did stay tried to lift the place for one last rally, one final throw of the dice. I thought that a winner would be unrealistic considering we had only scored more than one goal in a game once all season and that was against Sunderland. Time ticked away, we started to throw everything at City including the kitchen sink not caring if City would try and counter-attack knowing that it was win or bust for us. Pompey win a corner in the last minute of stoppage time, it's whipped in but once again dealt with by City but the ball is only half cleared as Pedro Mendes races to win the ball from Bradley Wright-Phillips and take a touch as the crowd shout "SHOOT!" as Pedro takes a punt and smashes the ball into the net with ten seconds to go as Fratton explodes into some sort of mental frenzy and I can still remember jumping all over the South Stand in madness. If there was any way to win a "must win" game then this would be it! The final whistle blew and Fratton erupted once again with cheers that could be heard in the West Midlands. This result was a reminder to Birmingham and West Brom, who drew with each other that day that this was a three horse race to avoid the drop.
18/03/06: Matchday #30: West Ham United 2 Pompey 4
Pompey headed to East London with a renewed sense of belief to take on high-flying West Ham United who were scheduled to play a weakened side due to the imminent FA Cup game, ironically against the team we had beaten previously last week. Pleas from Steve Bruce to play their strongest side were semi-ignored as Pardew opted to play Clive Clarke and Yaniv Katan in a side that still boasted a first choice defence and Sheringham and Zamora up front so defeating West Ham would still be a difficult task.
Pompey started the game with purpose and immediately laid siege to the West Ham goal and it wasn't long before we had scored through Lomana Lua Lua who poked in a cross from close range to the travelling fans' delight. Things would get even better as Brian Priske would make a run down the right and whip in a cross that Benjani missed but Davis had also got into the box, controlled it and struck it in to put Pompey 2-0 up away from home! If you found that hard to believe back home then you would have pinched yourself as not long before half time Pedro Mendes once again recieved the ball "in range" as Pompey fans jokingly coaxed him shoot and that's what he did and once again the back of the net bulged as Pompey fans started laughing deleriously at the fact that once again Mendes had scored a rocket and that we were 3-0 up at half time! "What the fuck is going on?" was the chant doing the rounds in one end of Upton Park as we were entering dreamland at this point. West Ham fans must have also been thinking the same because their side had barely even turned up.
The home side's response was to stick on Marlon Harewood and Yossi Benayoun in the second half and although the Hammers improved and got one back via Teddy Sheringham, the day was ours as Lua Lua made a mug out of Paul Konchesky down the right and crossed for Todorov to tap in a fourth to put the result out of doubt. Benayoun grabbed a consolation in stoppage time but nobody seemed to care as Pompey fans were sent home delighted after what was a terrific performance by the team and we could look forward to Arsenal the following week.
25/03/06: Matchday #31: Pompey P Arsenal P
Typical weather eh? The game was called off because of a waterlogged pitch although there was a slight suspicion of Wenger having some influence over the decision. Would this decision hinder or help us? Fulham would find out the week after! Until then we had to sit tight and although we were still in the relegation zone things were looking much better for Portsmouth Football Club and everyone associated with it.
Premiership Table After Matchday #31
15th: Aston Villa: 35pts
16th: Middlesbrough: 34pts
17th: West Brom: 27pts
18th: Birmingham: 24pts
19th: Portsmouth: 24pts
20th: Sunderland: 10pts