I’ll be off in an hour to catch the train from Waterloo down to Fratton and I’m really looking forward to what can only be called a clash. If we lose today, we’ll be eight points behind Portsmouth, albeit with two games in hand, so we’ve got to get something, and I think we will. The three teams breathing over our shoulder (Luton, Peterborough and Charlton) are all at home and are likely to get something so that gives us even greater incentive to do well. I don’t know about the latest injury situation, but Catts will surely start and hopefully Watmore will feature at least as a sub. Maybe even Wyke will put in an appearance. Once again, our performance was iffy last Saturday but we also showed the team spirit to fight back and win. I think it’ll be a great game today and that we’ll get a battling draw, so my match prediction is 2-2.
As I came out of Fratton Station a bloke, who admittedly looked a bit the worse for wear, said to me, “What was the score, mate?” I was nonplussed by this but his mate explained to him that the match hadn’t started yet. I got to the stadium around 2.15 and chatted with several of the London Branch and chatted to several of the London Branch faithful who informed me that McLaughlin was starting so that was good news. The teams were warming up and a helpful temporary sign in front us said ‘Please be aware of flying balls. I’d just noticed this and almost at once a piledriver of a shot almost hit my neighbour in the face but with some nifty handwork he fended it off. There were plenty of Christmas jumpers and Santa Claus hats in evidence and two of the mascots were a couple of very little sisters from Sunderland, one of whom was called Tallulah. They both looked rather bemused as they did a lap of the pitch with the Portsmouth mascots to much applause.
There were several changes to our side and the one that caused the most discussion was that Maja was on the bench while Watmore was upfront. With four games in ten days some pooling of resources was to be expected but most of us would’ve liked Maja on first. O’Nien was also starting and Matthews wasn’t. We started kicking away from our end and in the third minute Loovens caused a few hearts to flutter when he completely duffed a clearance and set up an attack which fortunately was cleared. Watmore had a great shot five minutes later that was palmed away by MacGillivray. It was a competitive game from the off and both sets of fans were making a lot of racket. There was a bit of handbags midway through the half after which Catts and Brown got a talking-to. Next minute Hawkins got the first yellow of the game after a foul on Loovens. We had the best of the first half-hour but the match continued to flow in both directions. Watmore produced one of his classic runs ten minutes from the break, bursting down the right and putting in a great cross for Gooch but his shot was straight at McGillivray. It remained goalless at the break and the mood was bright in our end.
Luton and Charlton were both ahead at the break so we’d have to make sure we’d get something. There was a bizarre recorded message from a member of The Isley Brothers at the break. Turns out he’s a big fan of Pompey. To add to the Christmas cheer, Maguire came over and lobbed a few freebies into the crowd at our end, but I couldn’t see what they were.
Within a minute of the second-half the match had been turned on its head. Loovens couldn’t keep pace with Hawkins and brought him down in the box. The ref immediately pointed to the spot and then gave Loovens a red card for his pains. There was much debate in our end about whether he was the last defender, but he walked the walk anyway and our arses were well and truly against the wall when Evans smashed the spot-kick in. We promptly brought on Ozturk for Watmore so we were playing without a striker. Within eight minutes of the restart we were two-down, and it was Curtis who got it, racing down the left and slotting in a low shot. We battled back, as we usually do these days, and within five minutes we pulled one back after O’Nien found himself in plenty of space near the right side of their goal and lobbed a cross from the left into the roof of the net to send our end doolally. We promptly brought on Maguire for Honeyman but instead of us getting an equalizer we soon went further behind after McLaughlin had done really well to keep out a shot following a corner only for Thompson to smash it back into the net. That was the end for us really and though we made attempts to get something back, Portsmouth had their tails up and we’d lost our previous rhythm. There were six minutes of stoppage-time and I could’ve done without them really as if a goal was coming it didn’t look like we were going to get it. There was plenty of applause from our end when the whistle finally went.
A bad day at the office all round but a lot can happen with three more matches coming up in rapid succession. See you on Boxing Day.