Match Report vs PORTSMOUTH

Tue 25 March 1997 (League)

Att: About 9,000
Team: Mautone, Bernal, Macca, Hopkins, Parkinson, Gooding, Caskey (Holsgrove), Williams (Nogan), Gilkes, Morley, Lovell.

Svensson is a dirty git. The Swedish cheat continued where he'd left off at Elm Park, where he got Hunter sent off, and at Fratton where he put us out of the FA Cup, with another disgusting performance. You've got to admit he was quite cunning though - just waiting until the referee was looking away, or 'accidently' leaving his foot hanging when jumping over a tackle - the boot 'accidently' colliding with Hopkins head for example. Sometimes he forgot all that and just pushed Gilksey right off the ball. And he escaped without a booking. The first half was far better entertainment than the second when Pompey bundled their way to victory. We were very unlucky to lose but then again we were never going to win it. Now we know how Ipswich felt on Saturday and so with the games evened out it's hard to complain too much. But I probably will anyway.

Reading started with a very sensible lineup - similar to the one victorious on Saturday. Parkie came into the side to replace Holsgrove, and bought in that vital battling attitude. The game started looking just like the FA Cup game. I thought I was having deja vu for a moment. Lots of nothing for the first twenty minutes or so until the game became end to end for a while - but without the shots on goal. When we came forward we were looking dangerous. Williams swung in some excellent crosses from the right wing. They were just a fraction too close to Alan Knight in the Pompey goal. A couple of times he looked troubled but managed to snatch them away from the heads of Archie Lovell and Trevor Morley.

Andy Bernal tried a long range effort that curved the wrong way and well wide of Knight's left side post. Martin Williams will thank the defender for blocking his shot that was heading somewhere towards the corner flag on the side he was shooting from. Then our best chance of the game that almost gave us a first half lead. Gilkes did some good work on the left wing and the ball came in for Gooding in the middle. Gooding pulled away from the defender and drove the ball low towards the corner. The celebrations started until we realized that somehow the ball had taken a bit of a curve and had hit the inside of the goalkeeper's right post. With the keeper beaten the ball bounced out across the face of goal - but no one was able to follow it up. And Pompey survived.

The break couldn't have come at a worse time. We were storming, coming forward well and stringing first time low passes together. We looked good. And then after the break we didn't look so good. And then it looked like the pattern of the first half was back. Except this time Portsmouth started getting more of the play. With about 15 minutes left Pompey almost took the lead with a massive goal mouth bundle. The whole Reading team lined up on the goalline as the ball flew in from close range. The diving body of Hopkins was enough to send the ball high and away to safety.

The torment from the home fans and Svensson seemed to render Gilksey worthless and more and more of his touches ended in the ball flying out of play or a loss of posession. Poor lad. Caskey, after a few promising touches, continued where he left off last week and played some awful balls. But still Reading were trying and it was good to see the effort out there. We were looking well worth a point. A cross from Williams saw a rare Archie header fly over the bar. A Caskey free kick from the edge of the area flew into orbit. Caskey didn't want to leave but was eventually convinced it definately was a number 11 being held up; and Holsgrove joined the action. Nogs came on for Williams.

And then with about 5 minutes left Portsmouth took the lead. Pompey won a corner on the Reading right. As it swung in, Paul Hall, the eventual scorer, appeared to push Mautone out of the way. It definately looked like a foul to me. Rather similar to other corners where Mautone was rather unmysteriously flattened. The referee failed to spot it. Mautone regained his balance to block the first shot from Hall but it was then followed up from close range and into the left corner of the net. And it was all over: 0-1 to the Portsmouth.

It wasn't the best performance ever but a valiant attempt by the Royals to grab an away point. The defence played well, but once again I was left wondering where the goals were ever going to come from. I think it was that annoying bloke with the trumpet that put us off.


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