Premier League

‘Celebration, Not A Wake’ …Says Gary Bowen

As the curtain draws near on Portsmouth’s seven year premier league
journey, their last home game of the campaign against Wolves was more a
celebration than a wake. During their time in the top flight they have won
the FA cup, snatched survival from the jaws of relegation and two chapters
of the Redknapp era. Pompey fans can never complain of an uneventful time.
But its been the last 12 months which has delivered a most unwanted
predicament and will undoubtedly be a cross to bear from some years to
come.

Yesterday Portsmouth played their final premier league game at Fratton Park
for the forseeable future. As expected the defiant and passionate Pompey
fans produced the atmosphere for which it has become renowned. Relegation
has been confirmed for some time, but that didn’t dampened the spirits on
the south coast. They were hoping for something positive and the Pompey
players didn’t disappoint.
Wolves have confirmed their Premier League status for another season and
played like a team relieved that their job has been accomplished. Pompey
played with the same cavalier air that has earned them their FA cup final
berth.

David Jones and Kevin Doyle were both looking threatening in the first
half. A Jones freekick heading for the top corner was well saved by David
James and Doyle was everywhere causing headaches.
It was a freekick in a harmless part of the pitch, just inside the Wolves
half which brought about the first goal of the game. Michael Brown floated
in a teasing ball for Aruna Dindane to nod home unchallenged.

Within a minute Boateng nearly made it 2-0 with a sweet volley but for a great save
from Marcus Hahnemann. Pompey were gathering steam and another good effort,
this time from Piquionne needed another good save from Hahnemann.
David Jones had another freekick outside the box which was well saved by
James, but he was unable to hold it. The rebound went to Doyle who hit it
back at James who saved again. He still was unable to hold it and Doyle
eventually put the ball in the net.

Four minutes later Pompey restored
their lead from a John Utaka strike inside Hahnemanns near post.
Pompey went in at half time good for their lead. There was an air of
expectation everytime Pompey went forward, something that has been missing
for most of the season.

Wolves started the second half the brighter with Doyle testing James again
who tipped his scissor-kick over the bar. Doyle hit the post minutes later
and Ebanks-Blake hit the rebound wide when it would have been easier to
score. James was at it again on the hour thwarting Doyle. Although Wolves
were peppering the Pompey goal, whenever Pompey broke they looked capable
of scoring.

They got their two goal cushion when Piquionne broke free on
the right and his cross was nodded on by Tommy Smith. The ball fell to
Michael Brown who supplied a quality finish to give the Pompey crowd
something more to sing about. The game was wide open now and Pompey looked
capable of adding further to their tally. Smith could’ve got on the score
sheet himself, but shot straight at Hahnemann.
Ebanks-Blake had another glorious opportunity on 75 minutes but again
managed to skew his shot wide from six yards.
Piquionne also had a good opportunity from a Vanden Borre cutback but
blazed over from closs range.

It was a good injection of form for Pompey who will be fully-focussed on
their FA Cup final date with Chelsea. An entertaining game with both sides
carving plenty of scoring opportunites.
Pompey having accepted their fate played without fear and Wolves will have
enjoyed playing knowing survival has been assured.
The points gathered from this game, without the nine point deduction, would
have lifted Pompey to 18th on the ladder. Still relegated, but at least not
bottom.
Pompey still have many questions yet to be answered about their future, no
more important than the issue of their ownership, the intentions of Avram
Grant beyond this season and coming out of administration without further
penalties.

Although they will leave the spotlight of the Premiership, the Pompey ride will continue.

Gary Bowen

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