Premier League

The Gary Bowen Report

When two teams have nothing to play for it is hard to predict whether it
will make for an entertaining game or a dull non-event. Unfortunately it
was a case of the latter in front of the lowest Fratton Park crowd   of the
season today. On a wet and miserable day on the south coast, Portsmouth
entertained,……well hosted, Blackburn in a match that had little bearing
on league positions.

Pompey, whose chances of survival have dimmed to a
candlelight, needed maximum points to prolong their survival, and Blackburn
who have mid-table security already assured, are just riding out their
season.

Pompey’s midfield lynchpin this season, Jamie O’Hara was back, as
was Ricardo Rocha. John Utaka returned from injury and Jamie Ashdown
started in goal. With Piquionne starting the game on the bench, Pompey
would seem to have one eye on next week’s FA cup semi-final clash with
Spurs. One change for Blackburn, keeper Paul Robinson returned to first
team action.

It was difficult conditions with the slippery surface making for a scrappy
affair, with neither team really finding any rhythm early.
Utaka made a decent run on the left and cut inside. His shot fizzing
straight through to Robinson.

Jamie Ashdown was having a busy time of it at the other end. Blackburn had a string of corners and the giant Christoper Samba was giving Rocha headaches. Ashdown looked on edge and was failing to take control of his penalty box. A few fumbles were making the crowd a
little uneasy.

Jason Roberts got on the end of a cross and headed back
across goal to a vacant six yard box but Rocha was on hand unattended to
head clear. Another corner and Phil Jones’ header was palmed away by
Ashdown.

Blackburn were having more of the play but couldn’t conjure any
clear-cut chances. Mokeona and Rocha looked solid in the heart of defence.
It was the same two defenders who collided when Rocha copped an accidental
blow to the face, similar to the one he got against Chelsea. This time he
managed to soldier on.

O’Hara was getting plenty of the ball in midfield, but was growing frustrated as many forages forward broke down. It was another decent run from Utaka which bought about Pompeys best chanceof the half. His cut back from the byline, was palmed by Robinson into the path of O’Hara, whose instinctive header looked goalbound, only for Givet
to also instinctively head off the goal line.
Moments later David Dunn hit the upright with a shot from the edge of the
box. Just before half time Gamst-Pedersons’ free-kick found Samba, who had
ghosted behind the Pompey defence. His header hit the post and Pompey
breathed again.

If the first half had some unforgettable moments, then the first 15 minutes
of the second half was some of the worst football witnessed all season. A
scrappy, sloppy mistake-ridden passage, where neither team created
anything.
On the hour Vanden Borre got his marching orders for a silly handball. He
had already been booked for a late tackle just before halftime. He can
probably feel a little unlucky as both offences had no malice about them.
No doubt he’ll be regreting his moment of stupidity when he is sitting in
the stands at wembley next week.

Youngster Leonard Sowah was introduced at left back, Mullins moved to right back to cover Vanden Borre. Blackburn’s best effort of the second half was an angled shot from Olsson,
which Ashdown did well to stop with his legs.

A number of substitutions followed, both teams shuffling their decks and
sensing three points for the taking, but neither team pushed on.
Blackburn’s record signing Nikola Kalinic, nearly a Pompey player last
summer, was brought on late to spark their attack, but he couldn’t offer
anything either.

Blackburn probably had the better of the half without really looking
threatening while a point for Pompey doesn’t do much for their cause.
Pompeys focus will shift immediately to a date at Wembley next sunday
against Tottenham and their chance to salvage some success amongst a season
of turmoil.

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