Portsmouth – 2
Nottingham Forest 1
A frustrating afternoon for the Reds saw their mini-run of two wins halted, and our hosts to continue their recent good form with their fourth consecutive win. It pops us back down to 13th in the table, albeit still only three points off the playoffs – it’s still as tight as a gnat’s chuff in the middle of the Championship.
Surprisingly, given some of the players available to him, Billy opted to make no changes at all to the side that defeated Ipswich at the weekend, although with a slight tweak to the formation in a slightly more defensive look – with a bench positively bristling with attacking options…
Chambers Morgan Wilson Gunter
Anderson Cohen Majewski McGugan
As ever with our ‘fluid’ (or disorganised?) midfield, you can interchange almost any of the players over the course of the game as ever!
The Reds had a good start to the game – and the first chance fell to the man in form McGugan after a defence-splitting ball from Majewski. Even after his first opportunity was blocked by Ashdown, the rebound fell again to Lewis who this time met no player-based obstacle but wasn’t able to hit the target, putting the ball into the side-netting instead.
Portsmouth looked dangerous on the break, a long throw from Halford went right across our six yard box, which could’ve been messy – Mullins also should’ve done better when shooting from inside the box but he only managed to put the ball over. Despite the Reds having the better of the play early doors, it was the home side that took the lead.
One chance won the home side a corner, which was taken by Liam Lawrence (why on Earth we didn’t go for a player of his calibre on loan I’ll always struggle to understand) and found Ibrahima Sonko who should have been more effectively marked – his header went flying past the goalline-bound Lee Camp giving the increasingly-bearded ‘keeper no chance.
The Reds showed some good resolve though, and it wasn’t long before they had fashioned an equaliser. Chambers brought the ball forward and found McGugan – he took the ball on and played an excellent cross into the box which found Paul Anderson, of all people, bursting into the box to connect with the ball with a full-length diving header. An excellent finish and a well-deserved equaliser.
A further chance for Forest saw Chris Cohen square the ball to Lewis from eight yards out, but the midfielder totally mis-kicked – continuing to defy his recent form! Despite some nice passing moves, often (how many times do I write this?) the final ball and/or finish was missing – which was precisely where Portsmouth threatened to hurt us.
The half finished with some concerted pressure and a series of corners from the home side which ultimately came to nothing. On balance the Reds had just about edged it, but as ever succumbed to some lax defending which Portsmouth were able to punish with relative ease. Frustrating, and not exactly a new thing this season!
Pompey started the second half in much more lively fashion – on-form David Nugent was very close to putting his side into the lead with a curling dipping effort which had Lee Camp backpedalling but fortunately for us was just over the bar. Utaka was causing problems with his pace too, being reasonably marshalled by Wilson.
Fourteen minutes into the half Billy withdrew Majewski and put Dele Adebola on, which didn’t really alter the pressure that Portsmouth were exerting, which culiminated in efforts from Lawrence cleared by Wilson, and Camp again backpedalling from a Nugent attempt to concede a corner. The warnings weren’t heeded though, and Sonko returned the earlier favour with a cross to Lawrence who smashed it into the net from inside the area.
Billy responded by chucking on Earnie for McGoldrick, and the Reds did start to look a little more positive – a cross from Chambers found a diving header from Cohen which ended up just wide of the goal – it was a brief respite, with Mokoena feeding the ball through to Utaka, Camp quick off his line this time to save with his legs.
Dex was our final substitute who received a fairly tense reception from the home fans due to his Southampton connections – he replaced Anderson with around thirteen minutes left on the clock. He nearly made himself more unpopular too, a decent cross from Gunter finding him in the box, and his effort brought a reasonably routine save from Ashdown.
On the break again Nugent was denied by Lee Camp, McKenna had made a mistake to lose possession which saw the home side break very quickly culminating in Nugent’s effort saved by Camp diving low to his right. At the other end Chambers should have equalised for the Reds with a free header from 12 yards from a Cohen freekick, but he put it wide.
At the death even Campy was joining the Forest attack when we’d been awarded a free-kick, ultimately it came to nothing which saw him legging it back as Pompey threatened to break forward, the final whistle preventing what could probably have been the killer blow.
All in all, a disappointing result – although Portsmouth had chances to stretch the scoreline, we too missed chances. On balance of play it’s hard to begrudge them the win (moral and financial conduct aside of course). The response of the 2,300 Forest fans who’d made the long trip was positive, and the players seemed to appreciate it.