Many thought Harry Redknapp’s return to Portsmouth would ignite some sort of Fratton Park fury. Instead, Redknapp’s reception was altogether mild – if not warm – with events on the pitch throwing up all the talking points, in stark contrast to the game’s build up. While it turned into a rather damp squib off the pitch, on it, it was anything but, as a passionate, energetic and dramatic game unfolded. Once again Pompey came up short, and once again the blame will fall firmly at the feet of the misfiring front men. In particular, Aruna Dindane, who missed two gilt-edged chances – one of them with the scores at 0-0 – to leave Pompey’s goal-shy strikers feeling the wrath of the Fratton faithful. Indeed it was another match where Pompey deserved at least something, but yet again it was a day where the endeavour and passion only glossed over a serious and possibly fatal problem.
As Paul Hart’s summer signings continue to impress and gel, there is one area he has come up short – a goalscorer. The ongoing statistic that none of the strikers have netted a single strike this term is a very worrying one. Jermain Defoe’s strike on half-time served only as a timely reminder as to what the Blues have been missing. Saturday’s villain had been a peripheral figure in the main but he came to life the moment Jermaine Jenas burst into the box and Defoe’s lightening awareness and prowess left him the simplest of tasks of tapping home what was ultimately the winner. In contrast, Dindane showed his lack of both awareness and prowess in separate incidents. Firstly, his glaring misses showed he is hardly a natural finisher, while, in the dying embers of the match, Frederic Piquionne headed a teaser across the face of goal, where you could’ve guaranteed Defoe would have been on hand to force the ball in. However, Dindane was left watching as the ball drifted agonisingly wide while he was rooted to the edge of the six-yard line. That goalscoring instinct is sadly lacking, both in Dindane and Piquionne, who should really have headed in himself instead of squaring.
These openings and ultimate shortcomings continue to haunt Hart as all but two of Pompey’s defeats have come by the single goal. Pompey fans will already be thinking back to Hayden Mullins’ excellent chance in the last minute at Birmingham to level, David Nugent’s horror close-range miss against Manchester City to equalise late on, Dindane’s miss against Everton when the scores were goalless – plus the numerous other chances missed in that game. That’s enough points for Pompey to have climbed out of the relegation zone – instead they are rock bottom and in danger of being cut adrift. If those misses are already haunting the struggling Fratton Park side, those nightmares will only increase as the season wears on to an inevitable relegation – if these gift-wrapped chances continue to go unpunished.
However damaging the continuous misses are, it would be unfair to say that’s where the problems stop. Pompey’s diamond formation has been in the main a success in its short career, largely down to the fact it consistently getting the best out of the in-form Kevin-Prince Boateng. The former Hamburg man has shown himself as Pompey’s main – and debatably only – real piece of quality in the final third. He was also the only player who seemed capable of keeping the ball in the midfield, even when Spurs were a man down, as the hustle-and-bustle styles of Michael Brown, Hassan Yebda and Aaron Mokoena leave Pompey short of genuine on the ball quality – something Boateng and the ineligible Jamie O’Hara offer.
Mokoena has yet to endear himself to his new club’s supporters as his performances continue to flatter to deceive. Indeed, this writer stated in the October 16 Club Focus before the match, that Mokoena would be hugely important if Pompey were to get a positive result on Saturday. Spurs’ attacking quality and fluid passing needed to be broken up by the South African, but instead he was something of a headless chicken who was continuously pulled out of position while his distribution was nothing short of abysmal. His form before the Tottenham match resulted in him losing his place to Yebda, something that will probably happen once more as O’Hara is welcomed back next week.
It is another huge game next week for Hart as Pompey travel to the KC Stadium to take on a similarly struggling Hull side. With new owners and a seemingly new era, how long will Hart be given to transform his promising side into one capable of consistently picking up points? Hart’s side lack that ruthless streak at the moment, such a streak the former Nottingham Forest boss will be hoping new owner Ali Al Faraj is also short of, as he tries to rescue Pompey’s flailing season.
Portsmouth Club Focus
New-look Pompey fail to stop rot – September 15
Put your money where your mouth is – September 18
From bad, to worse, to downright horrendous – September 22
Wham, bam, thanks Dindane – September 25
Groundhog Day – September 29
Cirque du Pompey – October 2
The tide turns – October 6
Friends Reunited – October 19
Misfiring strikers continue to cost Pompey dear – October 20