Monday, October 03, 2005

Shay saves the day

Portsmouth 0 - 0 Newcastle

A third consecutive clean sheet - wonders will never cease. This one, though, owed much more to the athleticism and reactions of our Irish stopper than it did to the efforts of the ineffectual and sloppy defence that lined up in front of him at Fratton Park.

Dyer's anticipated recovery from injury failed to materialise, and while Taylor returned from suspension to take the place of the injured-again Bramble, we had reason to curse our young centre-back for his part in the training ground collision which left Owen with a dead leg and unable to feature.

Prior to kick-off it was something of a relief to know that we'd ensured Laurent Robert would be ineligible to play against us, given what happened in this fixture two seasons ago with the then on-loan Lomano Lua Lua - himself ruled out of the game with illness.

Pompey started brightly, Uruguayan striker Dario Silva forcing Given into stretching out a leg to make a crucial save reminiscent of the one he produced early on last week to deny Man City's Antoine Sibierski.

While Given was kept busy throughout the half, we looked woeful in possession, never looking likely to threaten the Pompey goal. Shearer was ponderous, and Owen's replacement Ameobi a waste of space. And to think - Owen, like ourselves, must have been rubbing his hands in glee at the thought of facing old boy Andy O'Brien. As it was, the big-conked Irishman won't have had many easier afternoons.

The second half saw more of the same, our only contributions of note being an off-target shot that lacked conviction from Parker and an overzealous tackle on Gregory Vignal from Bowyer that should have seen the hothead booked.

Given preserved the point with two more brilliant saves at the death. First he tipped over from Matthew Taylor at point-blank range, and then, from the resulting corner, he pushed Taylor's header away to his left (though the man on the line would probably have prevented it sneaking in anyway).

So, a scarcely deserved point against a demoralised odds-and-sods team that we should have been able to beat in our sleep, whether or not we were deprived of Solano, Emre, Luque, Dyer and Owen.

Last weekend I noted, along with Stuart Pearce, that Owen was clearly the difference between ourselves and Man City, and without him on Saturday we looked useless. It was down to Given to save us from defeat.

Back to our bad old ways, then, and the international break could have come at just the right time.

Other reports:, Razz's Toon Rants, BBC, Guardian


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