Date: 15th April 2007 at 10:39am
Written by:

“I believe we`ve proved the doubters wrong”. I seem to remember someone chipping in with that quote on the morning after the Sheffield United game. Ah, yes – it was our esteemed manager using his usual ‘uber-positive` spin on things following one good result. Since then we`ve emerged with a semi-creditable draw against Arsenal and yesterday. Yesterday. Mmm yesterday. Somehow his comment about providing the doubters wrong looks further away than ever following the shower served up.

From the off we were put on the back foot with an interesting team selection. Craig Moore, who can`t keep himself fit for longer than 30 minutes, went off after 30 minutes, meaning a rejig of sorts mid game. Quite frankly I can`t see how Roeder accommodated him in the first place following a week on the treatment table. With the lad away at the end of the season it made even less sense. Perhaps I`m being over critical but it just seemed symptomatic of the current regime.

By the time Moore went off however we were already being run ragged. Taylor, so good in his last few games, had a mare by treading on the ball and allowing some gadgie with an extremely unpronounceable Scrabble score name to score. I`ll stick with calling him Benjani as I can only vaguely mumble his surname. Good finish and straight away we`re barely off the bus, plane, train etc and are 1 down.

For the rest of the half Kanu battered the bar and the boy Benjani saw another effort saved by Harper. Then, in probably the most pivotal moment for us, Oba`s header was scrambled off the line by Lauren following a Milner corner.

Half time came and went with our lot looking slightly more lively in the second half. Oba missed a great opening early on when Emre slipped him in, before the Nigerian then crashed one off the bar. It was then you just knew this wasn`t our day. Taylor promptly went up the other end and, as our match preview had succinctly pointed out, he probably put himself in the running for goal of the month from 30 yards.

In the end we did get that consolation goal – an Emre penalty after Milner was cleared out by Stefanovic – and then pushed for the equalizer. Martins had one more chance but James, who had by that time missed out on this infamous clean sheets record, saved it again.

Action over – time for analysis. Again we were a soft touch on the road, perpetrators of our own downfall etc. I`ll not bother with repeating the same stuff as it roughly follows the thread of Charlton, Fulham, Bolton, Everton, Villa away so you`ve heard it at least half a dozen times before. Instead I`ll look at where we can make it up. No doubt Alan Oliver will be slaughtering Martins in Monday`s Chronicle. However on another day he could have had a hat trick. At least we were creating chances, something that has been missing in many of our other away day losses.

Key for me was again the defence. The Moore reshuffle, the early Taylor calamity and the fact Harper was in goal rather than Shay all were the key factors. I genuinely believe Shay would have been faster across goal to stop Taylor`s shot whilst Moore being a crock couldn`t have helped our stability.

In the end though Roeder`s honesty about carrying players was about right. Against Pompey`s lively midfield to be stripped of two players (Duff and N`Zogbia) makes us about as combative as Joe Calzaghe with two broken hands. N`Zogbia needs to have a good look at himself – whether he`s sulking over his role in the side or had his head turned by Wenger`s mob, he needs to get his act together. As for Duff – same old, same old. Next up – the simple task of Chelsea at home. Gulp.