Jamie Wilson's take on Saturday's Fratton defeat
Well it had to happen at some point. Pompey’s marvellous unbeaten league run, stretching back to last season, finally came to an end as Newport County snatched a 1-0 win at Fratton Park with a late and frustratingly soft goal.
An 84th-minute 30-yard free-kick from Andy Sadell looped into the box, missing everyone, and nestled in to the right corner of Paul Jones’s net. The Blues couldn’t be faulted for effort, but they lacked their normal spark and crisp passing allowing Newport’s more direct physical style to steal the win.
Newport kicked the game off with both sides opting for a 3-5-2 formation.
Only five minutes in and Newport’s abrasive and long ball style was clear as they fashioned a half chance from a free-kick that was knocked down and blazed wide from four yards.
However, the first big chance fell for Newport when on 13 minutes Feely crashed a header against the top of Pompey’s goal following a long throw in to the box.
Newport were a big aggressive side and if anyone was under any illusions as to their game plan they were reminded midway through the half when Lee Minshull was booked for another push on Dunne.
It was a scrappy, sloppy affair until a moment of real quality from Pompey on the half hour mark. Craig Wetcarr’s close control and clever pass on the halfway touchline beat two Newport players and set Wallace galloping down the right. His cross picked out Taylor with time and space in the box and his control was good, but his finish flashed painfully just wide of Joe Day’s left hand post.
Pompey prodded and poked and continued tried to try and find some fluency. Newport’s response was to earn a second booking form Mark Byrne after a foul on Ricky Holmes. Holmes took the subsequent free kick which he fired goalwards, taking a slight deflection which the keeper saved well to his left.
But the half petered out and two minutes of added time brought a less than pretty game to an end as Newport’s pressing tactics continued to stifle Pompey’s natural passing game.
HT: Pompey 0 Newport County 0
Pompey kicked off the second half and looked to up the tempo. Newport responded by upending Holmes as Newport’s Hughes became their third yellow of the day.
The game was frustrating and lacked flair and the war of attrition continued as Pompey this time earned their first booking as James Dunne got a ticking off for attempting to block a free-kick.
Pompey, however, were showing signs of slowly, steadily starting to take a grip and a good one-two move between Holmes and Hollands saw the cross headed out for a corner. Devera arrived late as the corner swung in but his header crashed wide.
Proper chances were rare but bookings weren’t as Newport’s fourth came courtesy of Chapman on Dunne.
Midway through the second half Pompey fashioned a good chance after a long ball was expertly knocked down by Taylor to Westcarr, who agonisingly steered it wide under pressure from five yards out in front of the Fratton end.
Pompey’s stuttering and flickering momentum was visible and the crowd tried to help kick-start it with a rousing blast of ‘Andy Awford’s Blue and White Army’ and Newport responded with two subs on 66 minutes with Zebroski and Jeffers on for Jolley and O’Connor.
Minutes later Holmes was then subbed and Miles Storey joined the action going up front with Taylor as Westcarr dropped in to ‘the hole’ as Awford pushed for a win.
It was then that Wallace – who had seemed the mostly likely to create something – drove in a cross which was well defended as Westcarr loomed ready to pounce.
With just over 10 minutes to go Awford brought off Danny Hollands and added Nigel Atangana on as a like-for-like swap.
The niggles continued, though, and as this time Ben Chorley went into the book for a mistimed sliding tackle on the halfway line.
Newport then made their final sub – tellingly Andy Sandell – who immediately fired in a 30-yard shot which Jones scooped over.
Just as the game appeared to be heading for an obvious 0-0, Pompey conceded a soft goal.
Sandell, already with his sights set on goal from earlier, looped in a free-kick from 30 yards. Horribly for Pompey it missed everything… except the back of Pompey’s goal as it took a bounce and nestled in the corner of the net with Jones wrong-footed.
Immediately Awford responded by putting on Andy Barcham for Nicky Shorey and some great skill by Wallace again down the right saw him beat two players and put the ball across, only for Paul Robinson to head over from five yards.
It was to be the final piece of goalmouth action as Newport ran down the clock with a mix of theatrics and time wasting. Wallace’s late foul bringing out a fantastic over-the-top ground level ‘triple salchow’, best seen on the ice skating circuit and the resulting handbags spat saw Wallace, O’Connor and Sandell all enter the ref’s lengthy list of offenders. Four minutes of added time passed and Newport held on.
Overall, a frustrating day at Fratton against a team with a deliberately spoiling game plan. Pompey never clicked in to any kind of fluency, but they weren’t terrible. A bit of luck would have seen a different result. Keep the faith Pompey fans!
Pompey: Jones, Devera, Robinson, Chorley (c), Holmes, Wallace, Dunne, Hollands, Shorey, Taylor, Westcarr
Subs: Brezovan, Butler, Ertl, Awford, Atangana, Barcham, Storey