Saturday, January 20, 2007

Faye Accompli

If we are going to pull off a remarkable escape from relegation, there will no doubt be a game that we look back upon and say, "That was the turning point." This could be that game.

Every single one of the players deserves immense credit for putting in a committed performance which was very much a case of 'back to basics'......constant harrying, sensible defending, and pacy counter-attacking.

Predictably Ben Thatcher received some vitriol, though in fairness it was somewhat restrained, and he put in a composed performance which shut up the Pompey fans well before the end. Indeed although I had suggested we might benefit from leaving him out of the team, infact the home fans were so intent on making his afternoon as miserable as possible, they conveniently forgot it was just another Premiership game, an attitude that ultimately filtered down to their players.

So our run of away games without a win is finally over, though now it becomes 484 days since a Premiership away win anywhere other than Fratton Park. It's certainly a happy hunting ground for the Addicks, although not an especially popular day trip for our fans judging from the limited number who made the relatively short journey. Having been sat on that self-same terrace when Charlton fans have populated the whole end, it was a little disappointing to see. Then again, having been sat on that self-same terrace, I can fully understand their reasoning; the Premiership can hardly claim to be the 'greatest League in the world' when fans are housed in such diabolical accommodation.

Sheffield United's defeat and Newcastle's fightback made today even more special; I might even consider making an early trip to the pub tomorrow to cheer on Everton at Wigan, whose two games in hand over us are rather winnable (they also visit Watford to replay the abandoned fixture). However mathematics aside, the most important thing today is that we have acquired some 'belief'.....belief that we can win away from the Valley; belief that we can soak up pressure for 80 minutes, then go on to steal all the points; and ultimately perhaps, belief that we can stay in the Premiership. If today's result has instilled that, then Pards for me has already fully justified his appointment.

Here are my proprietary ratings for those that started:

Carson 8 - had little to do in truth, but that late save was world-class and worth two points and an 8 rating
Sankofa 6 - I'm not convinced he's Premiership class (Micah Richards he ain't) but you can't fault his effort
Thatcher 8 - usually a 7, but in these circumstances demonstrated professional aloofness
El Karkouri 7 - played with his usual enthusiasm, a little too much at times evidenced by daft free-kicks conceded
Hreidarsson 7 - introduced his new long throw-in weapon at various points; when he keeps it simple at the back, he's a true asset not a liability
Faye 8 - solid throughout and played well within his limited ability; his goal was well-crafted, slightly fortunately executed but thoroughly deserved
Holland 8 - has deservedly impressed in recent weeks, and today was no exception
Hughes 7 - faded towards the end, but one of his best performances the club; unlucky with first-half chance
Rommedahl 6 - as usual he got in some great positions and then lost his composure
Thomas 6 - very clearly upped his normal work-rate and should be commended for that alone
Bent M 7 - worked tirelessly (for once), held the ball up when he could and brought others into the play

It's Bolton away next, who have an additional FA Cup game at Arsenal to contend with before we meet them. We've conceded eight goals during our last two visits there, however a midweek game infront of what is bound to be a sub-20,000 attendance might just create the type of tepid atmosphere we can exploit. It's all about belief, you see.


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