Becchio and Somma on the scoresheet for Leeds

With the well documented financial collapse of both these football teams, it was hard not to draw parallels between Portsmouth’s current struggle and that which saw Leeds United nosedive into League One several years previous. Whilst Leeds United are in the top six and battling to regain their place in the Premier League, Pompey are still struggling with the transition from the top-flight money train to a more financially viable Championship outfit.

The similarities run deeper than recent circumstance however. The self-deprecating and good humoured Portsmouth’s fans, have developed a similarly pessimistic attitude to that of the Whites. A kind of “we’re all just waiting for the next kick in the balls” approach to football – more grateful for having a team, than one expectant on success. A refreshing change after our last away trip took us to the Emirates where the prawn-sandwich nibbling fans can do nothing but moan, despite their team playing some of the most fascinating football in the world and their club running better than a well-oiled German tank.

It’s not only the fans that offer such stark contrast to our last away trip, but the stadia couldn’t be further apart either. From the all metal and glass, sparkling masterpiece of architecture that is the Emirates, to the run-down, almost derelict wasteland of Fratton Park. It was difficult to believe Portsmouth are a club who recently enjoyed the vast wealth that comes with a place in England’s top-flight.

But for all Fratton Park’s flaws – and there are far too many to list – it makes up for it with an atmosphere that would send the Arsenal fans running in panic. It makes you wonder who is really more deserving of a place in England’s top-flight – a community club built on a fanbase of hardcore working-class and vocal supporters, or one with 60,000 corporate season ticket holders, too busy fiddling with their iPhones to pay any real attention to the game? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there…

The game itself was testament to how exciting Championship football can be. The last time these two sides met, Andy O’Brien scored twice to give Portsmouth an unlikely 3-3 draw at Elland Road, but with OB ruled out through injury, Steve Cotterill would be relying on the ageing Kanu and the brilliant David Nugent to provide the home sides goalscoring threat.

I’m sure the manager didn’t have too many concerns going forward however, because, like Leeds, Portsmouth’s real problems are at the back. This was instantly evident as the  confident Max Gradel fashioned out a shot that forced a good saved from Jamie Ashdown inside the opening few minutes.

Unfortunately for the travelling Leeds United fans, that was about as good as the first half got. Max Gradel’s attempt was followed by a scrappy period, from which, Portsmouth took the initiative and set about putting Leeds United under the cosh. Pompey’s efforts paid off on 26 minutes, when Ward slotted home after a good move from Portsmouth.

But for a couple of good saves from Kasper Schmeichel and some last-minute defending from Leeds, Portsmouth could have been even further ahead by the time the players left for their half-time team-talk. “More of the same” will have been Cotterill’s reaction, whilst Simon Grayson had a more difficult task in re-organising his side to get them into the game.

Whatever Simon Grayson’s half time words of wisdom were, they certainly paid off. Within two minutes of the restart, a Robert Snodgrass free-kick found Jonny Howson who gifted Luciano Becchio the easiest of finishes to level the tie and net his 50th career goal for Leeds United.

Either side of the afternoon’s first power failure, Johnson, Snodgrass and Howson all had chances to fire Leeds into the league, but the next goal went against the run of play as some dreadful Leeds United defending saw Utaka get on the end of a long-ball to fire past Kasper Schmeichel and restore Pompey’s lead.

As the Pompey fans celebrated, Simon Grayson brought on Davide Somma, who levelled the scores with his first touch of the game. The speed at which the Whites equalised was so quick, the Portsmouth fans were still celebrating their own goal and trying to mock the travelling Whites.

2-2 and you felt the initiative was now firmly with Leeds United. Aside from the Utaka goal which came totally against the run of play, the second half had been almost entirely dominated by Leeds United. What Simon Grayson had failed to account for in his half-time team-talk however was a power failure that would see the game halted for several minutes, giving Portsmouth a much needed break from the unrelenting pressure Leeds were applying.

The power outage brought the somewhat inevitable chant of “pay up Pompey, Pompey pay up…” Unconfirmed reports suggest the power shortage was caused by Kanu’s 500bhp electric mobility scooter charging in the dressing room, but the official story claims this was an external problem affecting a much wider area and we’re not ones to speculate…

When the lights returned a few minutes later, Leeds picked up where they left off and continued to dominate the game and search for a winner. Just as it started to look as though Pompey were once again crumbling under the attacking pressure of Leeds United, the lights went out again. By now, we were starting to wonder whether Steve Cotterill had a switch down on the bench that deactivated the floodlights when the knackered Kanu was in need of a rest.

Portsmouth v Leeds United take three started minutes afterwards with the away fans trying to figure out how long was left. We estimated somewhere in the region of 3 minutes plus added time, but were either considerably wide of the mark or the referee failed to play any injury time? It would appear to be the latter, which was particularly frustrating for the side dominating proceedings and searching for a winner (us).

As things were, the game finished level and whilst it was hard not to feel annoyed by the floodlights killing our momentum and the lack of extra time, a draw was probably a fair reflection of what had been a great battle between two very good attacking sides with unavoidable defensive frailties.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the banter exchanged between the two sets of fans when the floodlights failed. Other notable moments from the travelling support included a chant in honour of the now-departed Andy Hughes (who was man of the match on his Scunthorpe debut) and a second airing of the FA Cup inspired “who needs Cesc Fabregas, we’ve got Rob Snodgrass…”

TSS MOTM Poll

We’ve changed the format of our man of the match award and will now poll a shortlist of players for 24 hours to determine the winner. You can nominate your man of the match each week using the #TSSMOTM tag on Twitter or on our Facebook fan page.

This weeks nominees are;

Is Benito Carbone McDermott's successor-in-waiting?

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  • Gryff

    It’s a great sign that we’re improving after half time, compared to Autumn when we were looking nervous & deflated after half time. We’ve got so much confidence in the league now, I can’t see us staying in the Championship for more than a couple more years…

  • 5_QUID

    Worrying or what? We have dropped 19 points against teams in the top half of the table and 30 against teams in the bottom half of the table

  • Ron

    Although not losing very often, I agree with 5_quid on the dropped points front. Although Grayson obviously gave the right speech at halftime, I can’t believe he didn’t rotate the squad a little more to give some tired legs a rest. He must have expected a degree of flatness. Granted, with Killa and Nunez away, our bench options are largely in forward positions. I thought McCormack and Sam could have got some time out there though.

  • Dje

    @5_QUID

    Usually I would say yes, but the Championship is so close this year that despite dropping all those points we remain one win away from an automatic promotion position.

    I reckon what is more encouraging is that we are drawing matches that around October time we were losing. Sure, we need to push on now, post Christmas/ New Year fixture congestion, and turns those draws into wins, but I still think we are making league and performance progress from where we were three months ago.

    Eighteen games left, fifty-four points to play for.

  • Dje

    + Good to see Ramon Nunez do his bit with Honduras winning the Central American Cup. He played in all the honduran matches but one, when he was injured, and scored twice. That sounds like a success to me.

    Ironically, what with his regular performances at the 2010 World Cup, that makes Nunez by far are highest level performing player. Which is a bit of a shame then that we have hardly ever have him use that experience in a Leeds shirt. Hopefully the new contract at Leeds sees him in a new dimension.

    • Tim Campbell

      I agree mate about nunez; I’ve been disappointed by his lack of action in a leeds shirt, but after this recent international success i’m expecting to see an extended run in the 1st team. I think we could have a real gem on our hands and larry has to start putting this gem on public display

    • Dje
      • Tim Campbell

        Most valuable player at the tournament!!! Thats remarkable we must have a team of world beaters if he can’t even get a game for us lol

        • Dje

          @Tim Campbell

          Either that or the standard of the Central America Cup is pretty lousy?!

          I love the photo of him collecting the trophy for the ‘Most Valuable Player of the Tournament’, as it looks like his mum giving the trophy, and he looks a bit sheepish accepting it (“Mum! You’re cramping my style here?!”). Bit of an odd name for an award too: ‘Most Valuable Player of the Tournament’. Does that mean he brought the most value to his team and the tournament, or his transfer value with Leeds is more than anyone else at the tournament?

          _________

          Meanwhile, in the semi-finals of the Asia Cup, Kilkenny sits on the sub bench awaiting to go head-to-head with the might of … umm … Uzbekistan.

          Still, ‘you can only beat the team you’re pitted against’ ~ and all that.

          • Tim Campbell

            If we accept that nunez is more of a skill based flair player, then who does he replace in the current team?

  • henry vincent lewis

    What seems to have changed for us is that Davide Sooma has been promoted from no 4 to no 2 striker.
    It is about time.
    I would love to see him & Lucciano start every game together. It may come?

    • Dje

      @henryv

      Do you think Grayson has actually gone for Somma as second striker, or he chose him over Paynter at Portsmouth because we shifted from the ineffectual first half 4-2-3-1 to the more productive 4-4-2 in the second half?

      In that 4-4-2 it wouldn’t make sense to partner Paynter with Becchio, whereas Somma and Becchio is a good partnership. I’m not sure if this means Somma is preferred over McCormack as striker on the bench – but that is largely because I haven’t quite worked out what role McCormack is supposed to be filling / competing for.

      Of course one might say stick with 4-4-2 and play Somma alongside Becchio, but 4-2-3-1 was very productive (ie. helping the defense and still scoring plenty of goals) earlier in the season.

      Grayson might have some thinking to do!

      • henry vincent lewis

        I think/hope that Simon has realised that Somma scores goals, whereas Paynter and McCormack have still to produce.
        If Davide has 9 goals with not a lot of time on the pitch it has to make sense dje.
        Against Arsenal we really missed Luciano as our lone striker.
        Paynter struggled to hold the ball and did not ‘put himself about’.
        I think that may have convinced Simon that it was time for a change.
        Time will tell but Somma would have done as good or better than Billy P’
        against Arsenal, I think.
        Simon had to give Billy and Ross a good go, as he brought them in, but maybe he has seen enough for now?

        • Dje

          @henryv

          I think either Somma or McCormack would have been more productive than Paynter as the lone striker against Arsenal – but more on account of their ability to close down and hustle their back four when they had the ball ~ like Gradel did all match ~ than any particular attacking benefit (for which as loan striker against Arsenal I feel was always going to be limited). Paynter, try as he did, was too cumbersome to do this ever more than fleetingly.

          I still think that Somma (and Paynter) remain substitutes with different tactical options for Grayson to mull over and use during a match. For example, if Becchio hobbled off injured after 12 minutes, I think Grayson would bring on Paynter in his place. Whereas if Becchio was still on the pitch and we just went 2-1 down away at,say, Portsmouth, and the system of Watt and Gradel out wide wasn’t working, then he’d opt for Somma to go upfront alongside Becchio and drop Snodgrass on to the right wing of a traditional 4-4-2. That’s what happened against Southampton. Or, the other way Somma seems to get a game over Paynter is when we are already winning and the opposition are chasing the game with say ten minutes to go. Bring on Somma and let him play off the shoulder of their highline, tired, and pressing defense, by which point there should be lots of room for Somma to get behind the back. Paynter would be too slow and have to wait until Gradel, Howson or Snodgrass had caught up ~ by which point their defense would have had time to scuttle back too.

          I agree about Somma producing more than Paynter and McCormack (but especially Paynter). Unfortunately this starts to trap him in that ‘Super Sub’ role that Gradel mastered in the second half of last season. That is a hell of an asset to have on the pitch, and I can see that as factor for Grayson in sticking with 4-2-3-1 rather than opt for 4-4-2 and go with Somma and Becchio up front from the off, and have McCormack and Paynter on the bench ready to replace them respectively.

          To these regards I think Somma is a victim of his success, and might have to wait until Becchio gets injured / or we have a dip in form before we try out the 4-4-2 on a more permanent basis. Only then can I see Somma get the starting position in the team his form deserves.

  • henry vincent lewis

    or Somma!!

  • henry vincent lewis

    or Luciano!!

  • Sir Quej

    @5_Quid

    To be honest, at the start of the season, if someone had offered my 5th place at this point in the season, I would have bit not only their hand off, they would have been looking for a prostetic shoulder. This season has already exceeded ALL expectations as far as I am concerned and there is still plenty of it left. We just need to get Bradley resigned and bring one or two in during the Jan window and that should pretty much round our season off.

    A place in the playoffs this season would be like being offered a place in a threesome along with Jenifer Love Hewitt & Megan Fox………

    Bring it on (and yes, I do mean the threesome)

  • Jacko

    Just seen 2 rumours. Jonathan Greening and Darren Ambrose?!?!

    • TheReaper08

      @Jacko Where did you see those ?

      • Jacko

        Scrap that!! These could be true, but after looking more at the other rumours on the website, it would appear these could be make believe. It also has a rumour of O’Hara on a season long loan.

        • Dje

          @Jacko

          Betfair.com by any chance?!

  • TheReaper08

    @Sir Quej Totally agree, I am even starting to see the merits of resigning Johnson provided he promises to continue playing like he has done recently.

    As for the threesome, can you promise some pictures ? (Don’t take this personally but I mean of the girls)

  • Sir Quej

    @TheReapero8

    Trust me, if I could manage to organise that, I would be more than happy for you to come and take your own photo’s…….

  • west stand rebel

    At long last some recognition that BJ is an outstanding talent. The abuse he suffered on this site a few weeks ago was incredible. At one time I thought he must be related to Tomas Brolin!
    Sadly I think he will be prised away a la Beckford either now or at the end of the season. He will join a long list of former brilliant footballers who have had their talent spotted and nurtured at ER.
    On another topic anyone like to comment on just 1 win in 8? Is this good enough or are we witnessing our usual second half of the season decline?

  • Dje

    @west stand rebel

    More of a missed opportunity to push on up the league table than any concern of onyl winning one in eight.

    I think our performances have been largely good in those eight games. As ever, more work can be done at the back, we do suffer a tad from ‘a game of two halves, and we don’t turn up for one of them’ syndrome, and there is the usual excuse of fixture congestion and absent players in silly international competitions.

    1 win in the next 8 would be unacceptable though.

  • Dje

    http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/leedsunited/BREAKING-Arrest-warrant-out-for.6700820.jp?

    Not quite Woodgate-Bowyergate territory, but about as welcome.

    Not sure what the world is coming to when you get a warrant for arrest for parking on a pelican crossing.

  • Paul South Wales

    When you say “come” and take your own photos? lol

  • Gryff

    On the Somma/Paynter thing I have absolutely no idea why Paynter is being given so many chances. He’s been a flop, and from what i’ve seen and by most accounts McCormack is doing a lot right without scoring. Surely with Becchio fit Paynter must be his backup, with Somma & McCormack chosen ahead of him? Except for anything else, Somma’s scored quite a few and McCormack has proven his credentials in the Championship. Paynter had one good season in L1 following a few mediocre seasons in the lower leagues!

    As for BJ, now that he’s stopped skying so many when he has opportunities to pass, I think people are being more tolerant. Even if we did re-sign him i’d like at least another centre-mid in January though.

    Nunez has been going forward well for his country but he wasn’t looking so hot in centre-mid. That’s a worry for his chances since we’re doing alright in the up-front areas.

  • Bill

    Song for Snoddy…..he parks on the left, he parks on the right….!!

  • Jim Barnett

    @captaincrash….that boy Snoddy:

    makes Glasgow look tight?
    makes judges sit tight?
    treats warrants with spite?
    stops anywhere for a sprite?!

    I’ll get my coat.

    • 5_QUID

      Good idea

  • Dje

    @Tim Campbell

    Personally, Nunez is competition for Howson / Snodgrass in that central attacking midfield role. That is where he played for Honduras in the Central American Cup and same too in the world cup.

    He looks a nimble player too, so he could offer competition for Gradel or Watt / Snodgrass on the wings ~ depending which foot he is (although I think I read ages back that he was good with either).

    • Tim Campbell

      Agreed mate. Larry might rotate things with nunez to keep things fresh and theres nothing like competition for places to do that!!