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…”


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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