By Matt Davies
After my six month absence from Fratton Park, it felt good to finally be back on Tuesday night. A new squad, coming into the game off the back of a three-game unbeaten run, gave me a bit of somewhat rare optimism coming into this game, and I fancied a fairly comfortable win against a Wycombe side that currently sit 22nd in League Two.
It seemed that, like most of the fans in the stadium, the Pompey team were expecting a fairly comfortable game from the off last night. That feeling lasted for around 13 seconds, after Wycombe took one of the earliest leads they’ll ever be gifted. A sweeping pass out wide from the kick-off found Joel Grant, who squirmed past Adam Webster before curling one into the back of Simon Eastwood’s net.
The Fratton end had only just finished their second rendition of ‘Play Up Pompey’ when the ball hit the back of the net. A moment of shock, before the loud as ever fans started up ‘Blue Army’ to spur the lads on once more.
It didn’t really work. Eight minutes later and Wycombe were back to heap more misery on Eastwood and his seemingly non-existent defence.
Another good passing play from Wycombe, with Lubomir Michalik being easily beaten on the edge of the area, lead to a goalmouth scramble that resulted in a poor clearance falling to Wycombe’s Dean Morgan, who had no problem finding the bottom corner from close range. This definitely wasn’t what anyone had expected.
Pompey, who had just played possibly the worst opening ten minutes I’ve experienced at Fratton, did buck their ideas up a little. A good bit of play involving Akos Buzsaky in his first start for Pompey, opened up a chance for Izale McLeod who had his low drive well turned away from goal by Wycombe keeper Nikki Bull.
A Pompey corner, and a chance for Gabor Gyepes to show off his goalscoring ability again. Indeed, it was the Hungarian who rose highest to meet Brain Howard’s outswinging corner, only to see his goal-bound header tipped over by Bull.
The chants rang out around Fratton again as the fans sensed a change of fortunes, but unfortunately Pompey were once again back to their dodgy defending, with dangerman Jo Kuffour again riding a challenge on the edge of the area from Michalik, and easily beating Eastwood, only to see his effort come back off the post. A lucky escape for Pompey.
In fairness to the Blues, this did spark a better performance from them. The defence upped their game and the passing moves started to come off. However, this only served to stifle the Wycombe attacks, and the next 20-minutes really fizzled down to Pompey failing to find blue shirts with their crosses, although Wes Thomas and Buzsaky did both come close.
Injury time came, and it looked like Pompey were going in with it all to do in the second half. Then came a lifeline in the form of a low Thomas cross that fell at the feet of McLeod, with the striker lashing the ball into the back of an empty net. A very good time to score, and the players trudged in for words with Appy.
HALF-TIME: Pompey 1-2 Wycombe
Pompey, kicking towards the Fratton End now, started the second-half in a much different manner to the first. A corner from Buzsaky found the head of Gyepes, although this time his effort was blocked by a solid Wycombe defence. A couple more crosses from Webster and Howard caused problems in the box, with one falling for McLeod in space on the edge of the area, but the goalscorer could not connect with the volley.
A promising start from Pompey developed further as a ball over the top sent Thomas through, however the Bournemouth loanee struggled to control, before firing his shot well wide. Gyepes then drilled an effort narrowly wide.
Any momentum Pompey had made from this good start was soon lost as Wycombe broke down the wing. Some silky skills from Bruno Andrade allowed him to beat Webster, with the youngster eventually conceding a penalty for a trip on the tricky winger. This served to complete a fairly miserable night for the local lad, who had a disappointing match, which is a shame for such a promising young player. Morgan stepped up to see his penalty wonderfully saved to the left by Eastwood. A roar from the Fratton End was quickly subdued, as the parry came back to Morgan, who has able to head into the empty net. This game was sliding away from Pompey.
Appy introduced a lively Ashley Harris, to the delight of the crowd and, spirit never broken, Pompey attacked again. Yet another header by Gyepes from a Buzsaky corner was saved by Bull, before the former QPR man won a free-kick 25-yards out from goal.
One final chance for the Blues to edge their way back into the game. It wasn’t our night though, and Buzsaky’s final action was to cannon his shot into the wall. Luke Rodgers replaced the former QPR man, who received a standing ovation, for the final ten minutes, which went by without any really good chances for either side, although Wycombe did see a fourth goal ruled out.
FULL TIME: Pompey 1-3 Wycombe
A disappointing night overall, although despite the loss I did really enjoy seeing my team again after such a long wait. Perhaps one of the best things to take away was the wonderful Fratton atmosphere once again generated. For just 7,000 it was wonderfully loud and any anti-Chainrai chants that may have been around earlier in the season weren’t present last night. A credit to the club.
Sometimes we expect too much, and that was probably what happened last night. The team obviously still needs time to gel, and we’re never going to be world-beaters, however it is worrying to see some sloppy passes and weak defending. The positive is this doesn’t really matter, it’s much better that we concentrate on league. We can let our mates down the road have this trophy; we’ve still got our FA Cup, after all…