Harry Redknapp was left to rue a handful of missed chances as his side played out a pulsating draw with Portsmouth this afternoon.
If the pre match chat was about concern regarding the two sets of fans behaviour, the clamour at the final whistle was about the quality of the game, with both sides allowing the end-to-end football to do the talking.
Heurelho Gomes - 6 - My Saturday league side employs a defender to take goal kicks because, despite being built like a brick privy, our goalkeeper can't kick the ball past the halfway line. Gareth Bale and Vedran Corluka took turns deputising for Gomes, whose injury picked up against Wigan means he also can't kick the ball. So little faith does Redknapp have in his understudy, Cesar Sanchez, that Harry dare not risk playing the Spaniard, so Gomes soldiered on bravely. His inability to launch the ball far into the Pompey half hampered our efforts to break our opponents down, especially towards the end, but apart from one slip, the Brazilian had a solid game.
Vedran Corluka - 7 - Classy and reliable throughout, the Croatia international has been gaining in confidence over the past few weeks and, slowly but surely, his forays forward are becoming more effective. Did superbly well to deny Arman Traore a certain goal in the first half.
Jonathan Woodgate - 7 - A typically consistent performance from Woodgate who was given no rest by the industrious Peter Crouch.
Ledley King - 6 - Denied a goal by a superb save from David James, King was dependable until injury forced him off minutes before the break. As he struggled on he misjudged David Nugent's position, and was unable to get back in time to prevent the Portsmouth striker getting an albeit tame shot away.
Gareth Bale - 5 - It was no coincidence that Portsmouth looked most dangerous when the had the ball on the right wing. Say what you like about his ability going forward, Bale is struggling to hold his own defensively. There were brief flashes of promise but two often he let his own impetuous nature allow him to get pulled out of position, giving Nugent the space to dash through on goal in first half, then too much space to score in the second. Unlikely to retain his place when Ekotto returns from suspension and has done little to persuade Harry he deserves a place in the starting eleven in the Cameroon full-backs absence.
Aaron Lennon - 8 - A persistent threat down the right hand side. Lennon has grown as a player this season and probably only lacks the powerful shot that would make him a top quality winger. That said there were flashes of brilliance from the little winger, whose chipped cross set up a Defoe header which James did brilliantly to deny. Then in the second half his jinking run and deflected cross brought out the best in the Portsmouth keeper yet again.
Didier Zokora - 6 - Not a bad performance from the Ivorian but not a particularly effective one either. It's difficult to put a finger on exactly what is most frustrating about his game but, simply put, it is rarely the sum of its parts. By that I mean he has all the ingredients of a top midfielder - driving forward runs, decent at tackling, a great engine - but he rarely engages all three of these at the same time. Today was very much indicative of this: one step forward, one step back. He must work on his consistency if he is ever to make his mark at the club.
Luka Modric - 6 - It as no surprise that the diminutive Croat did all his best work in the final third of the pitch. After all that is where he thrives. He showed great awareness to slot the ball to Defoe for the equaliser, for instance. However, he is significantly less effective when used as a traditional, box to box, central midfielder. He gave away the ball when pressured in our half on more than one occasion and, when forced to defend, looks a shadow of the player he could be. Harry must find a way of playing him, and two strikers, if he is to have a future at the club.
Jamie O'Hara - 6 - A typically all-action display from the man keeping David Bentley on the bench but if he proved the difference against Burnley, his impact was negligible this afternoon and his crossing was unusually poor. Lacking the pace to beat his man or force the ball to the byline, O'Hara is not the answer to our problems on the left side of midfield. However, he is a battler and Redknapp has precious few of those available to him.
Jermain Defoe - 7 - They say the sign of a great goalscorer is that they don't dwell on missed opportunities. If they miss a good chance one minute, it will not be in the back of his mind when he gets another. Defoe certainly had a lot of forgetting to do when the ball fell on his left foot, 20 yards out, his side one-nil down and in desperate need of a goal. The finish was emphatic - a searing drive with his weaker foot into the bottom right hand corner - and testament to his character, because on another night he could, should, have had several more. His first chance, falling after he was put through by Sean Davis' hospital pass across the Pompey defence, was a golden opportunity and one a striker of his calibre should not be passing up. His second was more difficult, a header tipped over the bar by James, but still, Defoe would have expected to score, such are the high standards he sets himself. No sign of a partnership developing between him and Pavlyuchenko, though the injury that forced the Russian off in the first half meant they had little time to work on it.
Roman Pavlyuchenko - N/A - Not on the pitch long enough to give a fair assessment of his performance. Might have scored had his shot not his Jermain Defoe.
Darren Bent - 4 - A run out our current top scorer will want to forget in a hurry. Up until his woeful miss Sol Campbell had marshalled Bent with complete ease, the out-of-favour forward struggling to make any impact on the game. When he did find space he either scuffed his shot or, when set up on a plate by David Bentley, he headed inexplicably wide with the goal at his mercy. Now poor misses happen to even the best strikers now and again, so that's not the most worrying part of his performance. Of more pressing concern is his complete lack of movement, body strength and first touch, which were, quite frankly, awful this afternoon.
David Bentley - 7 - A decent cameo from the much loathed winger. Although at times he was at his frustratingly indulgent worst (honestly, what is the point of shooting from a free kick from 40 yards?!) his introduction did provide us with impetus down the left. He showed us his best when he brought down a long ball and then gifted Bent with what looked like the winner, and will be as frustrated as his team mate that it wasn't put away.
Michael Dawson - 6 - Was given a tough work out by Peter Crouch but coped reasonably well. Will no doubt be called upon on a regular basis given King's latest injury.
David James - 9 - Pompey owe their point to him.
Glen Johnson - 7 - Solid.
Sylvain Distin - 7 - A strong presence.
Sol Campbell - 9 - His best performance on returning to the Lane that I've seen.
Nadir Belhadj - 7 - Dangerous forward runs
Younes Kaboul - 6 - Struggled to impose himself
Sean Davis - 7 - worked hard.
David Nugent - 7 - Took goal well, but should have scored in the first half.
Niko Kranjcar - 5 - Ineffective.
Armand Traore - 7 - full of running
Peter Crouch - 7 - Worked hard and imposed himself as the lone striker.
Man of the Match: David James
Produced a dozen top saves to keep his side in the game and demonstrated why, on his day, he should be England's first choice goalkeeper.
Overall Portsmouth will be proud of a hard earned point and should be applauded for coming to the Lane and giving as good as they got - as any side worth their salt should do given our lack of confidence and form.
It was an even fought match and although both sides traded good chances, and it could be argued that the draw was a fair result, we should have come away with all three points. Given the sheer number, and quality, of the opportunities we had, we should have scored three or four. Instead we edged out of the bottom three on on goal difference and ensured a long and nervous final third of the season for Harry Redknapp and his players.