The Portsmouth Men’s Second team provided a worthy curtain raiser for the Varsity weekend’s football, as they did well to overcome a spirited Southampton side 3-2.
Portsmouth started lethargically, caught on the back foot by a pressing, high-energy Southampton side. In the early minutes Southampton sensed Portsmouth’s tentativeness as even their defensive line began to push into Portsmouth’s half. However, Southampton failed to convert any of their offensive pressure into meaningful chances, with their labour in the first fifteen minutes of the match culminating in a penalty appeal that failed to convince the referee.
As Southampton’s early effervescence faded, Portsmouth settled into the game and provided the first big chance, hitting the bar twice within a matter of seconds. After drawing a foul in the opposition half, Portsmouth’s No.21 sent his free kick deep into the area where the Portsmouth No.9 bravely headed the ball from close range onto the bar. The ball rebounded quickly back to the No.9, who failed to control his second header, hitting the bar once more before the Southampton goalkeeper hastily up gathered the loose ball.
Southampton responded quickly, as their No.9 did well to keep a half volley from the edge of the box on target, forcing the Portsmouth ‘keeper to parry the ball out for a corner. But Southampton came closer still as No.9 dribbled past two players on the left side, firing a driven cross through the six-yard box. Unfortunately, the pace of the delivery was just too much as Southampton’s No.11 was inches from connecting for a certain goal. At this point, the game was very open, with Portsmouth and Southampton trading blows like a couple of prizefighters. Portsmouth again came close as No.9 capitalised on defensive hesitance, robbing a defender in the Southampton area. No.9 then picked out Portsmouth No.21 well 12 yards out, but his scuffed effort dribbled disappointingly wide of the right hand post.
But No.21’s blushes were spared, as Portsmouth won a penalty minutes later. No.9’s continued pressure paid off, as he won a ball deep in the opposition half once more. As he raced towards goal, the frustrated defender attempted to tackle No.9 from behind, conceding the penalty as a result. Portsmouth No.12 put the penalty away coolly, drilling the ball into the roof of the net to open the scoring.
At this point, Portsmouth’s grip on the game tightened. No.45, No.21 and No.9 worked particularly
well together in attack, drawing a number of saves from the impressive Southampton goalkeeper. But he could nothing about Portsmouth’s inevitable second goal. No.45 utilised his pace well, driving forward to the byline before standing his cross up tantalisingly at the back post for No.9 to power his header into the top left hand corner. It was a deserved reward for No.9’s relentless pressing throughout the first half.
The second half began nervously for Portsmouth, as the relatively untested goalkeeper played the ball to the Southampton No.9 at the edge of the box. Thankfully, the Portsmouth No.2 was aware and managed to apply enough pressure to the Southampton No.9, whose tame effort was blocked easily by the apologetic Portsmouth ‘keeper. As the match surpassed the 60-minute mark, the pace of the game slowed considerably and more errors seeped into play. Portsmouth looked lethargic once more, as the Portsmouth No.45 provided the only real source of industry at this point in the match. The fatigue would prove costly for Portsmouth as the Southampton No.3 pounced on a loose ball in midfield, with his flick header looping the ball in behind the Portsmouth backline for the Southampton No.9 to chase. No.9 handled the 1-on-1 well, slotting the ball in off the post from the edge of the box, reviving Southampton’s chances of a recovery.
The Portsmouth coach responded almost instantaneously, bringing on No.16 on the left wing to hopefully inject some energy into his tiring side. And No.16 almost made an immediate impact as No.21’s searching cross bypassed everyone to find him at the back post unmarked. Unfortunately No.16 was still a bit too green and fired his shot way over the bar from less than six yards for what should have easily been 3-1 to Portsmouth and most likely victory secured. But as previously iterated, the game was one where chances came in twos and threes, and No.16 soon made up for his howler with a carbon copy of Portsmouth’s second goal. His enticing cross found No.21 lurking at the back post and he made no mistake in powering his header into top right hand corner, far out of the Southampton ‘keeper’s reach.
The celebrations were short-lived though as Southampton were awarded a penalty on their first attack after Portsmouth’s third goal. This time Southampton’s No.10 stepped up, powering his penalty in off the left hand post to bring his side into contention once more. The final minutes predictably produced much drama as Southampton pushed desperately for an equaliser and Portsmouth dug deep in their attempts to hold out for the win. However, Portsmouth had yet another chance to seal the win as No.21 had his flicked header tipped brilliantly onto the underside of the bar by the Southampton goalkeeper before Southampton came incredibly close to levelling the game. No.10 came close to his second goal as his driven shot from the edge of the area was deflected onto the post before the ball was cleared for a corner. As the game entered stoppage time, Southampton continued to bombard Portsmouth’s defence, with the goalkeeper even making a late charge upfield for a corner. Fortunately, Portsmouth’s resilience was enough as they held out for the win, kicking off the Varsity football campaign with a well-earned victory.
This encouraging win is sure to boost the Portsmouth Men’s Second team ahead of their final fixture of the season. With four wins in their last six games to go alongside Varsity victory against their rivals Southampton, Portsmouth will be confident of solidifying 3rd place in the division when they play second-placed Buckingham New on March 22nd.