Millwall 0 - Pompey 1

Pompey keeper Luke McGee. Picture: Joe Pepler

Keeper on Pompey’s hunt for a little extra

0
Have your say

It was a toss up which was the more surprising occurrence at The Den last night.

There was Pompey, picking up their first away victory in league football for eight long, barren months.

Meanwhile, a certain Sulaiman Al Fahim was rubbing shoulders with the 1,169 Blues fans in the Millwall away end.

From the sublime to the ridiculous perhaps sums up the situation rather succinctly.

Not that the bold presence of the former owner among the fans he badly let down should be allowed to distract from yet another excellent Blues victory.

After all, this was a rare triumph on the road – the last time such a feat being achieved was back on February 27 at Burnley in the Premier League.

Incidentally, that was just 48 hours after the club had been put into administration.

Al Fahim, undoubtedly, played a part in that outcome following his farcical six-week tenure.

Mind you, as did Balram Chainrai – the man who is now bidding to become owner once again before this week is out.

Strange how these things come around again, likewise the same characters popping up again.

Yet there was Al Fahim, seated high in the visiting end only too pleased to impart to anyone who listened about his determination to reclaim the club.

At least it was a rather more low-key presence to the one which saw him unveiled at Fratton Park during the early stages of last season.

And at least he was free to munch on a cheese burger without fear of disproving looks – memories of his food habits in Pompey’s boardroom still fresh among many.

Still, last night should be focused purely on football and the continuing renaissance of Steve Cotterill’s men.

Granted, Al Fahim’s attendance was a surprise, yet none of the away following should have been shocked at the sight of a Blues win away from Fratton Park.

As Cotterill observed himself in his post-match press conference, it had certainly been coming.

Defensive mishaps and refereeing errors cost them at Crystal Palace, while outrageous misfortune robbed them at Sheffield United.

Then there was the stirring fight back at Middlesbrough the previous time they left the south coast, which saw them clinch an unlikely 2-2 draw.

Millwall represented the next step on the road to recovery – and didn’t they take it with both hands.

Liam Lawrence was a 12-minute substitute for Stoke against Arsenal the last time Pompey won away.

This time around, he was Cotterill’s match-winner as he once again displayed his quality from the penalty spot.

In a tight, gritty affair, played in a typically intense Den atmosphere, the decisive moment came in the 78th minute.

David Nugent, newly installed at left wing to accommodate the substitute arrival of Kanu, surged into the penalty area.

The otherwise excellent Chris Hackett felled him as he cut inside and Lawrence did the rest.

It was the 28-year-old’s fifth goal in nine Pompey games – three of them from the spot – as the goals continue to flow from midfield.

On this occasion it proved decisive, settling a contest to lift his side into 15th spot in the Championship table.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Cotterill’s makeshift defence also impressed as they picked up their first clean sheet in eight matches.

That achievement was even more worthy considering the inspirational Ricardo Rocha hobbled off during the first half.

The Blues lined-up with Ibrahima Sonko in for the suspended Aaron Mokoena for his first league start for more than two months.

Greg Halford also replaced Joel Ward at right-back, ending a run of eight matches for the youngster who has earned so much praise from Cotterill.

In the end, however, Ward was back involved before the first half had finished after Rocha pulled a hamstring in his left leg.

That prompted a reshuffle, with Halford moving across to the centre of defence – and the debutant didn’t let the Blues down.

But that match-winning penalty aside, there was little in the way of goalmouth action at either end to warm fans sitting in all ends of the ground.

Darren Carter shot straight at Jamie Ashdown in the ninth minute, while it would take until the 33th minute for John Utaka to fire Pompey’s first effort on-target – a moment comfortably dealt with.

The first half closed with Nugent put clean through, only to stop the momentum in order to switch feet – his resulting shot blocked by the back-peddling defender.

The second period saw substitute Liam Trotter send a back header against the post.

Then, on 66 minutes, fellow sub Alan Dunne had a 25-yard half volley clip the top of the bar.

For Pompey, Nugent shot from distance straight at keeper David Forde but still the goals refused to come.

Then Lawrence struck his penalty to send the visiting fans into a rendition of ‘We’re going to win the league’.

A flight of fancy perhaps.

Then again, Al Fahim knows all about that.