New boy rues missed chance to down Chelsea stars

Luke Varney
Luke Varney
Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Luke Varney was left to reflect on a missed opportunity after Pompey slipped to a friendly defeat at the hands of Chelsea on Saturday.

But it wasn’t just the new boy’s missed penalty in front of an expectant Fratton end that left him frustrated.

It was more than that.

In Varney’s eyes, Pompey had done enough to get one over last year’s Premier League runners-up.

Varney could hardly be blamed for feeling a tinge of disappointment following the defeat to Andre Villas-Boas’ men.

Making his home debut following a switch from Derby County, the second-half spot-kick was his big chance to make an instant impression in front of the Fratton faithful.

It was an ideal opportunity to add to his well-executed debut goal at the Hawks just five days earlier.

And would also have helped erase the memory of Tal Ben Haim’s calamitous seventh-minute own goal – an error that ultimately handed the Blues’ west London visitors a 1-0 victory.

In truth, though, it wasn’t his failure to beat Chelsea keeper Henrique Hilario from 12 yards that had the striker in reflective mood.

No. He just wanted a result from the fixture – a return he felt Pompey deserved.

Somewhat surprising given the gulf in playing resources, financial clout and pulling power that Blues boss Steve Cotterill and new Chelsea manager Villas-Boas have at their respective disposals.

But it’s a measure of the winning mentality Cotterill is trying to instill in his Pompey players ahead of their 2011-12 Championship campaign.

And for Varney, it comes as second nature.

‘To be honest, I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t get a result,’ said the former Blackpool man.

‘You don’t know how much they actually put into it but we really did well. And if I had put the penalty away we could have got a result.

‘You like to go through pre-season with a good record and even against a high-class side like Chelsea, we’re still slightly disappointed we didn’t get a result.

‘But that just shows the manner in which the gaffer has got us going at the minute.

‘We want to win every game and be competitive in every game – I think that attitude only stands us in good stead.’

A crowd of 19,345 – a record for a Fratton Park pre-season friendly – turned out to see Pompey take on Chelsea for the first time since the 2010 FA Cup final at Wembley.

The Blues lost 1-0 that day, too, with Didier Drogba scoring the winner following Prince Boateng’s penalty miss.

Another missed penalty, this time for Varney, helped settle this latest meeting between the two sides.

But that’s something the striker is keen to put behind him as he looks forward to a long and successful career on the south coast.

‘You don’t want to dwell on it too much because, at the end of the day, it’s a chance I’ve missed,’ said Varney.

‘The gaffer said he didn’t have me as the penalty taker but I just wanted to get off the mark in front of a home crowd.

‘I am not too down about it, though.

‘I enjoyed the game and enjoyed playing in front of the Fratton crowd.’

Varney was delighted to finally experience the famous Fratton Park atmosphere, having never played at his new footballing home during a career that has also seen him turn out for Crewe, Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday.

‘The atmosphere was fantastic,’ he said.

‘It was amazing, a very good home debut and one that I’m really pleased to have been involved in.’