Monday, May 2, 2011 – Fans’ Day.
By the fans, for the fans, and what a triumph the occasion it was.
Norwich may have been the winners in football terms, a result which returns them to the Premier League.
But it was the fans who were the real victors.
Last night, Fratton Park shook from start to finish, a marvellous cacophony of noise swirling around the famous old ground.
The Blues’ support generated arguably the best atmosphere on home soil this season.
It didn’t matter there was nothing riding on the game for them, it was of little consequence that their team lost.
This was about being a fan of Portsmouth Football Club.
Singing loud and so, so proud – and all in front of the Sky television cameras.
The Canaries’ followers also played their part magnificently. After all, they had plenty to shout about.
Packing out the entire Milton end, they had come to see their team clinch promotion, a feat made possible following Cardiff’s surprise defeat to Middlesbrough earlier in the day.
Unsurprisingly, Delia Smith had joined the convoy to the south coast on a Bank Holiday Monday, arriving in a minibus from Dorset at the Frogmore Road entrance.
Surely no-one would begrudge her and Norwich’s night of glory – certainly not Pompey fans.
It was not about envy and jealousy from the Fratton faithful last night, more a time to celebrate the continued existence of their club.
Earlier in the day, the inaugural Fans’ Day was held in the Fratton end car park, attracting hundreds of supporters.
Organised within six weeks, it was a staggering achievement from a group of volunteers intent on creating a wonderful occasion for the community.
The feel-good factor continued before kick-off, when the Fratton end held up coloured cards to a man, woman and child to make up the numbers ‘1898’ – the club’s founding year.
It was a magnificent sight to behold, so simple yet so stunning.
And while jubilant Norwich fans sung ‘We are going up’, the Pompey following chimed in with a rendition ‘We are staying up’.
It was that sort of day.
Of course, amid it all there was a match taking place.
As ever under Steve Cotterill, his side displayed guts, determination and a steely resilience which has epitomised their spirit this season.
Except last night they struggled to carve out sufficient opportunities to ever look like scoring against Norwich.
As a result, they can have no complaints at the 1-0 scoreline inflicted upon them in the final Fratton match of the campaign.
Still, despite injury doubts over plenty of his players in the build-up, Cotterill made just the one change to the side who drew at Burnley in the previous match.
That was tactical, too, with David Cotterill dropping to the bench and Carl Dickinson coming in to add more steel down the left-hand side.
Joel Ward and Ritchie de Laet both declared their availability having recovered from calf problems which had kept them out of training for much of the build-up.
Hermann Hreidarsson was also fit to continue as skipper, despite concerns he may need a minor knee operation when the season ends.
Norwich almost took the lead within the first two minutes after Aaron Mokoena clattered Canaries skipper Grant Holt with an elbow to gift the visitors a free-kick.
David Fox’s delivery into the box took a deflection and fell into the path of Zak Whitbread, who somehow headed wide from six yards out.
Clearly, Norwich were going to put Pompey under pressure and Holt was the next visitor to go close.
Yet it was the discipline of the hosts which was proving to be just as much of a concern.
Mokoena was booked for a dreadful lunge on Simeon Jackson, while Hreidarsson – who had earlier kicked out at Holt – was booked for tugging back Andrew Crofts.
The Canaries continued to threaten and, on 35 minutes, Fox clipped in a free-kick which was met with a back header from Elliott Ward and bounced just wide.
Mokoena then had to clear off the line when Grant held him off before nudging the ball goalwards.
The shot appeared to be trickling over the line, but the South African defender got back to put it out for a corner.
Pompey went in at the interval having failed to have a single attempt on goal, contributing to a forgettable opening 45 minutes.
Within two minutes of the restart, Holt lobbed the ball over the top and Jackson outpaced Mokoena, only to drag his shot wide.
The former Gillingham forward made no mistake on 50 minutes, though, to finally break the deadlock.
Fox whipped in a sublime cross from the right, catching Ashdown in two minds and Jackson nipped ahead of Ritchie de Laet to net with a diving header at the far post.
Pompey would have their first attempt on goal on 56 minutes when Kanu attempted to deftly flick David Nugent’s shot past John Ruddy, but the keeper was equal to it.
It prompted a far more threatening response from the hosts, yet still they struggled to create any sufficient opportunities.
The scoreline – and Norwich’s fate – was sealed at the final whistle, prompting their supporters to invade the pitch, before the Fratton faithful got the chance to applaud their team as they walked around the pitch.
A fitting end to a turbulent season for the Blues.
After all, the day was all about the fans.