Nine men? The Blades struggled to beat the Pompey eight

Last weekend I was reminded of Bramall Lane in December 1986 under Alan Ball.

Tuesday, 15th November 2016, 6:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 5:03 pm
Billy Gilbert, left, was sent off against Sheffield United in 1986 alongside Mick Tait and Kevin Dillon
Billy Gilbert, left, was sent off against Sheffield United in 1986 alongside Mick Tait and Kevin Dillon

We finished the match with eight men following the sending offs of Billy Gilbert, Mick Tait and Kevin Dillon.

However, it took a Paul Mariner own goal on 69 minutes for Sheffield United to beat us.

Those eight players, of which I was one, battled away and dug in to keep the Blades at bay.

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It was constant defending, they really struggled to break us down. They definitely found us difficult to beat.

It happens in football and, while fans can get frustrated, it can be hard to overcome teams forced to sit in following a sending off.

Along similar lines, Mansfield were reduced to nine men in the 74th minute on Saturday – and Pompey handled it correctly.

I thought we passed them to death and wore them down. The best way of tiring a team is to keep the ball.

Possibly Paul Cook’s men could have moved the ball from side-to-side a bit quicker, yet the Stags were chasing shadows and dead on their feet in the end.

The final three goals arrived late, but you play to the whistle in this game.

In fact, our second, scored by Noel Hunt, has been one of our best goals this season, involving 10-12 passes.

Admittedly it came against nine men, but was still fantastically well-worked and a worthy goal.

That’s three points and we move on. It is always about the next game and we must build a run of positive results again.

Pompey have been misfiring all season on the result front, yet are still in and around it. That is encouraging.

There were also some good performances against Mansfield, with Carl Baker getting two late on, which will improve his confidence.

That is what he can do when at it, he’s a player who can cut inside and get his shots off.

He could easily have bagged a hat-trick and hopefully we’ll see more of that.

I’m also delighted for Noel Hunt, who registered his first Blues goal – no doubt extra special being in front of the Fratton end.

Now he’s fit, with injury problems out of the way, I think we will see the best of him.

He demonstrated in pre-season he’s top class and will help Conor Chaplin as well, passing on his experience and know-how, and they could well partner each other.

Hunt is a good pro and whether he has moved ahead of Curtis Main and Michael Smith comes down to Cook and how he wants to use those forward options. Everyone has their own idea.