Today marks the 10th anniversary of Pompey’s dramatic run towards FA Cup final glory.
Back on January 5, 2008, Harry Redknapp’s Blues began their campaign in the famous old competition with a third-round tie at Championship Ipswich.
It was a match they narrowly won 1-0 thanks to substitute David Nugent’s 51st-minute strike – and the heroics of goalkeeper David James.
At the end of an enthralling 90 minutes at Portman Road, no-one could have predicted the win was the first sensational step towards Cup final glory against Cardiff five months later and
the greatest moment in Pompey’s post-war history.
To mark 10 years since that magnificent occasion, The News is going to retrace the steps taken by Pompey right up to that May 17, 2008, moment and Kanu’s historic winning goal at Wembley.
We’ll mark each round of this year’s competition by bringing you the match report from Pompey’s corresponding Cup match, plus pictures, from the day.
We start it off with Neil Allen’s match report from Portman Road...
It took a right foot to dig the foundations and then a right foot to build on them.
But it was a right hand which ultimately proved decisive as Pompey avoided becoming another FA Cup giant-killing statistic.
Liam Trotter’s one-footed lunge may have offended referee Mark Halsey more than Pompey’s players, management and fans alike.
True, its aftershock strangled Ipswich’s hopes of extending a staggering unbeaten home run to 18 matches in all competitions.
Then again, it was the right boot of substitute David Nugent which provided the difference.
The cup king did it again with a composed 51st-minute finish following Sol Campbell’s ball over the top.
Yet, how Pompey were indebted to David James.
And if it wasn’t for his late, late intervention, Harry Redknapp would this morning be licking his wounds like so many fellow top-flight managers.
Strikers may score the goals to settle contests, but on this occasion it was James who truly was the match-winner.
In the dying moments he sprang to life, flinging himself to his right to firstly brilliantly palm away Alan Lee’s towering header.
Moments later, he reacted magnificently for his best trick yet – a flying finger-tip stop from the impressive Danny Haynes’ fierce drive.
Not bad for a player who had spent much of the second half as the target of cruel ‘England’s number four’ barbs from the home fans.
Those comments prompted a reaction of genuine bewilderment on the 37-year-old’s face.
Yet, it was the Ipswich players who were later sporting similarly perplexed looks as James proceeded to pull off his two stunning stops.
Not that Pompey weren’t worthy of their win, far from it.
Below par they may have been against a side fielding 10 men for more than an hour, yet they still carved out enough chances to have cantered to victory.
Had Papa Bouba Diop’s radar not been broken, he could have even helped himself to a maiden Pompey goal before signing off for African Cup of Nations duty.
Instead, though, the midfielder produced one shocking miss as well as three other almighty heavehos into the crowd from distance.
Admittedly, the one he did get on target in the second half from Glen Johnson’s free-kick brought an excellent save from Neil Alexander in the Town goal.
Still, it wasn’t nearly enough.
As for John Utaka, what a way to mark his swansong before Ghana beckoned, kicking air at the far post two yards out with an open goal at his mercy.
To think, there was a miss almost as memorable as his hit against Bolton.
Their wastefulness made James’ contribution even more crucial as Redknapp’s patched-up Pompey side stumbled rather than swaggered into the fourth round.
And patched-up they really were. Such was the Blues’ absentees, three defenders occupied spaces alongside Asmir and Nugent on the bench.
Pedro Mendes and Noe Paramot may have returned to the squad but they had lost hip injury victim Richard Hughes, while Sulley Muntari had a foot complaint.
Meanwhile, wantaway Matt Taylor was omitted entirely, with Redknapp insisting his mind wasn’t on the job while a clutch of clubs battle for his signature.
Not that Pompey fans can ever expect to see the popular midfielder in their side again after Pompey accpeted bids from two Premier League clubs, thought to be Bolton and Reading.
Add his absence to the decision to rest Benjani Mwaruwari, and with Sean Davis, Jamie Ashdown and Martin Cranie and Linvoy Primus still out, the Blues boss really was down to his
much-vaunted bare bones.
Yet, ultimately, that lack of attacking options at his finger tips was to swing the match in Pompey’s favour as Nugent stepped forward – with great effect.
For so long the third fiddle among the strikers, the 22-year-old substitute made the most of Benjani’s absence to become the second striker as Redknapp switched to 4-4-2 after the
And it was poetic that the striker, who can’t stop scoring in the cup, should net the only goal of the game.
His finish was clinical, taking his tally to three in four cup matches this season.
Had the crossbar not intervened following a half-volley from Utaka’s right-wing cross, he may even have grabbed an unlikely double.
Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.
After all, Nugent’s now scored five goals in four games at Portman Road, including an England under-21 strike.
Still, it was the longest the former Preston man has spent on the pitch since the October 31 defeat against Blackburn.
Even then, inevitably that was in the Carling Cup.
One hopes the Liverpudlian can now kick-start his Premier League career as he looks to take advantage of Kanu’s African Cup of Nations departure.
Redknapp has promised him a chance to impress, so treat Ipswich as nothing more than a warm-up act before the main event.
Judging from Saturday, he may, just may, be able to seize the initiative.
Perhaps it’s indicative of Nugent’s luck, though, that his big day should be overshadowed by both referee Halsey and the excellent James.
Before Halsey struck, Diop had already embarrassingly missed from six yards out, heading Utaka’s perfect cross weakly into the ground, allowing the keeper to comfortably gather.
But on 24 minutes came the Bolton-based official’s decision which was to steal Nugent’s hardearned limelight.
Trotter’s lunge appeared to warrant nothing more than a booking, yet out came the red and Ipswich’s task had increased considerably.
Not that the hosts were content to sulk over the injustice of it all.
They continued to produce some excellent attacking play which had already been in evidence before the dismissal.
In fact, Billy Clarke almost gave them the lead on the stroke of half-time, only to see Glen Johnson scoop the ball off the line from just a yard out.
After the break, with the scores still level, Haynes saw an angled drive wonderfully stopped by the right hand of James.
Moments later, Nugent struck and it wasn’t until the 84th minute before Ipswich came close again.
On this occasion, James pushed out substitute Lee’s header.
The England man’s hat-trick of saves were completed in the final seconds when he clawed away another Haynes effort.
The boos went to Halsey, while the plaudits went to Nugent.
But the real hero of the hour-and-a-half was none other than David James.
Pompey: David James 9, Glen Johnson 6, Sylvain Distin 7, Sol Campbell 7, Hermann Hreidarsson 6, Pedro Mendes* 7, Arnold Mvuemba 7, Papa Bouba Diop 6, Niko Kranjcar 6, John Utaka 6, Kanu 5. Sub: David Nugent