Ten years ago today Pompey continued their bid for FA Cup glory with a 1-0 victory over Preston North End in the fifth round of the competition.
Here’s Neil Allen’s 2008 report form Deepdale as the Blues began to realise this could be their year...
The FA Cup sat snugly in the confines of the Sky television box.
Perched in front of the main window for a grandstand view of the Deepdale pitch, it provided a mouthwatering glimpse of what the future holds for one of nine clubs.
Let’s just hope they’ve doubled security, increased the armed guard and boosted the presence of CCTV to ensure its safety.
Yet, not even that’s going to be enough to keep Pompey’s hands off it.
It’s written in the stars – and it appears Portsmouth Football Club’s name is written on the famous old trophy too.
If last week’s Bolton triumph was a smash and grab, Preston was the scene of a brutal armed robbery brazenly carried out live on television.
And when the Blues are in this mood there is nothing that can stop them.
You can’t helping feeling the Gods are on Pompey’s side during their current FA Cup campaign. And it’s been too long coming.
Harry Redknapp’s side were fortunate to see off Ipswich, they were lucky to bundle out Plymouth.
Today, they were downright lucky to edge past an excellent Preston outfit who, if there was any justice in this crazy world of ours, would today be anticipating FA Cup glory.
Had it been a fight they would have won on points.
Only this was too one-sided to even be classified as such – the matching was that unfair.
Ultimately, though, the knockout blow was delivered by one of their own – Darren Carter – in the game’s dying seconds with not a Pompey player in the immediate vicinity.
Icelandic warrior Hermann Hreidarsson pummelled the air in response, the relief only too apparent.
He knew, and so did everyone who witnessed the 93 minutes which had unfolded, it was not deserved.
Had it not been for that man-of-the-moment David James, Pompey would have been down and out long before the 93rd minute even kicked into action.
A penalty stop and umpteen saves formed the backbone of a remarkable result for Redknapp and his troops.
They not so much marched into the quarter-finals, rather stumbled battered, bloodied and somehow very much alive.
This was meant to be one of the kindest of draws, a trip to a side fighting for their Championship future and on their second manager of the season.
In contrast, Pompey have travelled light years since Redknapp’s first outing as boss at Deepdale back in March 2002.
The likes of Mark Summerbell and Jamie Vincent lined up on that occasion.
Nowadays, Summerbell reputedly runs a pub in Yorkshire, while Vincent turns out for Swindon.
A galaxy of stars have taken their places.
Yet almost six years later the result could have easily finished the same, with the home side taking the honours.
Not that the Blues boss had been caught out underestimating his opposition, no matter how sorry their season has become.
In keeping with many of his managerial colleagues, Redknapp was not backwards in ringing the changes to the side.
Except, this was one example of FA Cup tinkering with the emphasis on strength.
While the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Blackburn and Co had meddled to their cost, the Blues boss fielded arguably the strongest XI at his disposal.
Glen Johnson, Sulley Muntari, John Utaka, Sylvain Distin and Kanu were all given starting spots having sat out last week’s Bolton triumph.
Not bad replacements considering four have been first-team regulars this season, while the other is Pompey’s joint-top scorer.
Elsewhere, injured duo Pedro Mendes and Noe Pamarot were obvious absentees, as was the cup-tied Jermain Defoe.
Such were the riches at his disposal, there wasn’t even a place on the bench for David Nugent and Sean Davis.
The closest former Lilywhite Nugent got to the pitch was to draw the half-time raffle.
The fixture was deemed a game too soon for his comeback following a hernia operation, while the surprise absence of Davis was credited as nothing more than tactical by Redknapp.
Still, there was plenty of talent remaining to have comfortably crushed Preston. Well, on paper anyway.
Reverting back to the 4-5-1 system which has served so impressive away from home, the Blues welcomed back the counter-attacking talents of Utaka, the hold-up strengths of Kanu and the industry of African Cup of Nations star Muntari.
Even lucky omen Lassana Diarra was in there, a player who had previously yet to be beaten in 23 games in domestic cup competition for Pompey, Chelsea and Arsenal.
And, of course, England’s best goalkeeper was occupying the goal and arguably in the form of his life.
Surely nothing could go wrong?
The first half may have subsequently been dull but at least the visitors had their moments.
Kanu steered a clever header from Johnson’s raking ball which was dealt with comfortably by Andy Lonergan, Niko Kranjcar flashed a fierce drive over and then glanced a header from Muntari’s cross into Lonergan’s arms when he should have done better. Hreidarsson crashed the ball into the side netting, while Kanu had strong appeals for a penalty turned away from referee Mike Dean after Youl Mawene appeared to handle twice.
Come the second half, though, Preston and their fans sensed an upset.
They almost claimed first blood as well when full-back Billy Jones was upended by Distin for a stonewall penalty in the 59th minute.
Winger Simon Whaley volunteered to take his first-ever North End spo- kick – and James did the rest, flinging himself to his right to keep it out.
From then on the hosts dominated as the James show took over, while his Pompey team-mates wilted.
There was a flying save from Chris Brown’s long-ranger, a low stop to thwart Carter, and – the pick of the bunch – a brilliant fiinger-tip save against substitute Neil Mellor.
How Pompey ached for the full-time whistle to at least take Preston back to Fratton Park for another go, their pride and goal still very much intact.
But in the dying seconds, Kranjcar flighted in a corner from the left, chaos ensued before the ball finally crashed into the roof of the Preston net.
Quite who the culprit was at the time, no-one really knew.
Then again, few connected with Pompey cared.
Deepdale had been the crime scene of another piece of daylight robbery from Redknapp and his Pompey gang.
And who would bet on the FA Cup itself also finding its way among their haul?