ON THIS DAY: Slack start but Pompey progress

Nico Kranjcar celebrates after putting Pompey in front against Plymouth in 2008. Picture: Steve Reid
Nico Kranjcar celebrates after putting Pompey in front against Plymouth in 2008. Picture: Steve Reid
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We relive Pompey’s FA Cup victory over Plymouth Argyle at Fratton Park on Saturday, January 26, 2008.

Harry Redknapp’s Blues were well on their way to lifting the trophy at Wembley after the showdown with the Pilgrims.

Here’s the Sports Mail report filed by chief sports writer Neil Allen from that game...
Pompey kept their FA Cup hopes alive with a narrow victory over a dangerous Plymouth Argyle.

This was no walk in the park on a Saturday afternoon for Harry Redknapp’s men against the Championship outfit.

Instead, the Blues were made to battle all the way for a 2-1 triumph to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Plymouth debutant Chris Clark even prompted thoughts of an upset with a fifth-minute lead for Paul Sturrock’s side.

But Pompey hit back in the first half, with Lassana Diarra’s first goal for the club when he drove home from long range on 34 minutes.

And Niko Kranjcar weighed in with the all-important winner from close range on the stroke of half-time with a calm finish.

But rather like their last-round victory against Ipswich, they were again indebted to David James on occasions who produced some marvellous saves.

And the visitors were unfortunate not to get a late penalty after Rory Fallon’s shot hit Sylvain Distin’s left arm.

Referee Andre Marriner instead awarded a corner.

Pompey were even forced to employ just one striker up front in the second half after a groin injury to David Nugent.

It may have dulled their creativity but it helped give them a grip on the game against the dangerous Pilgrims.

And it was Redknapp’s men who won the battle of the naval dockyards to progress. The Plymouth fans packed out the entire Milton End and generated a cracking pre-match Cup atmosphere.

And they cranked up the noise level after just five minutes when they took a shock lead.

Distin produced a crunching block tackle on David Norris, the ball ricocheting to the unmarked CLARK on the right.

The former Aberdeen man took one touch before unleashing an effort which took a slight deflection off Hermann Hreidarsson and past James into the net for the opener.

Moments later, the visitors almost made it two when Fallon collected Gary Sawyer’s pass and swivelled to fire in his shot which James did well to push past the post.

From the resulting corner Jermaine Easter’s flying volley was again well saved by Pompey’s busy keeper.

The home side were all over the place and on 11 minutes, Pedro Mendes’ loose ball cross field fell to Peter Halmosi – and the Hungarian cracked in a low effort which again had James sprawling.

News of the Hawks’ shock lead at Anfield filtered through at Fratton Park to at least take the fans’ thoughts off the game in front of them.

Good job, too, with Argyle looking comfortable and well capable of stretching their advantage.

The away support even found time to gloat, chanting: ‘Are you watching Ian Holloway?’ – a dig at the boss who left them for Milan Mandaric’s Leicester City recently.

But Pompey were far from out of it and Benjani should have done better when he was released down the right and cut into the box – yet tried to do too much rather than pass and the chance was gone.

On 21 minutes, Glen Johnson surged down the right and fired in a cross which agonisingly eluded Nugent’s far-post lunge by a matter of inches.

Those efforts provided Pompey with the encouragement they needed as they steadily began to find a foothold in the game.

Within minutes of the Hawks regaining the lead at Anfield, Pompey fans were themselves given good cause to cheer.

On 34 minutes, Mendes and Kranjcar combined for a right-wing corner, with the former sliding the ball back to DIARRA, who fizzed a first-time effort from 25 yards.

It took a slight deflection but the destination was never in any doubt and Pompey had their equaliser.

Halmosi then became the first player of the afternoon to be booked following a tug on Johnson who was beginning to cause him problems.

At the other end, Plymouth again threatened when Fallon produced a sublime piece of skill, chesting the ball down and volleying a shot which James gathered at the second attempt.

The game was developing into a Cup cracker and Nugent took advantage of a Sawyer slip to drive in an effort which was held by Luke McCormick.

Pompey did take the lead, though, on 45 minutes when Johnson flighted in a cross from the right, Plymouth failed to clear and KRANJCAR was there to calmly slot home.

The fourth official indicated there was an additional two minutes to be played and as he did so, Benjani almost got on the end of a fine move started by Lauren.

But as it was, Pompey headed in at the interval with the lead and one foot in the fifth round.

Redknapp made an enforced substitution at half-time with groin-injury victim Nugent replaced by Arnold Mvuemba.

With no strikers on the bench, it meant Pompey had to revert to the 4-5-1 system which has proven so successful away from Fratton Park.

And it was the visitors who initially looked the most threatening in the opening exchanges of the half.

First, Halmosi fired in a left-foot effort which James did well to beat out at the near post.

Moments later, the keeper again had to come to the Blues’ rescue when Norris poked a pass through to Easter which had to be diverted for a corner.

Diarra then brought the crowd to life with a magnificent run past four Plymouth players into the area before his cross was cut out by McCormick.

Matthias Doumbe became the latest player to be booked after bodychecking Mvuemba as he attempted to surge by.

Benjani then came agonisingly close to increasing the hosts’ lead when he drilled in a shot from the right which flashed just past the far post.

On 67 minutes, Pompey made their second substitution with Sean Davis introduced in favour of Lauren.

Pompey may have had a a fragile lead but Plymouth still looked well capable of grabbing an equaliser with Halmosi in particular posing plenty of problems.

On 69 minutes, Clark’s free-kick caused havoc in the Pompey penalty area and James had to show great reactions to thwart Fallon at close range.

The Pilgrims’ followers were now in fine vocal form as they attempted to spur their side on for the equaliser.

Plymouth made their first substitution with Lucas Jutkiewicz – on loan from Everton – replacing the lively Easter up front on 75 minutes.

But Pompey were counting their blessings in the 79th minute when referee Marriner turned down strong appeals for a Pilgrims penalty.

Fallon’s shot appeared to strike the left arm of Distin before bouncing away for a corner.

Yet the match official infuriated the Plymouth following by instead granting a corner.

On 81 minutes, former Saints player Yoann Folly replaced goalscorer Clark.

Mendes had the chance to wrap it all up with full-time approaching – but with just McCormick to beat he shot straight at the keeper.

Noe Pamarot was booked for encroaching after a foul on Halmosi. But Pompey were through.

POMPEY (4-4-2): David James, Glen Johnson, Sylvain Distin, Noe Pamarot, Herman Hreidarsson, Lauren, Pedro Mendes, Lassana Diarra, Nico Kranjcar, Benjani, David Nugent. Subs: Asmir Begovic, Lucien Aubey, Arnold Mvuemba, Richard Hughes, Sean Davis

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE (4-4-2): Luke McCormick, Paul Connolly, Krisztián Timár, Mathias Doumbe, Gary Sawyer, Chris Clark, David Norris, Lilian Nalis, Péter Halmosi, Jermaine Easter, Rory Fallon. Subs: Romain Larrieu, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Lee Hodges, Luke Summerfield, Yoann Folly

REFEREE: Andre Marriner (West Midlands) ATTENDANCE: 19,612