Tonight the R's travelled to the South Coast in search of extending our unbeaten start to the season. Portsmouth were looking to spoil the party and bounce back after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Derby at the weekend. How would things turn out? We're about to find out.
Lofty picked up Sam and myself just after 4pm and we steadily made our way through traffic as we arrived in Portsmouth at around 6.45. Having gone for a short walk to grab some money, we came back to Lofty and he had got direction off of a policeman and after following these we realised once we got to the entrance to the away stand that we had been sent the long way round, goes to show that sometimes you just cant trust anyone!
Having made our way inside the turnstile we walked up the stairs to find a small walkway that was about two people wide and was heavily crowded. Having met Michael and Luke, we made our way to our seats only to find that we were right behind the goal and 8 rows from the front and with the view very restricted by the net, so throughout the game we were ducking and weaving to try and get a decent view of what was happening at the other end.
The first half was a pretty even affair that flowed from end to end. John Utaka stood out for Portsmouth down their left hand side and he was giving Kyle Walker all sorts of problems with his pace and trickery.
Rangers' first real chance came when Rob Hulse knocked the ball back for Shaun Derry and he let fly with a left footed volley but Jamie Ashdown in the Portsmouth goal was more than equal to it.
Portsmouth then had the best effort of the half as Utaka cut in from the left hand side and curled a right foot effort on goal over Paddy Kenny but fortunately for the R's the ball bounced off the bar before being cleared to safety.
The teams went in at half time all square. The game could really go either way and Portsmouth may of shaded proceedings with the Utaka effort hitting the bar but this was a game that the R's could win providing they produced a moment of magic.
That moment of magic nearly came early in the half as Smith crossed into the Pompey box and Hulse went up with Ashdown and looked certain to beat the Portsmouth 'keeper to the ball and nod home from six yards out, however despite beating Ashdown to the ball he failed to get a contact of any conviction and saw the ball cleared by a Portsmouth defender.
The game was largely a midfield battle and the centre of the pitch was highly congested so it looked as if the game may be won on a decision, and on 70 minutes that decision came.
Matt Connolly collided with Dave Kitson and the ginger striker tumbled to win the hosts a penalty and in the process Connolly was sent off as he was the last man. I'll be honest, it was the right decision.
Lawrence stepped up to take the penalty and shot to Kenny's left and the Rangers' keeper saved once another penalty, much to the delight of the Rangers' fans but then referee Ward (who looked about 12!), for some reason ordered the spot kick to be retaken. Having seen the replay I'm still as baffled and frustrated as I was inside the ground. The decision was as bent as Alan Carr!
Lawrence stepped up and blasted home the retaken spot kick and put the home side 1-0.
Owing to the sending off Mr Warnock was forced into a change so he took off Taarabt, much to the surprise of us, and replaced him with Gary Borrowdale, which was an even bigger surprise!! Rob Hulse also came off and he was replaced by Patrick Agyemang.
Rangers played largely on the counter attackk and were more threatening of the two teams in the final 15 minutes and on the stroke of the end of normal time the R's were awarded a penalty.
As Mackie crossed the ball in Liam Lawrence jumped to block the cross with his arm raised and the ball looked to hit Lawrence's arm and the linesman immediately flagged to award the R's a last minute lifeline from the spot.
Lawrence fiercely protested his innocence by lifting his shirt and showing an inprint of the ball on his chest and because he wouldn't back down from his protest he picked up a second yellow card. At the time I thought it was the right decision, maybe after seeing it again I can understand the protest but sod it, Portsmouth had a dodgy decision to go 1-0 up so why cant we have one of our own to level the game?
Tommy Smith stepped up to take the penalty against his former club and shot low to Ashdown's right and the penalty hit the back of the net to send the travelling support wild!
Upon the final whistle the whole Rangers' team came over to show their appreciation to the R's faithful as the fans were superb all night and really helped drive the team on after the controversy of the Pompey penalty. Well done to everyone that were in attendance tonight.
All in all after all that happened I can honestly say that I'm delighted with the point gained tonight. Mr Ward nearly ended our unbeaten streak single handedly tonight butthe R's never say die attitude, and a bit of luck, meant that we got a point that was rightly deserved!
Having seen Neil Warnock's interview on Sky Sports news when we got home and seeing him say that it was a definite penalty really did make me laugh out loud, the man is a legend!
Tonight's Man of the Match
award was discussed over a KFC after the match, having gone to great lengths to get it. The shop was closed so we had to go back to Lofty's car and took a different route to the KFC drive-through as Lofty mounted a kerb, drove over a path and through a gap in the boundary of the retail park and eventually got to order our food. Matt Connolly was my man of the match up until the sending off but in my eyes that cost him the accolade tonight. Shaun Derry had another strong outing for the R's but our man of the match is given to a man who gave a good second half performance and grabbed the all important equalizer, Tommy Smith
Jamie Ashdown, Greg Halford (Joel Ward 26), Carl Dickinson, Aaron Mokoena, Liam Lawrence, Hayden Mullins, Michael Brown, John Utaka (Nadir Ciftci 86), Dave Kitson, Ibrahima Sonko, Kanu (Hermann Hreidarsson 90).Subs:
Darryl Flahavan, Richard Hughes, Ricardo Rocha.Goals:
Lawrence (pen 70)Bookings:
Lawrence (54 & 90), Ashdown (84)Red Cards:
Paddy Kenny, Clint Hill, Shaun Derry (Leon Clarke 80), Adel Taarabt (Gary Borrowdale 72), Alejandro Faurlin, Jamie Mackie, Kaspars Gorkss, Kyle Walker, Matt Connolly, Rob Hulse (Patrick Agyemang 72), Tommy Smith.Subs:
Radek Cerny, Martin Rowlands, Hogan Ephraim, Bruno Andrade.Goals
: Smith (pen 90)Bookings:
Derry (40)Red Cards:
Mr G L WardAttendance: