Football: Ball seeks to fill in blanks

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The Independent Online
Portsmouth 0 Huddersfield Town 0

THE TENDENCY of football towards contrariness was demonstrated again at Fratton Park, where Huddersfield, who had won their previous game 7-1, and Portsmouth, who had lost 6-0, could not manage a goal between them. Saturday had clearly been a one-off - or, in Portsmouth's case, a two off, as Andy Awford and Fitzroy Simpson had both been dismissed at Barnsley.

Before conceding six in just over half an hour in Yorkshire, Alan Ball's team had kept a clean sheet for almost six hours. Yesterday they returned to mean old ways in defence, until a couple of late lapses, but lacked imagination in attack and therefore continued a sequence of camera-shyness in Sky TV games, nine of which they have played without winning. Before the end, even the admirably vocal home supporters were losing their enthusiasm.

These are two ambitious clubs who have known better days, though not for a while. Having solved the worst of their long-standing financial problems, Portsmouth are now planning to spend some pounds 30m on a 35,000-capacity stadium on the other side of the tracks, developing the railway goods yard adjacent to the present ground.

Ball announced yesterday that he is about to sign a new four-year contract and is excited about the prospects. "I can't wait to sign," he said. "We wanted to put some stability and belief back into the club and the new chairman has done that. The most important thing is that he is getting people to trust him."

The manager has some money to spend at last and was able to shell out pounds 1m of it in the summer on Rory Allen, the young striker from Tottenham. Allen had made a good impression in the two previous home games but was given few opportunities by Chris Lucketti and Ken Monkou, two defenders brought in by Steve Bruce, the successor to Peter Jackson, the manager ruthlessly sacked by Huddersfield at the end of last season.

Portsmouth's defence was under-employed until the last seven minutes. Andy Pettersen then had to turn a 25-yard drive by Scott Sellars onto the crossbar and, almost at the death, Clyde Wijnhard, another of Bruce's signings, wasted the one clear chance of the game. Ben Thornley broke down the right and his cross was missed by the retreating Portsmouth defender, Thomas Thogersen, but Wijnhard lobbed it into the group of Huddersfield followers behind the goal.

Having set their alarm clocks uncomfortably early in order to reach the south coast for a midday kick-off, those supporters must have been disappointed not to see their team capitalise on Saturday's victory after a mixed start to the season.

Bruce, who will need some good results to win them over in view of Jackson's popularity, warned: "It takes months rather than weeks for new players to get used to each other. When they do, I am sure we will be OK. I have said judge me in three years." He should be so lucky.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Pettersen; Robinson, Whitbread, Cundy, Simpson; Miglioranzi (Newton, 82), Thogersen, McLoughlin, Peron; Whittingham (Nightingale, 70), Allen. Substitutes not used: Awford, Vlachos, Flahavan (gk).

Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Vaesen; Dyson, Lucketti, Monkou, Armstrong; Irons, Horne (Thornley, 61), Beech (Edwards, 85); Sellars; Wijnhard, Stewart (Allison, 61). Substitutes not used: Facey, Margetson (gk).

Referee: F Stretton (Nottingham).

Man of the Match: Monkou.

Attendance: 13,105.