Peterborough United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
(after extra time)
THE PRIZE was considerable: Manchester United and a quarter-final place in the Coca-Cola Cup awaited last night's combatants at a cold and unwelcoming Fratton Park, but it took until the final minute of extra time before Portsmouth finally reached out to claim it.
Another ordeal by penalties was on the cards before Bjorn Kristensen, a cultured Dane with a fine touch but hitherto unable to make much impact in this fourth-round replay, unleashed an exquisite curling shot high into the corner of Peterborough's net with just 11 seconds remaining.
We had waited so long for any drama but there was more to come. Bobby Barnes, the Peterborough substitute who had only been on for two minutes, tangled in a whirl of flailing boots and fists with the Portsmouth midfielder Warren Neill and both were dismissed by Vic Callow, the Solihull referee who last week controversially sent off the QPR striker Les Ferdinand.
Defeat, or more especially the manner in which it arrived, was an agonising blow for a Peterborough side who reside at the foot of the First Division but who defended with strength and application and, while they conceded 22 corners, were able to restrict Pompey to a minimum of clear openings.
In fact the chances in extra time had been theirs before Kristensen's coup de grace. Andy Furnell, a 16- year-old centre-forward showing remarkable maturity, set up Tony Adcock but Alan Knight saved with his legs. Then Adcock contributed to one of the sweetest moves of a mundane occasion and was there at the finish, only to hit the post.
Portsmouth clearly will have to do much better than this at Old Trafford if they are to live with the champions. Then again, they have other glamour fixtures on the horizon, with an FA Cup visit to Blackburn and an Anglo-Italian game with Fiorentina and, who knows, if they begin to think big they could pull off the biggest upset of all.
Portsmouth (3-5-2): Knight; Gittens (Russell, 73), Symons, Butters; Neill, McLoughlin, Doling (Hall, 78), Kristensen, Awford; Durnin, Walsh. Substitute not used: Horne (gk).
Peterborough United (5-2-3): Bennett; Greenman, Howarth, Welsh, Bradshaw, Spearing; Ebdon, Halsall (Brissett, 110); Adcock, McGlashan, Furnell (Barnes, 118). Substitute not used: Barber (gk).
Referee: V Callow (Solihull).Reuse content