Football: Pompey fans find comfort in protest

Crystal Palace 4 Portsmouth 1
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The Independent Online
FORGET THE scoreline. Forget Portsmouth's poverty on the pitch and Crystal Palace's attacking flair. Forget even Fitzroy Simpson's foolish and vicious elbow in the face of Palace's Dean Austin and his consequent sending-off.

In the long term, Saturday's First Division match at Selhurst Park will be remembered only for the extraordinary demonstration of support by the 4,000 visiting Portsmouth fans. More than half an hour after their team had been comprehensively beaten, some 1,500 Pompey followers were still in the ground, singing their support. It took an appearance by Alan Ball, the manager, to persuade the fans to go home.

To the Portsmouth faithful this match was not just about a fight for three points. Police had declared the match a high security risk because of the animosity of Portsmouth fans towards Terry Venables, Palace's head coach, and his assistant, Terry Fenwick.

Until their acrimonious departure from Fratton Park in January, Venables had been chairman of Portsmouth and Fenwick the manager. Ports-mouth fans blame Venables for the financial management and Fenwick for failing to bring success on the pitch. The temperature was turned up last week with Fenwick's reported comments about Portsmouth fans' expectations being too high and predicting that they would finish in the bottom six.

Venables was escorted on and off the pitch by a bodyguard, while a long line of policemen and stewards assem- bled in front of the Portsmouth supporters towards the end of the game, presumably in case of a pitch invasion. They need not have worried. The Pompey protest was almost entirely vocal. While there was plenty of abuse aimed directly at the two men, most of the Ports-mouth fans' singing was purely in support of their club.

Venables said afterwards that he had "been around long enough not to worry about the chanting", while Ball was full of praise for his fans. Ball had no complaints about the 40th- minute dismissal of Simpson which effectively ended any chance of Portsmouth getting anything out of the game.

Palace went ahead after only five minutes, Craig Moore heading in at the far post. Aloisi equalised within two minutes of Simpson's sending- off and the Australian fluffed an easy chance to give Portsmouth the lead early in the second half.

Most of the second half, however, was one-way traffic. Palace took the lead through an Andy Thomson own goal, but there was no element of luck in their last two goals.

Goals: Moore (5) 1-0; Aloisi (42) 1-1; Thomson (57 og) 2-1; Mullins (64) 3-1; Foster (81) 4-1.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Digby; Austin, Moore, Fan Zhiyi, Sun Jihai; Lombardo, Foster (Burton, 83), Mullins, Rizzo; Bradbury (Morrison, 74), Jansen (Bent, 74). Portsmouth (5-3-2): Knight; Thogersen, Thomson, Awford, Waterman (Soley, 46), Simpson; Vlachos, McLoughlin, Peron; Claridge, Aloisi (Phillips 68). Substitute not used: Robinson.

Referee: P Rejer (Tipton).

Bookings: Crystal Palace: Foster. Ports-mouth: Thomson, Vlachos. Sending- off: Portsmouth: Simpson.

Man of the match: Jansen.

Attendance: 20,188.