Football: Pompey woe made worse by Milosevic

Aston Villa 1 Portsmouth 0
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The Independent Online
Beleaguered Portsmouth added an FA Cup defeat to their current chapter of misfortune as Villa secured a fourth-round home tie against West Bromwich from last night's replay. But the Premiership side were unconvincing winners after a start that had promised more than they could deliver and had to rely on Savo Milosevic's solitary first-half goal to see them through.

When Villa announced the return of Dwight Yorke after a seven-match lay- off, Portsmouth must have wondered how many more factors could conspire against them. Bottom of the First Division, without a manager after the sacking of Terry Fenwick and with the future of their club in limbo following Terry Venables' departure, they would have been hard pressed to imagine a more testing task than to face a three-pronged Premiership attack.

In the event, the home side gave a tame account of themselves, Milosevic ultimately matching Stan Collymore for wild and inaccurate shooting. Twice Portsmouth went close to snatching the equaliser that would have taken the tie into a nervous period of extra time.

At Fratton Park, Portsmouth had been two minutes from the fourth round when Simon Grayson came to Villa's rescue; last night they were a goal down within 21 minutes. Collymore, guiding forward Steve Staunton's long ball, set up Milosevic, who displayed neat control under close marking before sweeping around goalkeeper Alan Knight.

Villa, who have not lost a home FA Cup tie to lower division opponents for 22 years, seemed at this stage to have a real appetite for attack, sensing the importance of this competition in a season in which their League form has been inconsistent.

The goal sparked a busy spell in which Knight was twice saved by the woodwork. First, Collymore hit a post from 25 yards, then Alan Wright, suddenly in open space on the left, lobbed the ball in a high arc as the goalkeeper raced off his line, landing it on top of the crossbar.

But Portsmouth retained their composure and after surviving a low cross by Collymore that Milosevic should have converted, the side sent out by their caretaker manager, Keith Waldon - a former youth coach at Tottenham - roused themselves. John Durnin missed narrowly with Mark Bosnich out of position before the Villa goalkeeper redeemed himself by thwarting Paul Hall's attempt to turn in Robbie Pethick's cross moments before half- time.

The incident emphasised the fragile nature of Villa's advantage and caused a sense of unease among the home fans that only intensified as Villa failed to claim the second goal. Portsmouth had Knight to thank for keeping out Grayson and Mark Draper, but Villa were laboured and inefficient, drawing frequent bursts of booing and slow hand-clapping.

The underdogs, for all their problems, did not lack belief in themselves and Villa at times looked distinctly unsteady, not least when Durnin headed against a post and when Riccardo Scimeca's careless pass presented the substitute Mathias Svensson with an opportunity the Swede wasted.

Aston Villa (3-4-1-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Staunton, Scimeca; Grayson, Draper (Hendrie, 82) Taylor, Wright; Yorke; Milosevic, Collymore. Substitutes not used: Charles, Joachim, Nelson, Oakes (gk).

Portsmouth (5-3-2): Knight; Pethick, Whitbread, Thomson, Awford, Russell; McLoughlin, Foster (Svensson, 66), Simpson (Carter, 82); Hall, Durnin. Substitutes not used: Waterman, Igoe, Carter, Flahavan (gk).

Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield).