Football: Portsmouth upset slick Newcastle

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Portsmouth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Newcastle United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

PORTSMOUTH earned full marks for effort, application and artistic impression last night in inflicting Newcastle's first defeat in nine matches.

A pulsating game packed with high-quality football that would have put many Premier League sides to shame could have produced 10 goals for the 21,000 who filled Fratton Park. The two that won it for Portsmouth came in the first half: the first coolly put away by Guy Whittingham, the second blasted in by Kit Symons.

For all their fine passing and movement off the ball Newcastle deserved at least one goal but even when Alan McLoughlin pulled down their former Portsmouth defender John Beresford five minutes from time David Kelly hit the crossbar with the penalty.

Newcastle exuded confidence from the start and Kelly had Alan Knight in the home goal at full stretch in the first minute. But Portsmouth were ready for Newcastle's slick football. Employing a flexible formation they flooded midfield or filtered back to stifle the supply to Kelly and his fellow- striker Gavin Peacock. It was hard work but proved so effective that they also built a platform for their own passing game.

After one trial foray into the Newcastle penalty area Portsmouth struck in the 13th minute. Warren Aspinall found room in the busy midfield to slip a 20-yard pass straight through Newcastle's square back four and suddenly Whittingham was away, rounding Pavel Srnicek before tucking in goal No 33 this season.

It took 20 minutes for Newcastle to recover their confidence and the departure of Aspinall with an apparent hamstring strain eased the pressure on their own creative midfielders, but just as it was beginning to look as if they would gradually assert some authority Portsmouth broke and forced Brian Kilcline into conceding a corner. Chris Burns swung the ball in from the right to the near post, Paul Walsh ferried it back to Symons 12 yards out and the top corner of the Newcastle net was bulging before Srnicek realised that the Welsh international defender had swung his right foot.

It scarcely seemed possible that the tempo could be maintained but after the interval Newcastle generated an even greater sense of urgency and laid siege to the Portsmouth goal. First Peacock forced Knight to touch over a looping header from Beresford's left-wing cross then Kelly had Knight sprawling at the foot of his left-hand post to keep out another header from the resulting corner. But typical of an enthralling game Portsmouth were almost immediately threatening at the other end, Whittingham sending a leaping header just wide from Walsh's cross.

The visitors maintained their pace and imagination throughout the second half causing Portsmouth a host of problems without finding a way through. Aside from the penalty, Lee Clark wasted their best chance when put through by Kelly's overhead flick, hitting his shot straight at Knight.

The only blemishes on an entertaining evening were bookings for Symons for pulling back Kelly in the 63rd minute and Srnicek 12 minutes later for conducting a seemingly endless complaint about a challenge on him by Whittingham.

Portsmouth: Knight; Awford, Daniel, McLoughlin, Symons, Burns, Price, Chamberlain (Powell, 87), Walsh, Whittingham, Aspinall (Maguire, 30).

Newcastle United: Srnicek; Venison, Beresford, O'Brien, Kilcline, Scott, Lee, Peacock, Kelly, Clark, Bracewell (Sheedy, 64). Substitute not used: Neilson.

Referee: DJ Gallagher (Banbury).