Crouch's hand of fate favours Cup holders Pompey

Bristol City 0 Portsmouth 2
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The Independent Football

There is a cat called, appropriately enough, Referee that was running for cover last night. Gary Johnson, the moggy's owner and the Bristol City manager, said he would have to seek out the feline for retribution after an evening of frustration in which his side missed one penalty and, he claimed, were denied two others as they exited the FA Cup.

To add to his sense of anger, Portsmouth's first goal, slid home by Peter Crouch, came just 13 seconds after the striker handled the ball twice – not just once – in his own penalty area. "It even looked like one on radio," Johnson said, somewhat peculiarly, before adding he had refused invitations to watch a replay because, "I didn't want to be ranting and raving".

He didn't rant and indeed he didn't rave but he did add that he felt midfielder Marvin Elliott had his shirt pulled before he executed a diving header, in the first half, that forced a fine save from David James. The Portsmouth goalkeeper, according to the club's manager Tony Adams, was "immense" and he could also reflect on impressive displays by Glen Johnson and Crouch.

How Adams needed this result. Just a fourth win in 16 games for him, since succeeding Harry Redknapp, and losing here would have been unthinkable for the holders, who are up for sale and have just parted with their two most, in cash terms, valuable assets, with Jermain Defoe and Lassana Diarra out the door in the transfer window.

Would there be more? "The kit man is staying," Adams said. "He's up for the battle. And the tea lady. No, I'm being flippant." Is he? Portsmouth want to bring in up to five new players but Adams also has to hope – and expect – that Crouch will stick around to add to the 13 goals, the highest total for an English Premier League player so far this season.

"He's a great lad who wants to fight for the football club," Adams added of Crouch and the commitment was clear as he forced his way through to reach Armand Traoré's pull-back, after a swift break into the area, following a raking cross-field pass by Nadir Belhadj. The speed of the counter was bewildering and, in real time, masked Crouch's handball even if the City midfielder Lee Johnson – the manager's son – was booked for berating the referee.

To an extent, City only had themselves to blame. Having earned a goalless draw at Fratton Park to force this third-round replay, they failed to rattle Portsmouth early on. Instead, the Premier League club, shorn of a midfield and with a makeshift feel, eased into their stride and were aided by some panicky defending, although James had to back-pedal sharply to ensure Nicky Maynard's dipping shot cleared the bar.

Before Crouch's goal there was a carbon-copy moment in which he teed up David Nugent who, haplessly, struck his side-footed shot against the foot of the post. It is now over a year since Nugent's last goal, which came in this competition, and he is bereft of any confidence. Once falling behind, City tried to force their way back into the encounter. Jamie McCombe glanced a header wide, when he should have done better, but then, at the other end, Younes Kaboul flicked on James' goal-kick to Crouch who, through on goal, scuffed his shot woefully wide.

City used that let-off as a cue to go for it. Only Glen Johnson's alert tackle prevented Maynard, as he was picked out inside the area, and then, seconds later, the City striker swivelled and shot. His effort was held by James before, soon after, Lee Johnson headed wide.

A series of fervent penalty appeals followed before Belhadj broke away and pulled the ball back to Niko Kranjcar who tapped it home. That goal appeared to kill the tie but City came back once more and the dangerous Maynard had his foot hooked from under him by Sol Campbell.

This time the penalty was given but after the striker picked himself up, his effort was easily pushed away by James to extend Portsmouth's record of not conceding a goal in this competition to an impressive 625 minutes. They now go on to face another Championship side, Swansea City, at home in the next round. "It's disappointing," Johnson said. "But my cat is going to get it later."

Bristol City (4-4-2): Basso; Orr, McCombe, Carey, Fontaine (Adebola, 81); Skuse (McIndoe, 71) Elliott, Johnson, Sproule; Styvar (John, 68), Maynard. Substitutes not used: Henderson (gk), McAllister, Wilson, Williams.

Portsmouth (4-5-1): James; Johnson, Distin, Campbell, Belhadj; Nugent (Utaka, 66), Kaboul, Kranjcar, Wilson, Traore (Hreidarsson, 85); Crouch (Kanu, 90). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Pamarot, Mvuemba, Little.

Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).