Ipswich were left feeling sorry for themselves after a first-half red card meant they had to play two-thirds of the match with 10 men. But they made a heroic effort to overcome their disadvantage and in the end it was David James who was Portsmouth's matchwinner.
The 37-year-old goalkeeper, keen to regain his England place under new coach Fabio Capello, produced two superb late saves to preserve the lead given to the visitors by David Nugent six minutes into the second half. Yet Ipswich manager Jim Magilton found it hard to suppress a feeling of injustice after referee Mark Halsey punished 19-year-old Liam Trotter with a red card that even his opposite number, Harry Redknapp, felt was harsh.
Halsey sent off the midfielder for a challenge on Pedro Mendes after 24 minutes, clearly feeling Trotter's lunge at the Portuguese player, though not two-footed, showed too many of his studs. "He was a bit late but he is a 19-year-old midfield player and from an experienced referee I thought it was a caution," Magilton said. "I spoke to the referee at half-time and he told me he is a professional and he was 100 per cent right."
Magilton was unhappy with the Portsmouth bench, claiming that coach Joe Jordan was "in the fourth official's ear, saying it was a straight red" but Redknapp was more sympathetic with Trotter. "Joe always jumps up like that but I was surprised to see [Halsey] pull out a red card. He is a young lad and was a little bit late but it looked like a yellow card to me."
The decisive goal was, in one way, a consequence of the dismissal, given that the damage to Mendes was sufficient for him to be replaced at half-time with the goalscorer. Nugent, who has made only two starts in the Premier League since his 6 million move from Preston, took the chance to claim his first goal since September after running on to Sol Campbell's clearance and went close to a second with a shot that hit the bar.
Ipswich laid siege in the closing stages. Their best efforts, a header from substitute Alan Lee and a fierce, low shot from another 19-year-old, Danny Haynes, were both met with brilliant saves by James, who made the "England's number four" taunts from the home crowd look especially inappropriate.Reuse content