Violence erupts on Pompey's travels

Coventry City 2 Portsmouth 0
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The Independent Football

High optimism running at Portsmouth went to ground at Highfield Road yesterday and with it fell the reputation of the club, as dozens of their fans attacked home supporters, causing a delay to the second half and resulting in several arrests.

High optimism running at Portsmouth went to ground at Highfield Road yesterday and with it fell the reputation of the club, as dozens of their fans attacked home supporters, causing a delay to the second half and resulting in several arrests.

The rival fans had been bating each other throughout the first half, but at half-time a large group of Portsmouth followers rushed across one corner of the stands to get involved in a sizeable fight which spilled on to the pitch before, several minutes later, police and stewards took control. Seats, bottles and cans had been thrown in both directions and the second half of the game was delayed by more than five minutes.

According to Portsmouth sources, a group of hooligans called "The Six Five Seven Crew" (after a train on which they used to travel to away matches) were known to have assembled in the corner nearest the Coventry fans. They are believed to have been responsible for trouble at Fulham and other grounds last season. Graham Rix, Ports-mouth's manager, said: "We've got a great following but we don't appreciate violence. Nobody in football wants it – especially at this time."

Portsmouth's young team had taken four victories from five matches before a disappointing midweek draw with struggling Walsall had slightly interrupted their impressive progress. Worse followed. The promising Mark Burchill, the 21-year-old Scottish international signed from Celtic only a month ago, is probably out for the rest of the season, having damaged knee ligaments in training.

A lot may depend on Croatian midfielder Robert Prosinecki, who is reportedly on £10,000 a week, which seems a tad excessive for a club so recently on the brink of fin-ancial oblivion. But Rix reckons the value of a player with experience has as much to do with what he inspires in others as what he does himself.

When it comes to investment, Coventry are only too aware that a player bought at considerable expense is only as good as his durability. Laurent Delorge cost £1.25m from Ghent three years ago but a broken leg, followed by his failure to hit it off with former manager Gordon Strachan, meant that his recovery and rehabilitation were delayed.

His winning goal against Sheffield United a week ago won Delorge over to the caretaker player-manager Roland Nilsson, who is aware of rumours that Bryan Robson or Dave Bassett may soon take over, and let him concentrate on duelling with opposing attacks rather than worrying about dual duties. But Delorge still had to start on the bench.

Prosinecki, now 32, covers his expanding midriff by making sure his shirt stays over his shorts, but when it comes to the searching pass, few in the First Division will be his equal. That he quickly dominated the central area seemed ominous for Coventry, but he was badly let down by his defence, who submerged themselves in confusion.

Scott Hiley made an undistinguished attempt to clear, leaving Alessandro Zamerini in trouble inside the area, and Jay Bothroyd simply slipped the ball past the oncoming Sasa Ilic, who was as wrong-footed as his colleagues.

The uncertain Portsmouth defence continually lost its -organisation and needed to rely on the later alertness of Ilic, whose most outstanding save saw him fist down and away a ferocious header from Muhamed Konjic.

Almost inevitably, and despite nimble breakaways of their own, Portsmouth succumbed to their own negativity at the back. In the 71st minute a free-kick from David Thompson, arriving at head height in the area, was only partly cleared and Lee Carsley stabbed the ball into a gap.

Coventry City 2 Portsmouth 0

Bothroyd 17, Carsley 71

Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 18,303

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