Hart's strangers seek rapid introduction
Portsmouth 2 Bolton Wanderers 3
Monday 14 September 2009
When you're buying a house, the most important factors to consider are said to be location, location and location. When you are Portsmouth, and you only just avoided relegation last season, the most important factors to consider should be defence, defence and defence. After a fifth consecutive defeat, Paul Hart knows he needs to work on the location of his defence.
Portsmouth allowed their opponents four headers inside the penalty area in the final minute – with the game standing at 2-2 – before the final one went in, and that message about getting the defending right had been rammed home.
Tal Ben Haim was signed from Chelsea at the end of the transfer window, while he was out on international duty with Israel and, as Hart, the Portsmouth manager, revealed, the first time the centre-back actually met his team-mates was on Saturday morning. Not ideal preparation for a game stamped as a "must-win" one.
As Ben Haim's bad luck would have it, the debutant gave away a penalty, although the replay suggested he had got a foot on the ball before bringing down Kevin Davies, but it was a needless and rash tackle. While Ben Haim did his former team a favour, Matt Taylor, once of Portsmouth, did not do likewise from the penalty spot, and restored Bolton's advantage. Tamir Cohen had opened the scoring for the visitors before Younes Kaboul, from Jamie O'Hara's corner, equalised for the first time.
David James has been watching the chaos unfold in front of him ever since the club's recent pinnacle of winning the FA Cup last year. Sylvain Distin and Sol Campbell, both now departed, were guilty of mistakes last season and while the personnel have changed, the errors remain. The Portsmouth and England goalkeeper said: "We are echoing a lot of what happened in that we are a team that concedes too easily and arguably not through mistakes, just through the way we are set-up with new personnel.
"Younes really wasn't a centre-half. He played on the right-hand side so for him it is a new position. Ben Haim has come in so we are going to have to do the work. We have got to sort it out but once we have, I think we have got some decent looking athletes there."
He could also have mentioned the departure of Glen Johnson, the right-back, while Hermann Hreidarsson, the left-back, is injured. Yet when Kevin-Prince Boateng, another debutant, equalised for the second time, it seemed as if Pompey would finally get their first point of the season. It wasn't to be for the hosts, who let those headers bobble around before Gary Cahill directed his effort – with Taylor offside in the build-up – low past James.
Gary Megson, the Bolton manager, was a relieved man, having claimed his own first points after three defeats. "It was imperative because it was the worst we've played this season," he said. It was his call to send Cahill up for the final minutes and it worked. What Hart would do for that sort of inspiration now.
Portsmouth (4-1-3-2): James; Van den Borre, Kaboul, Ben Haim, Belhadj; Mokoena; Brown, Boateng, O'Hara (Yebda, 72); Piquionne, Smith (Webber, 84). Substitutes not used: Begovic (gk), Mullins, Williamson, Utaka, Kanu
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Ricketts (Klasnic, 71), Cahill, Knight, Samuel; Muamba; Steinsson, M Davies (Basham, 71), Cohen (McCann, 77), Taylor; K Davies. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Robinson, Lee, O'Brien.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: Portsmouth Belhadj, Kaboul.
Man of the match: O'Hara.
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