Horsfield's team spirit leaves Portsmouth floundering

West Bromwich 2 Portsmouth 1
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Before kick-off West Bromwich celebrated last season's great escape with air-raid sirens and a Winston Churchill impersonator, and the dramatic nature of their survival has given them momentum. "The players came back in pre-season and they were bubbling," said their manager Bryan Robson. "The last two weeks of training they've been nice and bright, and really looking forward to the challenge."

It is about more than just attitude, though. Staying up has provided financial stability and allowed Robson to bolster his squad, most notably with the addition of Nathan Ellington from Wigan last week. He remained on the bench, and it was Geoff Horsfield who proved pivotal with both West Bromwich goals. The first was a typical back-post header; the second, in which he was greatly aided by Sander Westerveld's gaffe, followed a sharp turn past Gregory Vignal.

Horsfield is as uncomplicated and traditional a striker as they come, but even he has had to adapt to the realities of the squad system. "There is a lot of competition for places," he said. "Kanu didn't even make the 16. If the gaffer decides to leave me out for the Chelsea game, then I'll accept it and get on with it. Maybe I've mellowed a little bit. If that had happened to me when I was at Halifax I'd have gone mental."

The spirit at Portsmouth could hardly be more different. The chaos that set in just before Harry Redknapp's departure last November seems only to have spread, and with seven of their starting line-up on Saturday having joined the club in the summer - and three more new signings imminent - the continuity a team in their position should have is utterly lacking.

"We're still getting used to each other," said their forward Lomana LuaLua. "The manager came during the last few games of last season, so we're still trying to learn how he wants us to play. Only in time will we see how things go."

By then it may be too late. A Laurent Robert free-kick gave them 27 minutes to find an equaliser, but they rarely looked like finding one. The changes mean this has become like a first Premiership season for Portsmouth; they are playing as though it will be their last.

Goals: Horsfield (2) 1-0; Horsfield (60) 2-0; Robert (63) 2-1.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kirkland; Watson (Earnshaw, 84), Gaardsoe, Clement, Robinson; Gera (Allbrechtsen, 67), Wallwork, Johnson, Greening; Campbell, Horsfield. Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Kamara, Ellington.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): Westerveld; Griffin (Skopelitis, 84), O'Brien, Stefanovic, Vignal; O'Neil (Todorov, 71), Viafara, Hughes, Robert; LuaLua, Karadas (Pericard, 82). Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Taylor.

Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).

Booked: West Bromwich Gera, Johnson, Campbell, Horsfield; Portsmouth Vignal, Viafara, Karadas.

Man of the match: Horsfield.

Attendance: 24, 404.

Comments