If Iain Dowie's arrival at Hull City lacked the "wow factor" – and that was according to Adam Pearson, the chairman who appointed him – the same could not be said of Portsmouth's comeback on an absorbing day down among the dead men at Fratton Park.
Avram Grant's side recovered three of the nine points deducted by the Premier League on Wednesday just as it looked as if Dowie, who replaced Phil Brown as Tigers manager on the same day, was about to earn Hull their first away win for 12 months.
A second goal for Caleb Folan, recalled by his new manager for his first start since August, regained the lead for Hull with little over a quarter of an hour remaining of the debtors derby but the south coast club refused to feel sorry for themselves and responded brilliantly at the finish with two goals in as many minutes by Jamie O'Hara and Nwankwo Kanu.
"It's a cruel, cruel game," said Dowie. "It was a crucial result but I won't be downhearted. There are eight rounds to go of a nine round fight." Keep Hull up and he could earn himself a long-term contract and a £1 million bonus, the example of largesse that has landed Hull and Portsmouth in troubled waters.
They were selling pink protest scarves outside the ground – Pompey's original colours – yet they have been in the red for so long sales were hardly brisk.
Debts of £65m led to Portsmouth becoming the first Premier League club to go into administration. Hull fear relegation would leave them in a similar mess. Grant, angered by the points penalty, hinted he may rest players with an FA Cup semi-final beckoning, though he insisted yesterday that was a misunderstanding. In the event he restored David James in goal, left three regular starters on the bench and only Aruna Dindane was left out altogether. Perhaps, after 25 games, he was due a bonus.
"I think we have done a great favour for the game of football," said Grant. "We didn't want to let our heads drop. I told the players we needed to be professional and do a job on the pitch. You could see from the last few minutes the spirit and character we still have."
Dowie's long spell as a player at Southampton ensured a hostile reception yet it was the visitors who settled quicker, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink squandering an early opening when his header from Kevin Kilbane's cross struck James's post. Portsmouth soon went close with a Marc Wilson free-kick. Tommy Smith, starting a League game for the first time this year, saw a shot deflected wide and Nadir Belhadj threatened from the resulting corner.
But it was Hull who struck first, Folan getting the lightest of touches to a Craig Fagan shot that skidded along the greasy surface, leaving James no chance. "How shit must you be, we're winning away," chanted the Tigers' faithful.
Pompey responded through the irrepressible O'Hara. Andy Dawson and Paul McShane did well to close down Smith as he raced on to O'Hara's exquisite pass after 39 minutes and from the short-corner that followed, O'Hara's cross was missed by Frédéric Piquionne but bundled in by Smith.
Dowie, a bundle of energy on the touchline, was routinely abused by the home crowd after that. He received only a lukewarm reception from the away fans. However, his team were back in front after almost half an hour of a nervy, scrappy second half after a little assistance from the referee. The substitute Richard Garcia's pass was going astray but rebounded to him off Phil Dowd and his next effort found Folan onside, the striker clipping the ball past on the oncoming James. O'Hara protested, others merely shrugged after yet another unfavourable brush with officialdom.
It was far from over, though. Pompey pressed on, sensing Hull's fragility. Kanu, on for Aaron Mokoena, jinked his way to the edge of the area where he was felled and O'Hara levelled the scores with a peach of a free-kick. They wanted more, and more was to come as Belhadj raced clear down the left flank and delivered a teasing cross which Kanu was able to prod home.
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the match: O'Hara
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content