Portsmouth avoid Milan repeat with battling win

Portsmouth 3 Blackburn Rovers 2
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The Independent Football

For the second time in three days Portsmouth surrendered a two-goal advantage, but Blackburn Rovers are no Milan and so this time a Sean Davis strike with 11 minutes remaining was enough to secure victory.

It was also Tony Adams' first home win since replacing Harry Redknapp as manager and moves Portsmouth up to eighth in the table, a point behind the top six, but if this continues any longer the Fratton Park crowd will be hoping they never again see their team go two-nil up. "It was just fortunate that they scored with 10 minutes to go which gave us an opportunity to reply," Adams joked afterwards.

The first half was a turgid affair, with Roque Santa Cruz and Stephen Warnock going close for Blackburn, while Peter Crouch and Glen Little both should have given Portsmouth the lead. "I think we were flat after the Milan game," Adams admitted. "I needed to get into the guys at half-time."

His words had the desired effect as Portsmouth began to play some football in the second period, and two goals in the space of three minutes from Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe should have given them the platform for a comfortable victory. Crouch opened the scoring with a free header inside the six-yard box from a Glen Johnson cross four minutes after the restart.

Moments later Defoe, returning to the starting line-up after an ankle problem, skipped past Christopher Samba and placed a left-footed shot under Paul Robinson in the Blackburn goal. That should have been that, but 2-0 is when Portsmouth start to lose their confidence.

First, Matt Derbyshire came off the bench to halve the deficit with his first touch after 62 minutes. The Portsmouth defence, which looked hesitant all afternoon, failed to deal with a high cross from Morten Gamst Pedersen and Derbyshire stole in ahead of Sylvain Distin to loop a header over David James.

At that point the events of Thursday night must have come flooding back as Portsmouth lost all sense of shape and composure. As they backed off, the 38-year-old midfielder Tugay was allowed to set his sights from 25 yards and rifle a low shot past James.

Derbyshire even had a second strike disallowed, sweeping home a loose ball after James had fumbled, but the referee, Mark Halsey, felt there had been a push on the goalkeeper. "It was a poor decision by the referee," said Blackburn's manager, Paul Ince, whose side remain second from bottom without a league win in nine games.

"He gave a foul on Jamo, but I've seen it on a replay and he didn't touch him. It should have been 3-2. They're the things that happen when you're down there. Four or five weeks ago [Nemanja] Vidic abused my goalkeeper Jason Brown and the referee gave a goal and we lose to Manchester United. Today no one touches him and he disallows the goal."

Moments after that incident, Davis – who himself had only been on the pitch for three minutes – got the winner with a rare goal, his first of the season. The impressive Papa Bouba Diop waltzed through the Blackburn midfield and hit a powerful shot which Robinson did well to save. Andre Ooijer hesitated in clearing and Davis nipped in and lifted the ball over the advancing Robinson.

"In my footballing career I experienced everything because I played for so bloody long," Adams said of the chaos and the drama of the second half. "I'm not relieved." He was just about the only Portsmouth supporter in Fratton Park to hold this view.

Goals: Crouch (49) 1-0; Defoe (52) 2-0; Derbyshire (62) 2-1; Tugay (67) 2-2; Davis (79) 3-2.

Portsmouth (4-4-2): James; Johnson, Pamarot, Distin, Belhadj; Little (Kranjcar, h-t), Diop, Hughes, A Traoré (Davis, 76); Crouch (Kanu, 69), Defoe. Substitutes not used: Ashdown (gk), Hreidarsson, Mvuemba, Nugent.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Emerton, Tugay, Andrews, Pedersen (Villanueva, 86); Santa Cruz, McCarthy (Derbyshire, 62). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Simpson, Mokoena, Fowler, Roberts.

Booked: Blackburn Ooijer.

Referee: M Halsey (Hertfordshire).

Man of the match: Diop (Portsmouth).

Attendance: 18,101.