A first League win in two and a half months and a timely clean sheet for David James in his record-breaking 536th Premier League appearance. Life after Tony Adams could not have started much sweeter for Portsmouth yesterday.
Paul Hart may not be in the frame to take over permanently but the stand-in manager seems to have put fire in the bellies of the Pompey players. After working tirelessly to gain the ascendancy, they hit City with a quickfire double blow to gain revenge for a 6-0 thrashing in September.
As if Adams' departure was not disruptive enough, Portsmouth suffered further controversy, with Peter Storrie, the executive chairman, being re-questioned on Friday in a police inquiry into suspected corruption in football. Storrie, who denies any wrongdoing, has not been charged and was re-bailed to appear again in June.
Storrie and the Fratton faithful will have been heartened by the team's performance. Hart tweaked and tinkered rather than make wholesale changes, bringing back Nico Kranjcar into a free role in a midfield five.
While they hardly set the pulse racing in an undistinguished first half, Portsmouth always looked more likely to break the deadlock against a City side that have not won away in the league since August and were without their regular centre-backs as well as the suspended Shaun Wright-Phillips.
City's performance disappointed manager Mark Hughes. "You need an amount of players at the top of their ability to win Premier League games or you get beaten and that's what happened today," he said. "We expected more but we struggled to stamp our ability on the game."
Part of the reason for that struggle was Kranjcar. Always busy, he kept trying to set up Peter Crouch and David Nugent while Portsmouth's midfield bristled with intent. But it was a defender who broke through on 70 minutes. Glen Johnson cut in from the right, saw his shot parried by Given, switched the ball on to his left foot and struck home the rebound.
Before they could recover, City were two down courtesy of Pompey's other full-back, Hermann Hreidarsson, powering home a header from Jermaine Pennant's corner. Cue Robinho being ignominiously substituted having contributed next to nothing. What an enigma the Brazilian is.
Now it was a case of whether James could make his special day that bit more memorable. With six minutes left, City substitute Ched Evans seemed certain to reduce the deficit, only for the 38-year-old to pull off a miraculous reflex stop and preserve his first clean sheet in the league since mid-November.
Hart was delighted with the way things went. "I was brought in to do the youth development programme but I must admit there was a little tingle in my stomach that I have not felt for four or five years. I was asked to step in at a difficult time and we'll see what happens," he said. "I only got the players together yesterday morning and worked solely on defensive shape but only for an hour. Everyone was desperate for a win. To get it out of our system was so important."
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Johnson
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content