Yakubu makes sure Norwich pay penalty

Portsmouth 1 - Norwich City 1
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The Independent Football

As David Beckham would be the first to testify, taking a penalty just once requires firm control of the nerves. To convert a spot-kick three times, as Yakubu Aiyegbeni managed to do to earn Portsmouth a draw against Norwich, and in the most wretched of conditions, was a masterpiece of calmness.

Just as well, then, that Portsmouth's leading scorer, now with nine goals, can handle a challenge, because his side were made to scrap all through a windblown afternoon of torrential rain for a draw by a resolute Norwich reduced to 10 men after only four minutes when Marc Edworthy was shown a straight red card for bringing down Diomansy Kamara.

Towards the end, as Norwich began to buckle in the face of the conditions and Pompey's surge, Robert Green demonstrated his England goalkeeping credentials with some fine stops.

Encroachment into the area was twice the reason that the referee, Phil Dowd, ordered Yakubu to try again. The first time Kamara was the guilty party, but on the second occasion it appeared to be mass jostling which spilled bodies forward. Whatever, Yakubu was up to the challenge, thus denying Norwich their first away win of the season.

The dismissal of Edworthy was an early jolt for Nigel Worthington in his 200th game as Norwich's manager, especially after seeing David Bentley's skidding shot soon after the kick-off cause Shaka Hislop all sorts of problems.

So well did Norwich adapt, with Mattias Johnson moved to right-back, that they were in front by the 10th minute. The lively Darren Huckerby crossed high and deep from the left and Arjan de Zeeuw's clearing header flew straight to Damien Francis. Back in the side after seven matches out because of a broken cheekbone, Francis met the clearance with a mighty volley which sailed high into the net.

There could have been a carbon copy at the other end as Green punched away, straight to Patrik Berger. His immediate shot was cleared off the line by Simon Charlton.

Although Portsmouth were aggressive and insistent, Francis could have put Norwich two ahead. Huckerby, this time on the right, provided a short centre which found Francis just beyond the far post but the force of the cross appeared to take him by surprise and his header sent the ball back in the direction whence it had come.

Green made the first of his fine saves soon after, denying the inrushing Matthew Taylor at his near post as Norwich continued to cause problems despite being shorthanded. Huckerby had the ball in the net, only for Leon McKenzie to be pulled up for a foul, while Huckerby's next effort was turned behind.

With the terrible conditions now in their favour, Portsmouth dominated the second half but almost an hour had passed before they managed to pull level. A corner from the left was met by the head of De Zeeuw and in trying to deal with the threat, Norwich's captain, Craig Fleming, was penalised for handling, setting the scene for Yakubu's penalty heroics, which occupied all of three minutes.

In a flurry of substitutions, one of Norwich's newcomers, Jim Brennan, almost put them in front again with a shot that took a huge deflection and came back off an upright. But in the end Green's genius in goal kept his side afloat with saves from Valery Mezague, De Zeeuw and Andy Griffin.

As Worthington said, "That performance is what we are all about". Hard-working, but not necessarily winning.

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