Three years ago, after Portsmouth had defeated Nottingham Forest two rounds from Wembley, their manager, Jim Smith, took exception to the tears shed on Brian Clough's behalf. "Bugger Cloughie, I've never won the FA Cup either," was, roughly speaking, theplaintive Smith cry.
Now in his 55th year - 26 of them a manager - and with many more cup ties behind him than lie ahead, his vision of the Twin Towers receded again on Saturday. Last season it was Blackburn, one of his former clubs, who put Portsmouth out; this time, even more galling, defeat came from those in the charge of a young manager who once took his orders from Smith.
The enduring image we hold of one of our favourite football figures venting touchline anger on both his team and the injustices of life was reaffirmed again and again in an eventful tie, in which two of the home side were sent off.
Of course, even against a full complement, Leicester may still have won. They were the more assured, the more positive throughout, their faith in the passing game Mark McGhee has striven hard to instil, holding true even on a bog of a pitch made worse bya heavy downpour. If Portsmouth were unlucky with the two first-half incidents which swung the game, equally it should be recorded that the Premiership side deserved their breaks.
When Mark Robins, the £1m signing who splendidly linked together midfield and attack, drove a pass through the middle, Jon Gittens missed his kick and then held back Steve Thompson's run on goal. No argument, surely, with the first red card.
Fourteen minutes on, Lee Russell, having cleverly got away from Robins, chanced the conditions a mite too long, giving Lee Philpott a vital interception. The winger chose to cross instead of shoot and was rewarded by the outstretched boot of Iwan Roberts.
Mark Draper thought he had added to Roberts' strike in the 71st minute, when Robins again provided an accurate supply. Alan Knight advanced to make the stop but had travelled fractionally over the white line and into, for goalkeepers, the area of unforgiving red. Unfortunate for a club stalwart taking his first early bath after 666 games, but again Mr Gallagher's decision was correct.
Smith disagreed and would not trust himself to comment in case he, too, strayed into trouble. McGhee declared the influential Draper was not for sale and that new recruits would soon be brought in to help him.
Goal: Roberts (44) 0-1.
Portsmouth (5-3-2): Knight; Pethick, Gittens, Russell, Butters, Daniel; Radosavljevic, McGrath (McLoughlin, 63), Kristensen (Rees, 59); Powell, Creaney (Flahavan, gk, 72).
Leicester City (4-4-2): Poole; Smith, Mohan, Hill, Whitlow; Grayson, Draper, Thompson, Philpott; Robins, Roberts. Substitutes not used: Lewis, Lowe, Ward (gk).
Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).Reuse content