Portsmouth v Bolton Wanderers: Match Report

Pompey eased their relegation worries this afternoon with a well deserved 1-0 victory against Bolton Wanderers.

Nigerian legend Nwankwo Kanu scored the only goal of the game, after adding a faint touch to Nadir Belhadj’s in-swinging corner to steer the ball into the back of the net.

The goal had been coming for a long time for Pompey, who had previously piled much pressure on the unusually lacklustre Bolton defence.

The Tap-in King

One man piling on much of Portsmouth’s pressure was England international Glen Johnson, playing in a much more advanced role at right-midfield.

Johnson went close to breaking the deadlock on three separate occasions, including hitting a low drive against the post early in the first half.

Although Pompey started the brighter of the two sides, it was Bolton who could have gone ahead through a Johan Elmander strike. However the shot was fortunately well saved by David James.

Pompey responded to claims of being ‘too defensive’ by attacking right from the start. Glen Johnson was often in control of the ball and was involved in many of the attacking opportunities the Blues had.

With Younes Kaboul behind him, Johnson found he had the opportunity to drift all over the midfield. Bolton was certainly finding it hard to deal with the former West Ham trainee.

Johno’s first opportunity of the game took place midway through the first half. He collected the ball from the centre circle and went on a surging run before producing a strong shot from the edge of area, forcing Jaaskelainen to produce a good save.

A defensive mistake by Andy O’Brien presented Johnson with his next opportunity. Niko Kranjcar took advantage of the Irishman’s error by providing a ball to Johnson, leaving him completely unmarked. However the 24-year-old failed to make the opportunity count by shooting timidly at the Bolton ‘keeper.

Johnson then completed his hat-trick of missed chances by hitting the post. A loose ball dropped at his feet inside the area. Whilst he could have passed to Peter Crouch in space, Johnson sent a shot across the goal, only for Jaaskelainen to push the ball onto the post.

At this point Pompey fans were wondering what their team would have to do in order to get the three points required.

Bolton’s football at times could have been described as ‘disjointed’. Some believe that this could have been due to the loss of Jamaican midfielder Ricardo Gardner, early in the first half.

The Trotters did improve however at the start of the second half, with their defence in particular looking more of a solid unit. They still however did not look an attacking threat.

Pompey fans were getting anxious. The Portsmouth players looked to be running out of ideas whilst Bolton seemed settled on earning a point.

As a result Portsmouth manager Paul Hart brought on FA Cup hero Kanu to replace the fatigued David Nugent. Hart was forced to make another substitution soon later when Niko Kranjcar was stretchered off the field after being fouled by Gavin McCann.

At this point, many Pompey fans were fearing the worst. Kranjcar is no doubt Portsmouth’s most creative midfielder. Being carried off on a stretcher, with an oxygen mask too gave the impression he would be out for the season.

However, the scan on Monday revealed that whilst Niko will be unavailable for the trips to Old Trafford and St. James Park, he could still play again this season.

Whilst in a state of despair to see their star player taken off, many fans were relieved and overjoyed minutes later to see his replacement, Nadir Belhadj swing in a deadly corner for the tap-in king, ‘King Kanu’ to score his first league goal of the season.

From Bolton’s viewpoint, it was an awful goal to concede. It was shocking that there wasn’t a man on the front post. The goal happened from Gavin McCann missing his header, leaving Kanu free to knee the ball into the back of the net.

A loss against Bolton would have left Paul Hart’s side uncertain of their Premier League future. Fortunately for Pompey, they deservedly gained all three points and only need a few more to guarantee safety.

From despair to euphoria in the space of a few minutes, it could only be Pompey.

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