Championship side Coventry played host to troubled Premier League side Portsmouth in what was the pick of tonights FA Cup third round games (and replays). Portsmouth came under a lot of pressure after they struggled to pay players wages and money owed to fellow clubs. They recently had a transfer ban placed on them and are set to lose a few players in this window. They have also said goodbye to four players who are on international duty in the African nations, whilst a further four are sidelined by injury.
Coventry on the other hand are on a good run of form with four wins from their last six games, so although this is a Championship versus Premiership clash very few eyebrows would be raised if the supposed “underdogs” came out on top here.
Coventry started the better of the two sides as a fairly empty Ricoh Arena made plenty of noise on this cold night. Stephen Wright gave Coventry the first glimpse of goal on ten minutes when he controlled the ball well and drilled a shot on target, forcing Begovic to get down and make an easy save. Portsmouth looked to get into the game with Piquionne winning a corner from a deflected shot but they appeared lethargic up front and the corner, and following moves, come to nothing.
After a failed clearance from Portsmouth, Leon Best, with his back to goal, found himself surrounded by three defenders as he watched the ball bounce in front of him. In one slick move he then swung and hit the ball on the turn, the twenty yard volley rocketed past Begovic to open the scoring on twenty-two minutes. A fantastic goal from the gifted frontman.
Pompy tried to find a way back into the game as they looked to break Coventry’s confidence but the Sky Blues were unflappable and comfortably held the 1-0 lead into the break.
Portsmouth came out after the break with a little more enthusiasm, but the first chance of the half fell to Coventry as Leon Best broke away down the wing and found himself with plenty of space in the box, he stopped and took his time to pick out Gunnarsson but Vanden Borre got back well for Pompy to block the pass.
With half an hour to go the game began to open up. Leon Best came close to doubling his tally when latching onto a cross at the far post, but he couldn’t keep his volley down. This moment of play was followed up by a Portsmouth counterattack which ended with a shot wide from lively substitute John Utaka, before a mishit cross by Smith nearly fooled Westwood who managed to scramble back and tip the ball over his bar.
With twenty Minutes left Portsmouth found their rhythm and looked for the equalizer. Vanden Borre tried an ambitious shot from thirty yards which spun wide before Danny Webber also played his hand by smashing a volley across the goal and wide. With the pressure on them Coventry began to sit back and watched on as Utaka latched onto a sweet cross from Hreidarsson, but the speedy Nigerian looked uncomfortable in the air and his headed effort was feeble.
Portsmouth seemed to lose whatever spirit they had over the next ten minutes and their chances thinned out as we entered the final five minutes of the game. Coventry missed out on a chance to win the game on eighty-six minutes when Clinton Morrison shifted around the goalkeeper, took the ball wide and then looked for a cutback only to find Pompy man Marc Wilson who kept his team in the game with a clearance.
Coventry were then made to rue their chances in the final minute of the game when a cross was flicked on by Diop before Stephen Wright headed it into his own goal after some shocking and nervy defending. Stoppage time was played out with both teams going for the win but this one was destined for extra time; finishing 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Extra time began as a pretty even contest with both teams going for the win but neither wanting to leave themselves exposed at the back. The first half was uneventful but as Portsmouth tightened the screws in the final five minutes of the second half, Utaka was gifted a great opportunity to win the game when one on one with Westwood, but the quality striker couldn’t convert and in the end it was scrambled away. Richard Wright tried his luck at the other end and just as this game looked like it was going to a penalty shootout Mokoena found himself with a free header from a corner, he made perfect contact and nodded the ball past a dumbfounded Westwood to give Portsmouth the win with the last touch of the game.
Elsewhere in the cup three games were postponed due to frozen pitches (Accrington Stanley/Gillingham, Brentford/Doncaster, Notts County/Forest Green Rovers), Sheffield United beat QPR 3-2 at Loftus Road, Birmingham knocked out Nottingham Forest after a close 1-0 victory, Bristol City and Cardiff City drew 1-1 – and will be heading for a replay – and Derby beat Millwall on penalties.