Rovers 3.v.0 Portsmouth
Sunday 25th February 2007. 15:00
Rovers put to bed the heartache of Thursday with a comprehensive performance to parallel Portsmouth`s opening day win.
Mark Hughes made four notable changes. Benni McCarthy, Ryan Nelsen, Zurab Khizanishvili and David Dunn were all dropped.
Rovers dominated from the start as Shabani Nonda raced onto a misguided header from Sol Campbell to lift the ball over an advancing David James from a tight angle. Just 57 seconds were on the clock and it was just the start that Rovers needed.
The early goal allowed the home side to command the play and relax. However, Rovers could have doubled their lead on 18 minutes. A cross from Brett Emerton was met by Matt Derbyshire but his header was straight into the midriff of David James.
Harry Redknapp has being making quite a clamour recently waxing lyrical about David James` talents. His 'keeper did him no favours today though. He was again questionable in his actions for Rovers` second on 25 minutes, which was a sucker-punch to Portsmouth.
Tresor Lomana Lua Lua had gone agonizingly close for Portsmouth before Rovers advanced and found a second. A quick throw from David Bentley released Derbyshire who raced to the by-line and hit a tepid low cross into the six yard box. James came sprawling out and tangled with Noe Pamorot allowing the ball to squirm away and invitingly into the path of Nonda who dispatched the chance with ease.
Former Rover, Andrew Cole had a chance to pull a goal back but wasted it in typical fashion. At the other end the hosts had a strong shout for a penalty turned away after Derbyshire was clumsily bundled off the ball with the goal gaping.
Rovers ended the half firmly in control.
Mark Hughes` men emerged from the tunnel early for the second half looking confident but there was no sign of Chris Samba. He was replaced by Zurab Khizanishvili.
Rovers immediately put the game beyond doubt. On 50 minutes a sweeping counter-attack generated by the dogged determination, strength and pace of Derbyshire. He held off Linvoy Primus before charging towards goal. A rolled ball into the path of Nonda put the Congolese forward in on goal with a great chance for the hat-trick, however he in turn presented Stephen Warnock with an even easier chance that he gratefully lashed home.
It was a wonderful sweeping move with some crisp passing and direct running.
Nonda did get another very presentable chance to complete his hat-trick in the form of a penalty. Again James was questionable in his actions as he came out second best with Gamst who he tripped to concede the penalty.
Nonda casually stepped up in that nonchalant manner he has but his precisely placed kick was diverted wide for a corner by James; who appeared to have edged off his line prematurely. The corner amounted to nothing.
Rovers continued to attack a disorganised Portsmouth side that looked beaten. Chances came and were carelessly squandered.
The game was a perfect mirror image of the game at Fratton Park way back in August but with Rovers in complete control. The only thing missing were red cards and Andrew Cole was lucky to escape such punishment. His flailing elbow poleaxed Aaron Mokoena but the referee must have missed it.
Nwankwo Kanu, a second half substitute, summed up Portsmouth`s efforts late on with a desperate and poorly executed long distance effort on goal. It was devoid of any spark, direction or purpose.
Dunn and Jason Roberts had been brought on and Dunn could and should have added a fourth at the end. Roberts pull back found Dunn unmarked in the area but he recklessly blazed over.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for Rovers as they brushed aside a weary Portsmouth side with consummate ease.
Rovers need to address the poor penalty taking that has been on show this season. I`m thinking the lads should adopt the, 'hit it hard down the middle`, approach.
Bentley put in another good performance but he should look to release the ball a tad earlier at times, especially when team mates are in good positions.
I`m still not convinced what everyone sees in Jason Roberts. He is strong and direct but his touch is poor and he brings little goal-scoring threat to games with wek and wayward efforts.
He doesn't get many so he just got the nod over Stephen Warnock. Took his goals well but should be celebrating a hat-trick today.