We also faced a pitch with standing water in the corners, plus we had to endure the arsehole Graham Poll in charge of what was thankfully his last ever Premiership match. There is no disrespect intended to our young substitutes: Mark Randall, Vito Mannone, Matthew Connolly, Joe O'Cearuill and Keiran Gibbs, but this was hardly a bench to brown the opposition's shorts. Clearly our game plan wasn't to have a go for 3rd place.
Guessing our starting line-up was as much fun as guessing who was what in the fancy dress parade that invaded the Arsenal section. I certainly spotted Ben as one of the 118 guys, there was a right batty boy claiming to be Cashley's boyfriend. Basso the pirate had the fattest parrot on his shoulder you'll ever see and making her first appearance at Fratton Park was the Queen who was greeted with a song and waved back regally. There were loads more in fancy dress and thankfully the rain held off so the costumes were not ruined. Poll joined in with the spirit of the occasion and turned up as a ref - oh how we laughed. 'Oh Graham Poll will be signing on the dole' was applauded by the fat prat as he warmed his massive bulk prior to kick off. We waved back with the standard two-finger greeting he so richly deserves.
Despite what you might read on the Club's official website it was Djourou rather than Toure who played in midfield, alongside Eboue, Diaby, Hleb and Fabregas. Hoyte slotted in at right back, Baptista was up-front. Poom in goal, the best player on the pitch, Clichy, played in his normal roll and Senderos battled away alongside Kolo.
A deflected shot from Clichy was acrobatically cleared off the line with James well beaten. Kanu fired over at the other end. 'Where's the wanker with the bell' was the first chant I recall after kick-off. If he'd had any sense he would have stayed up the pub, as should we all. Baptista stunned us all with a great shot that James did well to save. Despite never looking likely to score Baptista didn't hide and worked hard, other than this shot though he never looked like scoring and neither did anyone else. Eboue had a wild shot.
'Three cards, you've only got three cards'. Kranjcar with a shot wide. Kanu offside. Hleb won a corner. Djourou and then Senderos cleared. Baptista with a cross or shot, who knows? A touch of excitement as the lino lost his flag, and believe me that did qualify as excitement at Fratton Park today. A Fabregas freekick that Baptista headed wide. Great cut-out by Clichy. Kanu had a great shot that was going top-corner but Poom saved really well. A left-footed effort by Fabregas was saved. Kolo to Abou almost. A decent Hleb solo. Then Eboue was brought down in the area. A clear cut penalty even with the naff view I had from the other end. Baptista took it and fired it hard but close to and at a comfortable height for James. Good save, crap penalty. A couple more offsides at either and news from other grounds regarding the relegation battle rather made you wish you were at home in front of the box with a beer.
Baptista had a shot saved where he should have done better, much better. Fabregas put Hleb through but he could only find the side netting. Pompey missed a sitter but there was an offside flag up anyway. O'Neill was axing people right, left and centre but Poll was pretending he didn't have a card , nether mind three. Looking now at my scribbled notes the phrase that kept appearing was 'another great run by Clichy' and so it was. He and Hleb were storming down the left but there was never any end product. One such run resulted in another shot blocked from Baptista, he was really trying but to no avail. 'Are you sure that you're the Beast'. When he set up Hleb once more his failure to shoot was met with groans. Then Hleb was axed down yet again by O'Neill and yet again old 'three cards' kept them in his pocket. Eboue was limping, no change there then.
A perfect free kick from Cesc which Baptista headed over, had he left it I'm sure Senderos would have done better. Baptista was called offside as Hleb netted, he was also called a few other things. Almost immediately after this Pompey scored, or thought they had, after a long consultation with his lino, who I didn't see raise his flag, the 'goal' was ruled out. This wound the Pompey fans up no end and their team had a brief barrage on our goal in response. But it petered out, as did Pompey. Hleb with a naff shot, which is probably why he doesn't bother shooting. Great tackle by Djourou who came away in a move that saw Hleb put in a decent cross that James could only parry. No one followed up though. Cesc was trying to play centre forward by now realising perhaps that he actually had the best chance of finding the net of any player in yellow. The rest is hardly worth reporting but in the two minutes added time Baptista had a shot blocked, while Cesc hit one off target. Kolo was called for a free kick that never was and Kranjcar had a wild shot. The final whistle was almost a relief.
So loads of wasted chances, more great stuff from Cesc and Gael who were both a class apart as usual. But essentially we were crap in front of goal, which of course has been the story of our season, pretty well all season. At least it stopped raining by the time we reached Fratton Park and it held off during the match which was a bonus. Rain or no rain as games go this one was very forgettable, we could argue that the penalty miss cost us third place and Pompey could argue that Poll cost them a place in Europe. Or both sets of fans could just laugh at Warnock's mob being relegated. Me I'm laughing at Warnock.