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Fratton Park
Portsmouth v  Derby County

Premier League
Saturday January 19th 2008, 3pm
Tim Watson
(Derby County fan)

Why were you looking forward to going to the ground?

Both Alex, my son, and I had never been to Fratton Park home of the famous Pompey and as this was Derby’s first (and most likely last for some time) season in the Premiership we couldn’t resist the chance to visit as many Premiership grounds as possible. Derby had just bought 5 new players including Robbie “break your legs” Savage in the January transfer window so I was interested in how the new look team would perform and held vain hopes of a historic Derby revival in the second half of the season..

How easy was your journey?

We set off at 12.00am from our base in Hertfordshire. Travel time was estimated at 1hour 50 minutes but we had the M25 to negotiate first. Thankfully the traffic was light with no accidents so it was onto the M3 and head for Southampton. Off the M3 onto the M27 and straight into Portsmouth. The directions on the web site worked perfectly. Once you get off the M27 at the Southsea/Fratton turning you are onto a dual carriageway into Portsmouth with the ground signposted and it is only about 2-3 miles down this road that you come to the ground on your left hand side. Just as you first see the ground there is a pub on the left at a set of traffic lights. If you turn left here there is street parking. We went through the lights and took the first left turn, down to a T junction and then looked left for a parking space. Found one in no time and actually parked behind another Derby support doing the same as us. Time of arrival 1.50pm. 

What you did before the game:

We walked straight to the ground which was about 5 minutes away and we walked past 2 pubs with punters drinking outside. We saw no derby colours at all so didn’t stay around as there was also one or two choice words aimed at us as we walked by. The area was well policed though and I am sure it was only the Pompey being playful and properly welcoming any Derby faithful. 

First impressions:

You see the floodlights first and the ground somehow seems to be wedged between terraced houses. Quite nostalgic actually because it has the feel of the old “Baseball Ground” to it. The facilities outside are minimal to say the least but we spied one burger van doing a roaring trade just outside the ground under the away end. Alex and his friend were surprised at the age and state of the outside of the ground as they had only been used to Pride Park or the Emirates etc this was going to be something different. 

The game itself:

I have to start by praising the stewards. They were present but not intrusive, very polite and prepared to have a laugh and a joke with the fans as well as allowing you to stand up. Stewards can quite often spoil a game for away fans especially when the home side goes 1-0 down so well done Pompey.

Pompey had not scored at home in 6 games. Derby had only scored 4 goals away from home and it was halfway through the season. Things did not look good for an exciting game with plenty of goals. However, as unpredictable as ever, Derby took the lead with their first attack, a cross into the box by new boy Lauren Robert, header by Fagan, save onto the bar by James and bundled over the line by the returning Nyatanga. 1-0 to the Rams.

A good game then developed with Pompey pressing, Derby defending and attacking on the break. In fact Kenny Millar was through on James in the Pompey goal and should have made it 2-0 inside 15 minutes. Pompey continued to press but with no real chances until that is new boy Danny Mills goes down injured. Nobody near him just hoofs the ball into the stand and collapses. Derby reorganise their depleted squad but inside 5 minutes Benjani has turned his marker in the box and struck the ball high into the top corner of the Derby net. Good goal, 1-1. Derby’s defence has been abjectly woeful all season and at least they proved to be consistent when 2 minutes later Benjani was gifted a free header in the Derby box. Incredible how 4 defenders can miss seeing another teams main striker. Half time and still 2-1 to the Pompey.

I should say something about the Pompey fans. They were very quiet early on, not surprising given the start Derby had, but once they started the chants of “Blue Army” and “Play up Pompey, Pompey play up” they were very impressive. What I liked about it was that all of the ground, and I mean ALL sections of the ground, joined in and in full voice it was very impressive. I do not know of any other ground I have been to where this happens. 

Second half and Derby came out fighting but the game was killed off 10 minutes in by a delightful Pompey counter attack and clinical finish by, you guessed it, Benjani. The Derby faithful would have nothing of it and continued to spur the team on with the “We are Derby, Super  Derby” chant. This went on continuously for a good 20 minutes and when we finally changed it to “Oh when the Rams go marching in” the Pompey fans stood and applauded the change of song. No further goals although Derby huffed and puffed so 3 points to a revitalised Harry Rednap’s Pompey and back to the defensive drawing board for Paul Jewel and what’s left of the depleted Derby squad.

Facilities at Fratton Park are sparse to say the least with only 1 shop on the top of the terrace and if going again I would take my own refreshments. Also take a coat. The wind down there coming off the sea is absolutely bitter.

Getting away:

Was a piece of cake. We left with 3 minutes to go, were back at the car just as the final whistle had blown and then back on the main road out of Portsmouth inside 10 minutes. Traffic was light and we arrived home in Hertfordshire after collecting a KFC on the way by 7.00pm

Summary:

A special day out on many levels. Alex has now seen how football grounds and facilities used to be when I was a lad. The youth of today - They don’t know their born!

The Pompey support, when roused, was a delight to hear and created a wonderful atmosphere and if at some point in the future they get a new ground then I am sure they will do it justice. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable day out but do take a thermos and wrap up well.


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