Preamble: Hallo. This is undoubtedly the game of the day. Sorry, it's a game of the day. Having clockwatched for the last three hours, this preamble is by necessity even shorter than it is wisdom-filled, but for those of you wishing to spend good drinking time following a hastily bodged-together text report on this Fratton Park slug-fest, here are the teams:
Portsmouth: James, Finnan, Wilson, Hreidarsson, Belhadj, Yebda, Diop, O'Hara, Dindane, Piquionne, Owusu-Abeyie. Subs: Ashdown, Rocha, Mullins, Utaka, Webber, Kanu, Basinas.
Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Collins, Delap, Whitehead, Whelan, Sanli, Fuller, Sidibe.
Subs: Begovic, Lawrence, Beattie, Kitson, Pugh, Diao, Amdy Faye.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
Paul Hart is in the studio and he's plumping for a Pompey win. Craig Burley is backing Stoke, as am I, as Tony Pulis's team are unbeaten in 2010. They may play an aesthetically-challenged brand of football, but I don't mind Stoke. Even though this is the ugliest goal ever scored.
I hopes this happens: "I hereby predict that David James will be substituted in the 13th minute due to a severe concussion caused by Delap's severed arms whacking him in the brain dome. Due to the immense force his thrown-in creates they could no longer stay in their sockets. I'm clutching my betting slip with anticipation." Ben Bennett is the gambling man.
Teams are in place, formed up and ready to start.
Peep! Play up Pompey, here we go ...
1 min: Pompey appear to have lined up with a fairly attacking formation, and it's fair to say they can play. First Delap throw-in is dealt with.
2 min: "There's that utterly ridiculous attention-seeker at Fratton Park. Not John Portsmouth - Mike Dean," honks Gary Naylor. A cheap shot at the referee? Surely not?
4 min: Ricardo Fuller is held by Steve Finnan, giving Stoke the opportunity to sling one into the box via the traditional medium (boot rather than hand). Ryan Shawcross wins the header from Glenn Whelan's free-kick, but it sails high and wide.
5 min: Damian Wims is coming to the defence of Seyi Olofinjana: "A completely deliberate diving headed nutmeg, surely? Soon to be the subject of a Joy Of Six." It went in off his face!!
7 min: Aruna Dindane and Frederci Piquionne combine well down the right-hand side but Dindane's cross is headed clear. Stoke then break themselves, but Fuller's cutback is nowhere near Mamady Sidibe.
9 min: Thomas Sorensen plucks a Jamie O"Hara free-kick safely out of the air. Portsmouth have started in fairly lively fashion, with Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, Piquionne and Dindane looking to stretch the Stoke defence across the pitch.
10 min: Roy Hodgson, surely the doyen of English managers in the game right now, is in the stands. Whelan, who can certainly ping them, wallops a right-footed volley well over, after Herman Hreidarsson's headed clearance.
12 min: Owusu-Abeyie lollipops his way down the left flank only to lose control of the ball and get tackled. He scored a pearler against Southampton in the FA Cup last weekend, though he's seldom looked convincing on his various spells in English football.
14 min: "Given Pompey are going to be wound up in a week or two, why don't all the teams playing them put out ridiculous formations based entirely on entertainment? W-M formations or 2-3-5, just in an attempt to pull out a 6-5 thriller, get the fans back involved and then when the results get expunged it won't matter." Alec Cochrane doesn't think there have been enough laughs at Pompey's expense this season.
16 min: Stoke are awarded another free-kick out on the left, which culminates in Andy Wilkinson pumping a long ball into the Pompey box. Danny Collins knocks it down for Sidibe, who swings a leg at it, but drags the ball comfortably wide.
18 min: The Delap catapult (Delapapult?) is wheeled out again, after Pompey concede a throw-in down in their left corner. Stoke win the first header at the near post, but James claims the bouncing ball.
19 min: Stoke, for all their reputation as cloggers, are quite capable of knocking the ball around. Whelan in particular isn't a bad player.
20 min: That's a very tight offside call. Owusu-Abeyie skipped inside from the left-wing and played a slide-rule pass for Piquionne, who finishes well, dinking the ball over Sorensen as the Dane came off his line. The linesman flagged early, but he looked level to me.
22 min: Avram Grant looks like he's got gall stones. Normal, then. Stoke stroke the ball about a bit, with Tuncay and Whelan evaded hacking challenges from the home side before Whelan's through ball is shepherded out by Hriedarsson with Dean Whitehead in close attendance.
25 min: O'Hara sends Belhadj galloping away up the left, but his centre is hoofed clear. O'Hara then almost inveigles his way through on the edge of the box before the ball finds it way back out to the left with Belhadj, who unleashes a dipping right-footed drive just over.
26 min: A very pertinant question from Damian Wims: "If Portsmouth get removed from existence in a Back To The Future sort of way, what will happen to the Fantasy Football????!!!!" It could cause all sorts of ructions. The Premier League would surely have to intervene?
27 min: Piquionne gets back into his own box to do some defending, clearing a Delap mega chuck-in with his head.
29 min: Herman Hreidarsson hoicks a long ball from his own half out for a goal kick down on the Stoke right. Hreidarsson then gives a more impressive display of his footballing abilities with a sliding tackle on Fuller.
31 min: Quincy Owusu-Abeyie – whom Joe Royle has just described as "a player every young Arsenal supporter wanted to be a few years ago" – again goes tearing down the left. His pass can't quite find Piquionne on the edge of the box.
32 min: Ben Bennett, friend of bookies, is still smiling: "Well I lost my bet. Pompey could raise revenue by making a sitcom about the mishaps of their brothel-visiting manager. 'Some mothers do Avram'?" Tres drol, indeed. We want more such morsels.
GOAL! Portsmouth 1-0 Stoke City (Piquionne 35) What was I saying about Owusu-Abeyie being a flaky dilettante? The winger cut in from the left, played a one-two with Jamie O'Hara before smacking a right-footed drive which Thomas Sorensen can only parry. Frederic Piquionne then pulls a top-draw finish out of the bag, pouncing on the rebound and lifting it over the sprawling Sorensen from an acute angle.
37 min: I'd completely forgotten that Papa Bouba Diop was still at Pompey. He used to be good, once, didn't he? Surprising that he hasn't been eBayed like the rest of Avram Grant's squad.
39 min: Great chance for Stoke. Right-back Andy Wilkinson fires a long, raking ball towards the Pompey box, which is flicked on by Sidibe and falls to Tuncay on the left. He advances on the goal, checking inside to beat Marc Wilson ... but he rifles his effort straight at David James, who palms it away.
41 min: Delap winds up again (is there a Delap action figure on sale in the Stoke shop? If not, it's a merchandising opportunity missed) but Portsmouth seem to have got the measure of his long throws.
42 min: Wilkinson is forced to head an O'Hara delivery behind, and the Pompey man's second corner then flies over everyone for a throw-in on the far side.
44 min: There will be two minutes of added time, according to the fourth official ... even though there's still a minute of normal time left. Diop is fouled in the Pompey half, with David James launching the free-kick up field.
45+1 min: Tuncay misses another glorious chance to make it 1-1. Whelan was the architect, curling a cross into the box that found the Turk lurking between Wilson and Hreidarsson, but Tuncay directed his header well wide of David James's right-hand upright.
Peep! Peep! It's half time, with Portsmouth a goal to the good.
Half-time email (let's make that plural. Together we can do it!) "Perhaps a musical extravaganza where a languid striker who is older than Hydrogen performs his favourite Jackson Five numbers. Kanu Feel It?" More excellent Pompey-themed sitcom ideas from Ben Bennett.
How about another musical, starring Lauren Hill and Portmouth's holding midfielder, about how downright shallow men are? Diop (That Thing).
45 min: Nwankwo Kanu, star of Ben Bennett's proposed Jacko spectacular, has replaced the Portsmouth goalscorer Frederic Piquionne. Not sure why that is, must be an injury or some such.
46 min: Kanu then streches those telescopic legs to link up with [Portsmouth team-mate] down the right. He can't quite get on the end of the ball into the box, but Portsmouth win a corner.
47 min: ... which comes to nothing. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie then crumps a drive into Sorensen's chest from out on the left.
48 min: At the other end, a Dean Whitehead volley nearly sneaks in through a thicket of legs in the penalty area ... and then Portsmouth break, with Aruna Dindane running clean through on goal after a long ball. He tries to cut back inside Wilkinson, but his touch is slightly heavy and Danny Collins nicks the ball away.
GOAL! Portsmouth 1-1 Stoke (Huth 50) Stoke equalise and, whaddya know, it's via a header from a centre-back. The big German Robert Huth doesn't need to climb all over Marc Wilson, he's that big. He just leans above his Pompey opposite number and boshs the Stoke corner past David James with his forehead.
53 min: That seems to have sparked this most put-upon of Premier League crowds into fervent life, as the bells and drums become audible once more. Hreidarsson wins an O'Hara corner at the back post, but only heads it back towards the penalty spot ...
54 min: ... allowing Stoke to break through Tuncay and Fuller. It's a three-on-two situation, but Tuncay tries to go it alone and hogs his way into a cul-de-sac before getting dispossessed.
56 min: Ryan Shawcross is penalised for climbing on Kanu, handing Pompey a free-kick slightly to the left-of-centre around 30 yards out ...
57 min: O'Hara's effort it straight at the wall, however. Now, this is good stuff, from Mark Elliott: "How about a historical adventure series based on the long lost RL Stevenson novel, Redknapped?" I demand E4 commission it now.
59 min: Nadir Belhadj shanks a cross from the left into the upper reaches of the stand behind Sorensen's goal. Jamie O'Hara then talks his way into Mike Dean's book. At the risk of riling Gary Naylor, Dean has been pleasingly unobtrusive so far.
61 min: This the story of Portsmouth's season. Having had the better of the game so far, Avram Grant's side are again looking at missing out on three points. Owusu-Abeyie and Yebda both lose the ball in good positions on either flank, as if to emphasise how fragile they are.
64 min: Aruna Dindane nearly gets on the end of a cross into the box from Steve Finnan, but Sorensen rises above him to claim the ball. Meanwhile, I can't believe none of us thought of this earlier: "Sitcom ideas?" chirps Julian Le Saux. "Up Pompey? Starring Frankie Howerd as Avram Grant."
66 min: John Utaka takes to the field in place of Hassan Yebda for Portsmouth.
67 min: Gary Naylor wants to foment a socialist uprising somewhere near Premier League headquarters. "So whoever it is decides these things has decided that Pompey cannot sell players outside the window [this is true – AG]. Will they just make players redundant, with the bench reducing like the ten green bottles? Perhaps John Portsmouth and Fred Dineage could be subs towards the end of the season? If Portsmouth had lost as much as a bank, they'd have been saved." Yeah, but banks have a use, don't they?
69 min: Rory Delap nearly makes a significant contribution with the boot. His volley from some 25 yards, after James had punched clear a corner, was sweetly struck and on target, but his team-mate Shawcross managed to clear it from in front of James rather than aid its passage towards the goal.
71 min: Laughter is the best medicine, eh Pompey "Re: TV show ideas," emails James Taylor. "Maybe a smooth-headed Richard O'Brien could lead Yebda, O'Hara, Avram Grant and the parade of wannabe owners through cult game show, the Fiscal Maze? I bet David James could snag plenty of gold and silver tokens inside the Crystal Dome at the end."
And here's Mac Millings: "How about 'Are You Being Served With an Injunction?', starring Mr. Humphries (catchphrase, 'Chime free')."
72 min: RED CARD! Andy Wilkinson receives a second yellow, and Mike Dean has made his mark on this match at last.
74 min: Wilkinson, I should recap, was caught tangling with Dindane, but to be honest it looked like he eased the Pompey striker off the ball in a legitimate, if old-skool, fashion. Ricardo Fuller then treats Jamie O'Hara's groin to some stud-love, and apparently gets away with it. Oh, Mike Dean!
76 min: Can Pompey take advantage of their extra man? They are controlling possession now, but lack a cutting edge up front (Nwankwo Kanu being more like an old butter knife these days). Steve Finnan blaps one from distance which impresses no one.
77 min: And Ben Bennett continues to riff on Pompey's pain: "A red card addict sees sweeping changes in his village but wants to protect his values from the Tsarist regime. Fiddler on the Huth."
79 min: Portsmouth win another free-kick in a dangerous area after Jamies O'Hara is taken out. Kanu then fell over as well, just for emphasis. Utaka's effort is deflected for a corner.
82 min: John Champion is inveighing against Gary Naylor's mate, Mike Dean, for not even booking Fuller for leaving his foot in on O'Hara. Paul Flattery, who surely for only masochistic reasons has labelled himself a 'Kopite in LA', has been in touch: "I can't be the only one to notice the irony in the advertisement on the Portsmouth players shirts: 'Jobsite', can I?" There's something for everyone at Pompey, isn't there?
84 min: The action on the pitch has been nothing so much as pedestrian in the last five minutes. Both teams appear to have settled: Stoke because a point with 10 men isn't to be sniffed at; Pompey because, well, they're Pompey. Come one, you're the blimming home side and you've got a man advantage. Oh, and you're bottom of the league and in danger of going into liquidation. At least try and give your fans something to smile about!!!
85 min: Danny Webber is brought on in place of Steve Finnan for the last five minutes. That's a tactical curve ball from Avram.
88 min: Mamady Sidibe has dropped back into midfield, as Stoke look to see this one out. Kanu flicks on a cross, but it doesn't find a team-mate. Dindane then can't get on the end of a Belhadj centre ...
GOAL! Portsmouth 1-2 Stoke (Diao 90+1) The cruellest of final blows! Ricardo Fuller went clean through on the right, shifted this way then that to confound Marc Wilson before stabbing the ball back from the byline for Salif Diao to thwack into the roof of the net. That's his first goal in eight years! Deary me, Portsmouth.
90+4 min: Stoke are going to bring on Dave Kitson for Ricardo Fuller. This is basically all over.
90+5 min: Kitson has touched it almost as many times in the last minute as Kanu has all half. He's won a corner, and a free-kick. Hreidarsson's been booked. When will the pain end?
Peep! Peep! Peep! Stoke complete a comeback win against luckless Portsmouth. That could be Pompey's final ever game at Fratton Park, with their winding-up hearing a week on Monday, and it sums up what a wretched season they've had. Stoke maintain their bright start to 2010, but Portsmouth look like goners, which ever way you look at it. Cheers for your emails, apologies for any I didn't get round to using. Ta ra