Classic Match: Pompey 1-2 SWFC
In a new series on Vital Sheffield Wednesday looking back at classic Wednesday matches - 'CompostBin' looks back to April 2003 as the Owls spoilt the Pompey promotion party...
Portsmouth Vs Wednesday, Fratton Park
April 12th 2003
The long road down to Portsmouth is a long and daunting one, April 12th 2003 saw 1300 fans from the blue 2/3rds of Sheffield make this trip and most discovered the villages of north Hampshire and Berkshire when the Newbury bypass closed due to a traffic accident.
The Wednesday fans that'd made the trip were probably happy of those delays, less time in Fratton Park to see Wednesday get massacred. Most fans probably went for pre-match ice cream and post-match nightlife than for football, Wednesday didn't stand a chance.
Apart from the Wednesday faithful, Fratton Park was packed to its near 20000 capacity with Milan Manderic and his guest, the late George Best, and it was carnival time in Portsmouth. Why all the hoohar for little ol' Wednesday? Well this was to be the day Portsmouth were to be promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history. Congrats to them ey? 'Play Up Pompey' echoed throughout the ground, one of those songs that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and Wednesday fans were awed into silence, for a short time at least.
Manager Chris Turner picked possibly the strongest team available to him, which looks decidedly weak even today. Pressman in goal, a back line of Danny Maddix, Ashley Westwood, Steve Ha. no I can't, too many bad memories. Needless to say, they weren't the pick of the bunch.
For Pompey, Harry Redknapp had the familiar faces of Deon Burton and also Lee Bradbury who until the week before, had been in the blue & white while on loan. He looked the biz at Wednesday, but The Owls had Owusu and Kuqi who er, looked the biz anywhere but at Wednesday.
As tradition goes, it was only right that Bradbury scored against us and he did the honourable and inevitable thing of doing just that on 20 minutes, somehow putting it into the roof of the net from just a few yards with back to goal. Ahhh, the inevitable snowball had begun and the happy (possibly delirious) Owls fans sat back down in their deckchairs to watch the game unfold before them.
Half-time came about quite quickly and the snowball had melted, the game in itself was end to end stuff, the Wednesday box right end to the Wednesday box left end, Pompey like their crosses they do. In all seriousness, Wednesday were fairly comfortable despite the lack of quality.
Wednesday never looked like scoring so it was strange to see the unlikeliest of heroes appearing this day on 76 minutes, in the form of defender Ashley Westwood. What can only be described as under-4s defending from Pompey and a 'flick' from Westwood scraped past the little white line to give the Owls fans some much needed cheer.
Steve Stone tried to correct the game with a couple of close chances, as did a fair few of the Pompey team. Not good enough from them, clearly they'd drunken their Bucks Fizz 90 minutes too early and it had affected their shooting vision.
With seconds to go and Wednesday seemingly able to scrape a draw, what must be Pompey's last chance crops up with a free-kick 40 yards out. Pompey had everything including the kitchen sink and attached girlfriends thrown in the box. A short free-kick was taken, a short pass for the long hump towards goal .. Reddy has other ideas and pops up before the ball could get off the ground and it's sent racing towards Hislop in the Pompey goal and the travelling fans behind him. The Pompey defender is slacking and is out of it. Reddy paces forward with speed, centering himself on the pitch drawing out Hislop to the edge of his box and cool as you like, Reddy sends Hislop the wrong way with a sublime knock into the corner to send Wednesday fans into a frenzy that can only be described as surreal. Hugs all round on the un-covered away end, I'm sure it was Boris Becker that grabbed me but I didn't care, the long trip to sit by the seaside that happened to have a football game in there somewhere was all worth it, it was 'one of those days' as my old man would say.
It wasn't Christmas, but jingle bells were definitely the tune of the Wednesday faithful that day.
The battle was won that day, the war was lost a few days later with a dire 0-0 draw at home to other relegation candidates Grimsby which effectively saw Wednesday relegated. After that, we both deserved to go down anyway. Portsmouth were eventually easily promoted to the Premier League where they still deservedly remain.