Portsmouth 3 Hull 2
Portsmouth proved they are taking the rest of the Barclays Premier League campaign seriously by staging a last-gasp comeback against Hull which denied Tigers boss Iain Dowie a debut victory.
Avram Grant’s men, staring relegation in the face after a nine-point deduction for going into administration, were 2-1 down with three minutes remaining at Fratton Park, only for Jamie O’Hara to equalise and Kanu to score the winner.
Dowie’s men had led twice, with Caleb Folan scoring two fortuitous goals in between Tommy Smith’s equaliser, with Hull appearing to be on course for a first league win away from home this season.
“Going down, going down, chanted the Pompey fans, acknowledging their own position, but also taunting the visiting support after a demoralising defeat against a team already virtually condemned to relegation.
Much of the focus before the game was on whether Grant would significantly weaken his team after the Premier League’s deduction made it virtually impossible for them to stay in the top flight. They now can get a maximum of 37 points.
With an FA Cup semi-final on the horizon, Grant had considered making wholesale changes. In the end he drafted five players in from the team that lost to Liverpool last Monday, although it could hardly be labelled weak one of the changes was England goalkeeper David James coming in and another scored their equaliser.
Hull were looking for a reaction after Phil Brown’s dismissal earlier in the week and Dowie’s appointment, with his task appearing more difficult after this result.
“He’s got a quarter of the season to go and that is enough time for him to influence it, said Hull chairman Adam Pearson ahead of the clash.
There were signs, as early as the fourth minute, that Dowie’s presence in the dug-out may earn them a change of fortune away from home.
Kevin Kilbane, one of three changes Dowie made, floated a cross from the left to the back post and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink looped a header against the upright, with Folan not quick enough with his reactions to tap home the rebound.
Hull opened the scoring in the 27th minute with a goal that came after Jimmy Bullard had two long-range efforts, the second of which deflected off Aaron Mokoena for a corner.
Bullard’s corner was cleared by Frederic Piquionne to the edge of the area where Craig Fagan’s shot, helped by Folan’s deflection, wrongfooted James. It was credited to Folan, his first goal since Hull’s first game of last season.
Pompey’s equaliser came eight minutes from the break, also from a corner. From O’Hara’s delivery, Piquionne met the ball again and this time returned it to the danger zone, where Smith prodded home.
Hull may have felt unfortunate to be level at the break after threatening James’ goal and inducing mistakes from the 39-year-old goalkeeper.
When he rushed out to take the ball off Folan, James slid out of his area and earned a yellow card, then the striker intercepted a backpass but was forced too wide to inflict damage.
Dean Marney also had an effort fly just wide, while Fagan went over the crossbar in the 50th minute after a decent run.
Folan’s second goal came after referee Phil Dowd touched the ball in the build-up, with Richard Garcia slipping his team-mate through to slot home.
O’Hara was furious with Dowd but responded by curling a delicious free-kick into the top corner with three minutes remaining. There was still another twist, with Nadir Belhadj racing down the left and crossing for Kanu to slot home.