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26/10 Pompey 1st Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 1 Portsmouth 0
26 Oct 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
A beautiful clear, mild night on the Lincolnshire Riviera with a stunning orange moon lazily creeping over the Main Stand. Why was John Bond strolling down Blundell Avenue? Even from behind you could tell he was a "football man", with his big coat and swagger. Just before the game Donovan, Handyside and Livingstone wandered across the pitch from the Findus. Only Livvo had the good grace to remember to limp. With his lumber jacket on he looked the spitting image of Ralph Malph from Happy Days. Donovan was wearing a 60's knee length raincoat that made him look like a beat boy. Donovan by name, Donovan by nature. "Quite rightly". And as for Handyside he wore a short coat over a suit! The sort of sartorial inelegance normally displayed by 11 year olds at funerals and/or weddings. John Bond won the fashion match hands down.
Football? I'm rather putting off describing that. So little to say, but so many words in the English language. Town started with the same team and formation (the usual 4-4-2) as on Saturday.
Town attacked the Osmond Stand end first. Portsmouth (aka Poortsmouth) lined up in a 3-5-2 formation and packed the midfield. Nothing happened at all in the first 10 minutes. Then Bradley Allen received a pass from the right, with his back to goal, about 25 yards out in a central position. He spun away to the right and went across the penalty area to a position about 15 yards out and 10 yards wide of the goal, whereupon he smashed a right foot drive to the foot of the 'keeper's left hand post. Petterson saved low, comfortably, though not easily.
Nothing happened for another quarter of an hour. Then some determined play down the Town right involving Pouton saw the ball played to Lester, who lost control. Fortunately the ball rebounded to another town player, who slipped the ball wide to Gallimore, who was steaming into a huge open space about 20-ish yards out, near the corner of the area. Gallimore just got to the ball before a couple of defenders and he drove a half hit shot across the face of the goal. With Allen hanging about behind him, AWFORD stretched out near the 6 yard box, in a central position. He succeeded in knocking the ball tamely to Petterson, who appeared to let the ball roll over and beyond him. Three sides of the ground rose to acclaim Petterson's impression of Crichton - it was very kind of a 'keeper who could have played for Town to perform like a 'keeper who used to.
Portsmouth abandoned their defensive tactics and came out with all guns blazing. Just kidding. They had a cross which Coyne caught. And after 40 minutes Simpson hit a free kick from 25 yards about a yard wide of Coyne's left hand post. Their only other move of the first half was when Lever produced a beautifully weighted lay off in the Town area, resulting in a cross to the far post where Butterfield headed away from Claridge.
Town's only move of note was when Lester wriggled free of a couple of challenges on the left hand side of the Portsmouth area and, when within the 6 yard box with only the 'keeper to beat, "fell" under a non-existent challenge. This produced only half hearted shouts for a penalty from the Pontoon. Literally nothing else happened in the first half. The Town support was exceedingly quiet, one of those night when people turned up at Blundell Park and chatted to their mates, the game being incidental. There was no tension, as Portsmouth didn't look like scoring, so once Town had got a jammy goal, that appeared to be that. We could get on with the serious business of making witty comments about the Pompey trumpeter, who has to be the worst "musician" ever heard at a football match. When Town scored, the lone terrace wit in the Pontoon chimed "You're not blowing anymore". At times he sounded like a novice learning the scales. And he was accompanied by a man with a cowbell. Fortunately the Town drummer wasn't there, otherwise it would have been the musical trio from Hell, rather than the surreally dreadful duo. I don't think any of the other 150 Pompey supporters had brought any other instruments.
Town's football had been poor. Portsmouth smothered the midfield and came for a point. They always had 11 men behind the ball. Town didn't function as a team and there was very little movement in attack. Bradley Allen should be excluded from any such criticism as he was moving all the time, drifting into superb positions. The basic problem with Town was Jack Lester. Whenever the ball got to him he gave it away. He was atrocious in the first half. The only time he passed it to a similarly striped warrior was by mistake. Let's put it this way - no-one even attempted to chant "Super Jackie Lester". He should have been taken off as he was having the stinker of stinkers. Allen on the other hand was linking nicely and always on the move. I can't remember D Smith touching the ball and Pouton was double marked very tightly. Someone had been doing their homework. The defence had very little to do, but did it comfortably (with the exception of Lever's lay off in our box). The referee, in pastel green, had managed to get in the way a lot, principally of Town passes, and on at least two occasion he blatantly obstructed D Smith, but took no action against himself.
The game wasn't so much rubbish as very boring
Half time: Grimsby Town 1 Portsmouth 0
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