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25/09 Pompey 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Portsmouth 1 Grimsby Town 2
25 Sep 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
No changes were made by either side at half time. The expected Pompey charge
never really materialised (until the last 10 minutes). Town filled in,
blocked, harried, covered and tackled constantly, never allowing Portsmouth
more than a glimpse at Croudson. Pompey's "chances" in the second half were
There was a lot of pressure, mainly on the last 10 minutes when the full backs (principally their left back) pushed forward to play as "double" wingers, resulting in a lot of crosses. However Town's back line just headed everything away, and Croudson came off his line to pick up any through balls and knock downs. Despite the natural pessimism of the travelling Mariner the feeling was that Portsmouth were never, ever going to score against this Town team.
Town continued to be dangerous on the break. The midfielders did a superb job in breaking up Portsmouth's attempts to play through the middle of the pitch by intercepting defenders' passes and dispossessing near the half way line. The counter attacks were always supported from midfield as well. Lester and Ashcroft were a constant irritation to Portsmouth defenders (rather than Town supporters), who failed to mark them tightly enough. They used the space they were given excellently and from one such break Town got the deserved 2nd goal, after 20ish minutes of the half.
Coldicott dispossessed a Pompey player near the half way line. He passed forward to Lester, who had drifted into a space between the opposition defence and midfield. Lester set off on a dribble from half way line to the edge of the penalty area, taking on 4 players (he didn't so much beat them, as draw them towards him). He LOOKED UP (!) and passed to the unmarked Ashcroft, to the right of the Portsmouth area, who haughtily controlled the ball, feinted to go one way and then crossed into the near post. Lester missed his first attempt at shooting; his second was blocked; his third was pushed aside and COLDICOTT ran in and hooked the rebound inside the 'keepers right hand post. Crowd and player pandemonium.
Portsmouth didn't respond with any gusto to what ultimately proved the winner. The Portsmouth supporters had long since been reduced to silence and they began to grumble as pass after pass drifted out of play for Town throw ins. In the end they were jeering when an attack failed (and at the end booed them off). Enough of Portsmouth - they were no better than Walsall.
With 15 minutes to go Burnett was replaced by Pouton. Burnett had brought some calm and tempo to the Town midfield, but his major contribution was his work rate and firm tackling (a trait often overlooked). Offensively he was involved in an intelligent and varied Town corner routine. Everyone ran into the area (except Burnett), so Donovan clipped a low pass to Burnett on the edge of the area. Burnett's shot was blocked for another corner, but at least it was a variation. Pouton was involved in 3 of the better breaks in the last few minutes, his driving runs from midfield caused Pompey problems. It is still a shame about his shooting - from one of these runs he got as far as the edge of the area, looked to pass but saw he had a huge gap. So he scooped a left foot shot 6 yards high and wide. Apart from that shot Pouton fitted perfectly into the team, even producing a sliding hook tackle in injury time to stop someone getting a cross in.
Black came on for Ashcroft with 5 minuted left and he too produced the required work ethic and intelligent team running. Town didn't produce too many chances in the second half, though there were many dangerous breaks from which Portsmouth were forced to clear from inside their area. Apart from the efforts mentioned previously Lester controlled a long high clearance on the edge of the box, turned his defender and curled a shot low to the 'keeper's left.
After 3 minutes of injury time the referee finally blew for full time. Absolutely fantastic. There can be no criticism of any player (apart from Coyne) for this performance. A team at last. It was so reminiscent of the games from last October to January - sheer professionalism, with everyone playing for each other. The team spirit has been found again. Some players have not yet been mentioned, but this is only because they weren't part of any of chances created, not because of a lack of effort or skill. Donovan was a revelation. He ran around for the whole of the game, covering at right back, left wing and then up in attack. There was no sign of the past year's diffidence. Lester and Ashcroft played intelligently, the former with some awareness of his colleagues, and the latter with a little more determination than recently. McDermott was not missed, nor was Handyside - there can be no higher praise for the performances of Butterfield and Groves. Croudson was not called upon to make any saves, but appeared to be positive in collecting the ball. And R Smith was his usual tower of strength.
There were no poor performances, except by the referee. Town are back as Town. Great. Super.
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