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26/10 Pompey 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
Grimsby Town 1 Portsmouth 0
26 Oct 1999, Nationwide League Division 1
Neither team made any changes at half time, though Portsmouth did appear to push their full backs further up. Nothing happened much for the first 10 minutes or so. They got a corner which was headed away, and that all. Buckley took off Burnett after 52 minutes, replacing him with Stacy Coldicott, who immediately won a crunching tackle and gave the ball away. HE'S BACK!
After about 10-15 minutes of the second half Portsmouth lobbed a high ball into the centre of the Town area from their left. The ball dropped to Claridge, who turned and volleyed low. The ball was travelling just inside the right hand post, but Coyne leapt across and pushed it aside for a corner. This was a very fine save. The Town response to this was for Ashcroft to replace Allen. This was not well received by those paying to watch. They booed the substitution (not Ashcroft, only the decision to take off Allen) and the Pontoon stirred itself for the only time during the match to have a very pointed and heart felt rendition of "There's only one Bradley Allen". It was obvious to all that Lester should have been replaced. One Pontoonite was moved to observe that Allen had been replaced by a man with more chins than goals.
With about 15 minutes left Black replaced Gallimore, with D Smith reverting to left back. In between these substitutions Town had a couple of shots and Portsmouth a couple of crosses. Coldicott burst into the area, after an Ashcroft flick and Lester mis-control, and poked a right foot shot straight at Petterson from 15 yards. The other effort from Town was after a flowing break away move down the right, involving Coldicott and Pouton. The ball was played to Ashcroft , about 20 yards out in the centre. He laid the ball off to Gallimore, about 35 yards out, whose shot was half charged down and deflected just wide for a corner. Petterson dropped a cross and also wellied a clearance against Coldicott's back. "We're glad you signed for Pompey", as some sang to the floppy haired antipodean. More proof for the theory that floppy hair leads to flapping hands.
The match went a bit barmy in the last 15 minutes, with Portsmouth finally abandoning their negative formation and tactics. This left acres of space for Town to break away, which they did to some effect. Portsmouth visibly increased the pace of the game and hit more balls into the box. Their one real chance came after a break down the Town left, with a cross floated to the far post, where Butterfield was out-jumped. The header went a couple of feet wide. The nearest Town came to conceding was a carbon copy of the Town goal. A cross shot from the Town left was intercepted by the outstretched leg of R Smith, near the 6 yard line in the centre of the goal. The ball dribbled past Coyne (who was, of course, going the other way). Fortunately Coyne turned around and plucked the ball off the line. Another fine stop. He had two things to do and he did them well. We can't ask for more. These were, in effect, match winning saves.
Portsmouth had a couple more shots which went high and wide, the most comical of which was from Fitzroy Simpson, whose shot from 20 yards cleared the top of the Osmond Stand. Was he Pouton in disguise? Portsmouth also had a shot on target from a free kick, 20 yards out to the Town left, awarded after Lever mis-timed a tackle and was booked. Igoe chipped the ball slowly straight into Coyne's hands. The only other "action" at that end was a booking for Pouton. His "crime" was to perfectly time a tackle and win the ball.
In the last 5 minutes Town could have had another 3 or 4. But as most of the "moments of danger" fell to Lester, you may not be surprised to learn that he never got a touch on the ball and landed on his bottom each time. The nearest Town got to scoring was after a break down the Town left involving Black and Ashcroft. The ball was played behind Lester to the on-rushing Pouton, about 20 yards out to the right of centre, with two defenders flying across to block. His first time, right footed shot, went low across the face of the goal and missed by less than a foot. Town had three breakaways, all resulting in Ashcroft curling in a low cross from the right to the near post. The first one Lester ambled towards and slid in way after the ball had gone, the second Lester missed completely at the near post (only a yard or two out) and the third was rolled across goal (about 8 or 9 yards out) and Lester fell as he ran with a defender. Charitable folk in the Pontoon claim to have seen a slight touching of feet (though it is not clear whether that was Lester's right and left feet touching each other, or the defender and Lester's).
And finally we could go home as the referee remembered to blow his whistle.
The match was poor, Portsmouth were slightly better than Walsall and Swindon. What high praise. Once Town scored the game was, in effect, over. Of course Town have a unique ability to snatch a draw from the gaping jaws of victory, but Portsmouth just never looked like scoring. There were a couple of "positives" from the game, being the crowd support for Allen and Coldicott's driving runs from midfield. This is an aspect of his game that has suddenly appeared this season. He really did cause some concern in the Portsmouth defence with his strong running, though his passing often didn't. Ashcroft was ok when he came on, and nobody, apart from Lester, had a bad game, in the sense that they made mistakes. Nobody particularly did anything out of the ordinary.
Credit where credit's due (Coyne), but debit where debit's due. Lester owes a lot after that "performance".
How can the match be summarised in a sentence ? "Forget about it" to quote from Donnie Brasco
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