League Two Form Guide
Question of the Week
How long before new manager arrives?
By: Tony Butcher
A clear and chilly afternoon to follow a belter of a rainstorm in the morning. A slight breeze blew down the pitch from behind the Pontoon and into the faces of the Pompey 150. The pitch was looking very green and cut up during the pre-match warm up.
Grimsby Town 2 Portsmouth 1
27 Jan 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Walking into the ground it was pleasing to see Pouton warming up with Rowan and Chapman. However, Coldicott was not on the pitch; the explanation followed via the unusually helpful tannoy announcement that the Destroyer had injured his hamstring in the warm up and been replaced by Willems. This apparently resulted in Pouton being named amongst the substitutes
Nothing remarkable or in the least interesting occurred pre-kick-off. Town lined up in the old, old formation 4-4-2. D Smith played at left back, with Campbell, the human dynamo, in front of him. Donovan played as an orthodox wide right midfielder with Livingstone and Jeffrey playing as a front two. No holes today, unless you re-classify right wing as the hole on the right.
Curiously the officials had the same kit on as the Portsmouth goalkeeper (save his girlie white socks), with the linesman on the Stones/Smiths/Findus side looking like Tony Ford 1 year after he retires - that is a slightly tubbier look-a-like for the heroic hometown boy.
Town kicked off away from the Pontoon and within 4 seconds McDermott had kicked the ball out rather aimlessly for a throw in. Within the next two minutes Burnett had given the ball away and D Smith had miss-controlled. Hardly an auspicious start and one which kept the silent crowd even more silent. The first few minutes were played in an odd atmosphere, where many of the crowd were idly chatting to each other, paying little attention to the on-pitch activities.
The first attack from either side was a Portsmouth cross from under the Stones/Smiths/Findus from about 25 yards out. McDermott allowed the winger far too much time and space, which enabled him to whip in a curling cross between Coyne and the back four. Fortunately, it went perfectly between Portsmouth feet and the goal and out for a goal kick. Thereafter, McDermott didn't make a mistake.
Livvo was clobbered twice in the first 5 minutes, which resulted in the physio coming on to physio him back to full strength. Town got a free kick from one of these, but Willems hit it against a defender from a widish angle.
No danger, no excitement. Portsmouth had a long shot (from Quashie, I think) which went nowhere near goal, and their giant centre back , Moore (who, lest we forget, was outjumped by tireless Lee Nogan a couple of years ago for a winning goal against Bradford) had a free header at the back post, 8 yards out which he looped gently into Coyne's arms. Portsmouth didn't get anywhere near goal for another 20 minutes, so let's just forget about them for a bit.
After about 10 minutes, Town started to hit an attacking groove, especially down the right and, amazingly, with Jeffrey as the hub, some say fulcrum, of the danger. There was a real air of mid-period Neil Woods about Jeffrey, and one could (after all this time) see why the former manager signed him. He was an elusive phantom holding the ball up and twisting and turning the defenders, playing intelligent short passes and flicks. His purple patch started when he dispossessed a defender who dawdled whilst trying to dribble out of defence. Jeffrey laid off a fine through pass towards two Town players (Livingstone and Campbell) on the edge of the area, who got in each others way and a Portsmouth defender slid in to clear. A couple of minute later Jeffrey, on the left near the corner of the penalty area, shimmied himself in to space and curled a superbly flighted pass over and between two defenders to Burnett, just to the right of centre on the edge of the penalty area. Burnett tried a first time side footed volley which went 5 yards high and 5 yards wide. At this point the crowd started to wake up and take some interest in the game.
For the next 5 minutes the game was poor, mixed with some great one touch passing and movement from Town. Town started to create spaces and flowing passing moves down the right hand side. Donovan and McDermott were working almost telepathically with Burnett and Jeffrey adding some support. The result was two or three strong surges down the right with only the final pass going astray. After 17 minutes the flow produced a goal, though the move was developed on the left. Jeffrey received a pass from Campbell (I think) and jinked his way past a defender or two on the left hand corner of the penalty area. He then tried a shot from 20 or so yards out, to the left of centre.
It hit a Portsmouth defender and rolled across the edge of the penalty area to almost exactly the same position from which Donovan scored against Crewe and...DONOVAN (left) sprinted across and hit a tremendous right footed half volley low into side of the net to the 'keeper's right. The crowd went wild and the drummer re-appeared. He was worse than the last one - capable of only two beats.
From this point the memories flooded back, with Donovan and McDermott attacking at will down the right. A minute or so after the goal Donovan nearly scored again when a one touch move involving 4 players resulted in him being played in behind the defence on the right. He shot low across the face of the goal and it missed the 'keeper's right hand post by a very small distance. And then the second goal, and what a goal it nearly was. Town played the ball across the back four from Enhua to Groves, who played the ball up to Burnett, a first time pass to McDermott, another first time pass to Jeffrey (I think), and back to McDermott, who continued up the wing and played the ball into the space between the centre back and left back to Donovan, who controlled the ball and back-heeled it perfectly in to the path of McDermott. McD continued on a stride or two and, just inside the area to the right of centre, drilled in a low shot across the 'keeper, who parried out to LIVINGSTONE 6 yards out. Goal. Almost a truly perfect goal. Oh, did we hear the angel trumpets and devil trombones.
A minute later Portsmouth had the temerity to attack Town and, oops, they nearly scored. Some general midfield play in front to the Police Box saw a short pass played between D Smith and Enhua (or Enhia as he would more accurately be described). Quashie ran through the gap and advanced on Coyne, about 10 yards out just to the left of goal. Coyne stood up and blocked the shot with his feet. It seemed to be an efficient piece of goal-keeping, rather than flashily extravagant. Important, nevertheless. A couple of minute later Quashie again burst through the middle of the park, from the half way line, after a Town raid down the right had been stopped. As Willems brushed his shoulder Quashie tumbled theatrically. Willems was booked and Moore went bonkers at the referee claiming that Quashie had a clear run on goal (and so Willems should have been sent off). Absolute nonsense as three Town players were between him and goal. And he dived. This emotional outpouring from Moore earned him some special attention from the Pontoon. In an odd way it was quite heart-warming to hear them abuse him without any racial epithets. Quashie hit the free kick straight at Coyne.
The only other Portsmouth attack of any interest to any sane and rational being saw them swish in a curling cross from the Town right which again went between Coyne and all on-rushing humanity. Town, on the other hand, should have gone three up. The only rhyming goalkeeper in the Football League, Aaron Flahavan, sliced a drop kick to his right. Campbell controlled it and advanced down the Town left. Near the corner flag, with his back to goal, he played a "reverse" pass into Jeffrey 10 yards wide of goal, 6 yards out. Jeffrey held a defender off and played a short pass down towards the bye-line for D Smith, who crossed to the near post. Moore diverted the ball out towards the edge of the area. Burnett steamed in and, totally unmarked, 12-ish yards out, smashed a first time left foot shot high, high, high in best Pouton fashion (as if to honour his presence on the bench). Another flowing 5 man move down the right all done with first time passes, saw the ball dinked over the last defender for Donovan, alone inside the penalty area on the right. A defender ran over and Donovan stopped and turned, appealing for a penalty (I couldn't tell what for but assume handball). If he'd carried on playing he would have been alone in front of goal. Another series of "triangles" down the right again involving McDermott Jeffrey and Burnett, led to Donovan smacking a 25 yards shot straight at the 'keeper, when he could have laid the ball off to McDermott or Jeffrey who were better placed.
And that is just about the story of the first half, apart from Portsmouth making a substitution. Their right winger Harper limped off and was replaced by Panapoulos. The were long periods of tedium and poor football, normally when Town hit long balls. In between, Town played some marvellous football, reminiscent of the Childs-Rees-Gilbert days of one-touch passing and movement. Even Groves was seen playing inch perfect 50 yard cross field passes. McDermott and Donovan ripped Portsmouth apart down the right at will and Jeffrey was applauded by all for his movement, strength and perception. He looked dangerous!
Only D Smith was having a poor game, as he looked slow, unfit and above all fearful of errors. The referee was causing concern as he seemed to have taken a dislike to Willems, as he gave free kicks against him for being near a Pompey player, and he was terribly inconsistent. Somehow Town always seemed to get the worst of his decision. Jeffrey was most unimpressed when a Portsmouth player kicked him in the air and the referee indicated that he'd played the ball. Still we weren't complaining about the Tony Ford-a-like linesman when he kept giving Portsmouth offside (he even gave a clenched fist "yes" gesture after one of his more debatable decisions).
What could go wrong? Town were playing the beautiful game beautifully, Portsmouth were disinterested and incapable of creating chances. Ah, the half tine team talk. Oh dear.
Half time: Grimsby Town 2 Portsmouth 0
Stu's half time toilet talk
There were a lot of smiles and talk of Donovan playing as a winger at last and Campbell being like Joe Waters (for all his running around). "Smithy looks unfit" "What's happened to Jeffrey?" Where are the paper towels?"
The report continues in the second half
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