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Stick another Townie on the Barbie - Pompey Report
By: Tony Butcher
A BOILING HOT, windless day with a clear blue sky and various military aircraft buzzing the ground. Town warmed up for about 20 minutes running up and down between fluorescent cones doing little jumps and bows.
Portsmouth 4 Grimsby Town 2
27 Aug 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
At times they resembled modern dance students pretending to be a bush. Several players looked very lethargic and headed for shade as soon as they could. Bradley Allen is the latest to succumb to the drastic hair shearing craze that seems to be pervading the players. During the pre-match kick-about Ermes made some spectacular one handed saves from Jeffrey on his left hand side, and let everything in on his right hand side. Mmm, a potential weakness there?
Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation with the same starting XI as on Saturday. For an inexplicable reason, Town played in the belisha beacon yellow strip. That's the first time I've seen Town have to change kit at Portsmouth.
Portsmouth included Prosinecki and Burchill, together with Mr head on-two-sticks Crouch, who now has a rather foppish hairstyle, the sort that demands a cravat to be worn and an open top sports car in the drive. They also had the tousle haired centre back Zamperini, or Thumbelina, as he became know to the Town fans. Their goalkeeper had TARDIF written across his back, so we presume that is his name, rather than being a lisping Dr Who fan. As a Town fan commented. Does that stand for Time And Relative Dimensions in Football? Before the game there was yet another minute's silence, this time for an old Portsmouth player who died in May.
Portsmouth kicked off away from the home end (on the right as seen on TV), which housed the usual 200 or so Town supporters. The usual suspects, if you must. Within a couple of minutes Portsmouth had ripped Town apart down the left, and it rapidly became apparent that we were in for a torrid afternoon.
Harper, the right wing back, sprinted down the touch-line, surged past the backtracking Gallimore, cut inside and from the left edge of the penalty area curled a left footed shot just wide of Coyne's right hand post. The Town supporters raised their eyebrows and looked at each other. It's going to be one of those Galli-days. Or galli-daze.
Portsmouth played a 3-5-2 formation with Prosinecki strolling around where he pleased, ready to spray 60 yard passes to the extremely fast wing backs. Prosinecki's first two passes were comically wayward. We laughed. We didn't laugh again for another hour.
The first half an hour was played in the Town half. There were isolated incursions into the Portsmouth half, even an attempted cross, but that's all. If you want a positive report, extolling our virtues, stop reading, cos there weren't any. Without giving away the plot, I'll just serve this teaser. We were slaughtered. Annihilated, stuffed, we almost ceased to be. The game was a blur of blue 100 yards away as Town failed to cope with the Portsmouth formation and, most importantly, Prosinecki. No one marked him, no one got near him. He simply walked into the position he wished and did as he wished.
Every few minutes Portsmouth missed a sitter. A fast raid down the Pompey left saw tiny Courtney Pine, sorry, Pitts sprint past McDermott to run onto a Prosinecki stroked through ball down the line. He cut inside and whipped a cross to the centre of the goal. Burchill, unmarked and about 8 or 9 yards out, headed firmly over the bar.
Pitts again sprinted and tricked his way down the Town right and along the bye-line towards the edge of the area, he knocked a low cross to the centre of the goal about 5 or 6 yards out. Burchill raced in and toe poked the ball over the bar. Prosinecki rolled his boot over the ball, feinted left, right, left again and then caressed a short pass between McDermott and Pouton. Pitts crossed low to the centre of the gaol. Bodies raced in and the ball was glanced towards the bottom left hand corner. Crouch slid in and, from about a yard out, cleared the ball a la Lever.
A high ball was pumped into the Town box, Coyne came out and challenged Groves, somewhere near the penalty spot. He dropped the ball and, whilst prostrate before the long limbed lurch-a-like, watched helplessly as Crouch tapped the ball;. straight onto Groves's thigh on the goal-line. Groves wellied it clear. About 20 minutes gone and Town should have been at least 3 goals down. And another one coming. Prosinecki received the ball on the Town right, jinked, danced, shimmied, swayed and swished, sending whichever of the Town players was nearest (this time it was Butterfield, I think) down several cul-de-sacs, before hitting a low in-swinging cross shot towards the near post.
Beharall stretched forward and diverted the ball against the post and away for a corner. Coyne was forced to rush off his line and block on the left side of his penalty area when a curly haired midfielder ran on to a Prosinecki dink, leaving him one on one with the Welsh One. Somewhere in between all this Burchill hooked a shot over the bar from about 6 yards out, when the ball dropped after a scramble.
This was all within the first half hour. Blue Monday indeed. It was harder for them to miss some of these chances. Maybe Lennie's luck was still riding high in the pop charts? No, after nearly 30 minutes Prosinecki, about 35 yards out, way to the right of Town's goal, received a short pass with Butterfield standing very close. Prosinecki glided past Butterfield, sending him towards London as he headed infield and clipped a glorious, inch perfect, superbly weighted 60 yard first time pass over the bewildered Gallimore for Harper to sprint on to. Harper ran on down the line to the touch-line and whipped in a low cross towards the near post. BURCHILL stooped and glanced a firm header low across Coyne into the bottom right hand corner.
This was a lot less than Portsmouth deserved, Town were simply there as a backdrop for Prosinecki to show off. It was astounding that Town had avoided conceding a goal for so long. There was a long delay after the goal because the linesman fell over and was replaced. During this hiatus in play the Portsmouth players congregated around their manager for instructions. Apart from Willems and Pouton, the Town players stood around in the centre circle. Rowan received instructions from an irate Groves on how to defend from the front and what runs to make.
The main problem was Prosinecki. None of the Town players seemed to be able to get near him, which is ironic considering he barely rose above an amble. When he got the ball, everyone stood away, as if scared and wishing to view a masterclass from nearby. You know, this was the first (and possibly only) time that I thought Kevin Muscat would be a useful player to have around.
But then Portsmouth switched off and didn't trouble Town again until right at the end of the half, when Prosinecki decided he wanted another ovation from his adoring fans. They had a couple of shots, scrambles and a header wide in injury time. They also had a huge appeal for a penalty when Burchill and McDermott chased a long ball inside the Town penalty area. They both fell as Burchill just got in front of McDermott. From the other end of the pitch it looked like McDermott had caught the back of Burchill's heels, but accidentally, as they both fell naturally.
Right, at last, Town started to play. The nearest Town had got in the opening half hour had been a bit of interplay on the left involving Campbell, Jevons, Rowan and Willems which resulted in Willems being momentarily free, but his cross shot was blocked for a corner. But after their goal the chances came thin and slow, which is more than we usually do here. Jevons turned, beat a couple of players then, from 20 yards, miss-hit a poor shot straight at the keeper, all along the ground. He then repeated his trickery, but fell over the ball when on the edge of the area.
There's something about the penalty area that forces Jevons to stumble. He has nimble feet and a quick mind outside the box, but as soon as he sees the white line, his mind turns to mush and his legs to Angel Delight. Jevons'; best moment was a turn, shimmy, then dribble past a couple of players, on the right side, just inside the Portsmouth penalty area. His low cross swung in between the goalkeeper and defence, but a yard in front of Pouton at the far post. The ball missed the far post by perhaps a foot. Close, but you're not right.
And that's just about that for the first half, apart from the best Town move, down the left, involving Campbell, Willems and eventually Gallimore, who swung in a dangerous cross to the near post. Rowan ran in front of his marker and glanced a header that was going towards the bottom corner (I was right behind the flight of the ball) until a defender plonked his body in the way, right in the centre of goal. A special mention for Campbell who, after leaping at the far post for a cross, lost his right boot when challenging for the loose ball. He still managed to twist and turn on the touch-line, getting in a dangerous inswinging cross with his bestockinged foot. Oh yes, and Willems was booked for nothing much more than obstructing a Portsmouth player on the edge of the Portsmouth area.
Half time: Portsmouth 1 Grimsby Town 0
At 1-0 we were still in the game, but no-one knew quite how. The terrace talk was an incredulous. How did we get out of that? Town were, quite simply, outclassed, outfought, outthought, and outpaced. But not out of it. No one was particularly good, though Pouton and Willems had been hard working and made some strong interceptions. Gallimore was being taken apart down the left, with McDermott having a very hard time down the right. Neither was quick enough to keep up with the Portsmouth wing backs. Most importantly, no one was stopping the supply of cross field passes and stroked through balls from Prosinecki. A neutral would have enjoyed this game, as would a Pompey supporter. We weren't and neither were the Town players, there were signs of arguments between the players.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Pants. Utter Pants"
The report continues in the second half.
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