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27/08 Pompey 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES were made by either side at half time. Town started a bit faster and closed down Portsmouth players more quickly when they had the ball. So far, so good.
Portsmouth 4 Grimsby Town 2
27 Aug 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
No scares in the first few minutes and Town started to attack, making headway principally down the right. Pouton and McDermott were positive and were forcing the left wing back towards his own goal, which he didn't appear comfortable with.
On 50 minutes Town got a corner on the right. The usual Willems/Campbell routine was performed, with Willems cracking a high cross to just beyond the far post. The ball was headed out to the right edge of the Portsmouth area and bounced high. BUTTERFIELD, from about 10 yards to the right of goal, on the edge of the box, waited for the ball to drop and smacked a super volley into the middle of the goal off the underside of the crossbar. All 200 Town fans rose as one (though Butterfield's official number one critic then sank to his knees and almost wept in frustration as he realised that this cemented the Jogging Maestro of Mirth's place in the team for several eons). Who said he should be taken off at half time because he'd never contribute anything in attack?
Town continued the more energetic, pressing game, and Portsmouth didn't tear us apart as they had done in the first half. Though it was noticeable that Prosinecki had abandoned the right hand side of the field, homing in on Gallimore like a wolf stalking a dying three legged gerbil. Town had a variation of their own, Pouton and Campbell switched flanks, causing Portsmouth to recede towards their own goal. Town did have some possession and attacks in the 15 minutes after half time. Unfortunately, I can't remember them as so much else happened; these were minor details of history and shouldn't concern those interested in broad matters. Nothing went too near goal or caused any great excitements. We were just better for 15 minutes. Our Warhol moment.
Or perhaps Prosinecki was having a bit of a rest. Around the hour, he picked up a half clearance 25 yards out, just to the right of centre. He controlled the ball, swayed to create a bit of space and curled a right footed shot towards the top left hand corner of the goal. Coyne soared skywards and tipped the ball onto the outside of the post. The ball rolled out behind where Gallimore should have been. A Portsmouth player ran forward and with an immense amount of time and space stroked a perfect cross on to the head of Crouch, on the 6 yard line, in the centre. Crouch headed very firmly down towards the bottom right hand corner. Coyne sprang horizontally and parried the ball away for a corner. Another routine save of great magnificence from 'the Man". If anything, the Town supporters roared more for the double save than Butterfield's goal. We had sort of laughed when we scored. With this set of saves maybe it was our lucky day. Again.
Maybe not. After 63 minutes Gallimore was mesmerised by Prosinecki's feet, then hips, then feet again. Gallimore did his usual trick, when up against an above average opponent - he simply backed off, and off, and off. Then he ran away from Prosinecki slightly, giving the Roving Croat space and plenty of time to chose exactly on which hair on which head he wished to place the cross. He chose CROUCH, about 4 yards out at the far post, climbing over and above his marker to head down firmly. Coyne half stopped the ball as he raced across his goal line, but the ball trickled over the line, off and over his shins. A few raised fingers were pointed at Gallimore by the Town supporters. He raged to himself and walked off.
Town still attacked and Pouton missed a sitter. Jevons wriggled his way free down the Town left and pinged in a dangerous low cross, right in to the centre of the Portsmouth penalty area, about 7 or 8 yards out. Pouton ran in, leant back and poked the ball way, way over the bar. Bad miss - perhaps he should imagine every shot is a penalty. Then Pouton raced in from the right, surging in field, drifting past three players before dragging a low shot across the face of goal, perhaps a foot wide. As usual it was miss-hit, lacking any power. I have a vague memory of a header going somewhere near the Portsmouth goal, perhaps that was last year.
With about 20 minutes left Jeffrey replaced Rowan, much to the silent disapproval of many of the Town support. Yeah, how was everyone's favourite scapegoat going to change this game? Like this matey boys, only 4 or 5 minutes after coming on! Campbell decided he'd actually learnt something from the Prosinecki masterclass, performing a double drag back, about 35-40 yards out, to the left of centre. He then chipped the ball over the defence into a massive hole between the centre backs and goalkeeper (around this time Portsmouth had changed to 4-4-2, to combat Town's new found steel and territorial equality). JEFFREY ran on, allowed the ball to bounce and shaped his body perfectly to lob the 'keeper. The ball bounced once and in to the roof of the net. Further incredulous whooping and laughter from the Town supporters, with much jigging up and down the steps. As someone observed, "Is this the revenge of the duffers?"
What are you going to do about that then Pompey? They did nothing, but the referee did. Firstly, he booked Gallimore for a swiping tackle from behind on Prosinecki, near the managers dug outs. Gallimore thought he was being sent off (which arguably he should have been) and started to head off towards the tunnel. The referee only booked him. This foul got the Portsmouth crowd going, seething at our equaliser, raging at the foul on their new star, every tackle was a spark for an angry roar. For a minute or so the tackling became very fierce, but all perfectly acceptable, then three really hard tackles in a row ended up with a Portsmouth player falling after Willems slid across on the half way line. Willems slightly miss-timed the tackle and the momentum of the Portsmouth player made him roll (and the foul seem worse than it was) The crowd bayed for blood (as you'd expect, we'd do the same, wouldn't we?) and the referee immediately reached for his yellow ! card, which meant our Dutch destroyer (who'd played very soundly in the second half, making some excellent tackles) was off. Willems told the referee what he thought of him, Groves was incensed, Pouton furious and that felt like a very defining moment. In retrospect we'd have preferred Gallimore to have been sent off.
So from ecstasy to pessimism within 2 minutes. For the next 5 minutes Town took advantage of the space and seemed comfortable. Then disaster. A long ball down the middle between Gallimore and Beharall, saw the very fast Burchill outpace the retreating Town players (Gallimore was huffing and puffing but going backwards in comparison). BURCHILL took the ball into the area and, from a narrow angle 8 or 9 yards out, drove the ball under and to the right of Coyne in to corner of the net. Game over.
Not quite. Portsmouth regained possession from the kick off and attacked Town yet again down the left. Proinsecki teased Campbell, then fooled him by rolling his boot over the ball and feinting to go inside, then outside, then inside. Campbell retreated and allowed Prosinecki to stroll forward to somewhere near the 6 yard box. Crouch stood alone about 8 or 9 yards out as Butterfield and Gallimore watched the Croatian, rather than marking in the box. Prosinecki rolled the ball to CROUCH, who hit a sweeping first time shot under Coyne into the same place that Burchill had put it a minute earlier. Are you fed up of reading 'Prosenicki' yet? Well we were mighty fed up at the game, he is old and rarely mobile, but given space he'll destroy anybody. Town players seemed in awe of him, not wishing to tackle for fear of humiliation. So when they did go near, his dander up, he showed all in his bag of tricks. It's a big bag. Did anyone notice that he did everything! under the main stand, where the directors' box is?
After this there were a few frighteningly quick Portsmouth breaks, Prosinecki roasted Gallimore like a peanut a couple more times and there was some desperate defending to keep the score down below the humiliating line (4 is big, 5 humiliating). Town had some attacks, McDermott surged forward and drove low to the keepers right. Jevons twisted and turned on the right of the area, beating two players and hitting a shot low across the keeper. And apart from a display of swearing and blame apportionment from Gallimore, along with Burnett replacing the worn out Pouton with 2 minutes left, that was it.
It may sound odd but Town were lucky today not to be stuffed, as at half time they should have been at least three, and probably 5-0 down. The second half was much more even, after Town decided to tackle and keep the ball, but the Willems dismissal rather nailed our coffin lid down. Only the major incidents have been described, there were countless occasions when Prosinecki toasted, roasted and then coasted past a Town player, usually Gallimore. This isn't a free have a go a Galli day, he really was turned over and in some ways one felt sorry for him. He plainly could not cope with this quality of opponent, nor with the pace of Harper. Gallimore successfully made three or four tackles. He may as well have not been there, for all the good he did. I haven't seen a player taken apart like this for a very long time. He was almost howling in frustration at the end. So were we. Perhaps standing his ground would have helped. It will be interesting to see him up against Donovan next week.
Beharall and Groves tried hard but had some practical and physical hindrances. Crouch is just so big he will always get a couple of free headers in, and Burchill is so flamin' quick. On a hot day at home Portsmouth will be a match for anyone going forward. Their defence, which looked vulnerable in the air and on the ground, will see them lose a lot of away games. Especially if Prosinecki can't be bothered, or someone kicks him early on. Town were just too nice. McDermott again showed that he is probably in his last full season as first choice. He was constantly exposed by the pace of Pitt, but managed to stop him 50% of the time. Grow your hair back. Up front Rowan and Jevons did what they always seem to do the occasional interesting and innovative exchange outside the box which leads, at best, to a scuffed shot.
Has our luck run out? Superficially, yes, as we got a pasting. The scoreline did not reflect the extent to which Town were over-run. It could, and should, have been a lot more. Someone please put Gallimore out of our misery, he can't cope anymore. Oddly, the performance, on the whole, was probably better than at West Brom. Which just shows you how poor West Brom were.
The way I figure it everyone takes a beating some of the time. And boy, was this a beating.
Nicko's Man of the Match: Sticking to the Town players (as it was quite obviously Prosinecki) I'd have to say Pouton, with Willems second. They both ran around tirelessly, with Pouton hardly able to walk at the end. He even remembered to do a couple of step-overs too. A low scoring Pouton for Man of the Match.
Official Warning: P Walton. Generally unobtrusive and there seemed a point in the first half when he'd grown weary of the Portsmouth crowd (and some players) moaning. But his dismissal of Willems was sufficient for me to give him a 5.7 on the Nicko scale, for inconsistency and eventually succumbing to the crowd.
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