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29/12 Portsmouth 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO CHANGES were made by either side at half time. What an opening 10 minutes. Town, Town, Town, Town, Town. All the action was down in front of the Pontoon, with the Portsmouth defence being ripped apart by the marauding Mariners hordes.
Grimsby Town 3 Portsmouth 1
29 Dec 2001, Nationwide League Division 1
Within a minute or so of the restart a four man quick break down the Town left resulted in Jevons rolling past his marker and firing a low cross from about 10 yards wide of the goal, about 10 yards out. Thompson sneaked between two defenders and, from about 10 yards out in the centre, shinned a first time left foot shot a yard or two wide of the â€˜keeperâ€™s right hand post.
After another couple of Town counter attacks, involving the tricky Thompson and rejuvenated Jevons, Town should have had a penalty. Jevons (I think) was released down the right hand touch-line, he rolled past two defenders on the bye line and clipped a head high cross towards Coldicott. The Portsmouth right wing back, Harper, got in front of Coldicott and seemed to control the ball with his chest, then his knee. The ball bounced up and Harper diverted it from its path towards Coldicott by doing a little rabbit punch to send the ball away from goal. The referee had a clear unimpeded view from 15 yards away, everyone saw it. No penalty. Angry crowd, angry players.
Portsmouth managed an attack during this onslaught, with Tiler heading well wide at the far post following a corner on the Pompey left. Crouch almost broke through a couple of times, but there were always five Town players there to hustle and bustle him away. So far so good, and the afternoon was almost crowned by an audacious brilliant goal. Burnett had clearly taken the view that Prosinecki needed to be shown what skill was. A Town break down the left half stalled near the edge of the penalty area. Burnett received the ball about 25 yards out and rolled his foot over the ball, like he was stroking his cat, Mr Bond. He then shimmied right, left then right again, sending the defender towards Ramsdens. Burnett swished inside and curled a right foot chip over the goalkeeper towards the top left hand corner of the goal. The ball pinged against the bar, bounced a yard from the line and a defender headed it out for a corner as Butterfield followed up. Burnett got a little standing ovation for that effort, just a little one, after all it didnâ€™t go in and the average Town fan is notoriously parsimonious with praise.
The first 15-20 minutes of the second half were a raging torrent of Town attacks, bringing the smiles back to some of the crowd, even the teenagers forgot to sing anti-boards songs and led the appreciation of the teams efforts. Jevons was no longer the lumpen, sullen ephemeral character, but a lively, effervescent pest to Pompey. The final part of this segment of the game saw Jevons released behind the Portsmouth defence, in a centre leftish position. The final pass was exquisitely timed and placed by Thompson, I think, but I am not sure. As the ball bounced, and the â€˜keeper rushed out, Jevons looked up and tried to loft the ball over the goalkeeper with the outside of his right boot. He didnâ€™t quite get enough elevation and the â€˜keeper managed to reach up and catch the ball as it arced gently over him. Thompson was very interesting, always looking up and he kept dropping off his marker and playing weighted passes between defenders for on-rushing midfielders. This is how it is meant to be.
But the third goal hadnâ€™t arrived and Portsmouth managed to keep some possession and never let the ball go for minutes on end. Fascinating though it was to see the opposition play laterally, drawing Town players out of position then releasing the wing backs into the spaces, it was quite worrying given Townâ€™s propensity for calamity. But donâ€™t worry, Stacy is back; here, there and everywhere. Though rarely having the ball he had a stormer - Prosenickiâ€™s tameness was entirely due to Coldicott snapping, snarling and mugging him whenever the ball went near the lupine loafer, forcing the croaking Croat further and further back.
But chances kept popping up for Pompey, and mostly from corners. There was a minor scare when a cross from the right was allowed to wander through to the far post and Lovell wafted his right foot airily and indeed fairily at the ball. He was alone, just beyond the far post a few yards out and his attempt looked, from 120 yards away, to be quite pathetic, which pleased the majority of the crowd. Coyne was forced to make a couple of superb saves. His first came from a corner on the Portsmouth right which was floated to the far post. Tiler, who seemed to be about 6 or 7 yards out and unmarked, headed down firmly towards the bottom left hand corner. Coyne sailed across and punched the ball off the line (just in front of Neilson), the ball plopped back into the 6 yard box and was wellied away. A few minute later Crouch headed a cross from the Portsmouth right straight at Coyne from what seemed to be 5 or 6 yards out. He was unmarked and right in the centre of goal. Coyne made a reaction save to strong arm the ball away from his left. Now that was fortunate. I recall sometime during the early/middle part of the second half Crouch headed firmly into Coyneâ€™s midriff following a deep cross from the Portsmouth right - theyâ€™d clearly decided to concentrate on the Town left in the second half - daft, as that was by far the strongest side of the defence. They may remember Gallimore from Fratton Park, where his torments were so public, but this is the new, improved Gallimore. Captain Gallimore, indestructible.
As the game entered the last quarter of an hour the balance of play swung back to Town. Jevons was released down the left, in the penalty area. He twisted along the bye-line past a defender, as another one neared he cut inside and theatrically flew up, then down, claiming a penalty. The referee booked him for diving as the crowed bayed for "justice". The dive was so poor he was never going to get a penalty, he should, really, have looked up and crossed to the two unmarked players at the far post - there seemed to be only one thing in his mind when he got the ball - to go for a penalty. The crowd continued to seethe as Pompey players, for about the 5th time in the game, handled the ball and nothing was given. Their number 7, Harper, appeared to have carte blanche to handle with impunity. The pressure on the referee was building - that was two penalty appeals turned down - they always give the third, donâ€™t they? YES!
With just over 10 minutes to go Town broke away down the right, with Butterfield receiving the ball in a sort of wing half position, 10 or so yards inside the Portsmouth half. Chapman sprinted down the left a-hollering and a-hooting for the ball. Butterfield looked up and chipped a perfect pass onto Chapmanâ€™s chest. Gentle Ben took it in his stride and was, by now, inside the penalty area a few yards to the left of goal. Prosenicki tracked back with Chapman, ran across him, made contact of the briefest kind and the diminutive wing back eventually fell over, all the time trying to remain on his feet. Play continued for a second or two, then the linesman flagged and the referee reluctantly awarded a penalty. Prosenicki went wild, as did Tiler, and the penalty was delayed for a minute or so. Jevons waltzed up to the ball, placed it on the spot and calmly rolled the ball low to the â€˜keeperâ€™s right as the he went left. Thatâ€™s the way to do it. Game over.
Not quite, Portsmouth didnâ€™t give up and created three or four moments of danger, principally on their right, as their wing backs became fully operative wingers. Apart from one long range Quashie effort which wobbled high and wide, nothing scared the Town support. That there was, ultimately, no end product is down to the vigilance and fortitude of the team, right to the end. All contributed manfully, with Burnett making a couple of vital, crunching tackles, and even Butterfield running around at the end. Right after the third goal Thompson was replaced by Boulding in a straight swap. A couple of minutes from the end Jevons was replaced by Jeffrey, with Willems replacing Neilson a minute after that. In the end Town ended up in a 4-5-1 formation, holding on easily to the three points.
After a couple of minutes of added time the game ended, to mute applause. Strange, given the fact that Town had won, had played some decent football in the second half and had been very committed. What more did the crowd want?
Individually all received some plaudits, even Butterfield who visibly improved and was involved in all goals scored. The central three defenders looked solid and organised, with Ford again making a couple of well timed interceptions and tackles deep within the Town penalty area. Improvements to ability to pass will, no doubt, follow. The strikers, after an invisible opening, sparkled and showed signs of being a partnership, especially if Jevons can get his brain working at the same speed as Thompson. Rodger was a very animated, hands on assistant manager, constantly gesticulating, encouraging and organising. It was pleasing to see the bench being a pro-active participant in the proceedings.
The two things that came out of this game were passing and passion. Itâ€™s the only way to survive. What a pity that a large minority of the crowd seemed disappointed that weâ€™d won. They had nothing to moan about.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. But which old boss?
Nickoâ€™s man on the match
So many candidates, as they all did something to justify their wages. Coyneâ€™s two saves in the second half, Chapmanâ€™s chunky thighed leaps and surges, Gallimoreâ€™s calmness (!) Grovesâ€™ quiet efficiciency, Coldicottâ€™s omnipotent destructive powers, Thompsonâ€™s brain, Burnettâ€™s chip and chasing all worthy contenders. Overall, for scoring and being an all round good egg, itâ€™s young SIMON FORD, googoogajoob. Who needs Marlon Broomes?
Mr Pearson. Unaware that handling is not allowed in professional association football, and made lots of little mistakes too. He was rubbish, and gave the Town penalty simply because it was the third appeal. He gets 4.37.
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