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01/02 Portsmouth 2nd Half
By: Tony Butcher
NO changes in personnel were made by either side at half time, though perhaps there was some tinkering by Town, for the game was completely different. Portsmouth were no longer such a threat on the counter attack, and rarely seemed to have the ball for the first 20 or so minutes.
Portsmouth 3 Grimsby Town 0
01 Feb 2003, Nationwide League Division 1
They certainly didnâ€™t threaten. There seemed to be a slight change to the Town formation, with Mansaram firmly out on the left, Bolder more centrally placed and Groves and Santos playing more in a diamond in the centre. It all meant that Town were able to defend a bit better, having players in the right places more often than not, and players in spaces when the opportunity to attack arose. And that was frequently. Portsmouth were a bit slack in passing, so Town managed to disrupt and break, mainly through Campbell, who had a fine first part of the second half.
As early as the 47th minute Town had a shot! A Campbell cross from the right was scooped over the bar by Livingstone at the near post, from about 6 yards out. There were some deep philosophical discussions within the Town support regarding that moment. Some were unsure what it was. What is a shot? What is a Livingstone? Was it a Livvo shot or was Livvo to be shot? And if so when? And how much can you get for a tonne of glue these days? I have the vaguest of vague recollections that Pompey had a shot sometime within the first quarter of an hour. Harper ran quickly, Galli backed off, Harper shot across goal and well wide. Quashie thwacked a shot from the left edge of the Town area across goal and a few feet wide of Coyneâ€™s left hand post. Neither looked likely to enter the kingdom of the Coyne, they were just shots, not chances. Portsmouth were invariably caught offside, with Todorov instilling a Pavlovian response from the linesman. Todorov has the ball, up goes the flag. Super. The annual bad trumpet award is still held by that splutterer in the big stand behind the goal. Give up, itâ€™s embarrassing you, not us.
The pattern of play was most frustrating as Town were, as usual, raising false hope with some attacks which almost promised but, like a furniture store, never delivered on a Saturday. The moment we knew Townâ€™s day was wasted arrived after about an hour.
A fine quick break down the right with a Campbell dribble, some interplay and passing through the centre of the defence. Groves, 12 yards out, passed outside to the unmarked Mansaram, in a similar position to the one Aiyegbeni scored from. The Town fans rose to their feet. Mansaram swung his left boot, and the ball zipped through the penalty area, between the defence and the Town attackers, just missing Campbell as he slid in at the far corner flag. A thrown in to Portsmouth. The shot was wayward, the ball could have hit anyone and deflected in. It didnâ€™t, so luck was not around to help the aged. More Town attacks which were frittered and wasted in an offhand way. The recurring memory is of Campbell beating his man and crossing to....yeah, who. Mansaram was frequently free beyond his marker, but the crosses were behind, in front, never but never to him. Hislop was forced to touch the ball a couple of time, to catch and plunge upon crosses. He probably only did it to keep his hand in. Another shot, again following some decent interplay, this time down the left. Mansaram received a pass from Gallimore, twisted by the fool and pulled a pass back to Groves on the edge of the penalty area. Leaning back, twisting and on his left foot, Groves ballooned the ball over the bar, over the back of the stand and off towards Havant, which probably explained the need for engineering works on the railway, causing such travel disruption after the game ended. Oh, and if you really want to know, there were a couple of decent crosses which went in the approximately towards where a centre forward may have been. If only, eh?
Well, all very well, with Town in the ascendancy, but Pompey were merely dormant, not extinct. After nearly half an hour Portsmouth suddenly awoke as Town snoozed. Or rather Gallimore reverted to type, giving the ball away and not closing down. Sometimes, I wish Gallimore would have a closing down sale. In the blink of a wink, Merson burst forward from midfield and the ball was chipped over the top of the Town defence. Coyne rushed out to the edge of the area and leapt up as Merson lifted the ball over and around from about 20 yards out on the centre left. The ball slowly, slowly looped and dropped onto the top left hand side of the net. The game had changed completely, for a minute later they scored again. A series of Gallimore fluffs down the left resulted in Harper being given another chance to run directly towards goal, without fear of human contact. Town had been passing the ball across the field, with little danger to either team, when it was knocked back to Gallimore who ambled and panicked as Todorov glided past him. Free kick given, taken quickly, up the left Galli dallied, Harper surged, the ball was played into Todorov in the area, who simply laid a pass back out to Harper, who crossed high into the centre, missing all. Thatâ€™s all but Taylor who collected the ball on the corner of the six yard box and smacked a low drive into the centre of the goal. The ball hit somebody and flew in, the somebody alleged to be FORD.
Town had a brief period of attacking after this second goal, which almost brought a Town goal. Itâ€™s that word almost, which should preface any description of Town. Campbell easily beat Taylor and crossed to the near post, Ford and Mansaram converged and Ford headed firmly down and across Hislop from about seven yards out. Hislop snapped into action, diving low to his right and firmly scooping the ball away, straight to a defender. It was a very good save, but one which brought no joy to a little pocket of Pompey that was temporarily Grimsby. Soon after this Soames replaced Bolder, with Soames playing as a right winger and Campbell occasionally on the left. Groves poked a right foot shot just over the bar from about a dozen yards, after some fine twisting, turning, spinning trickery by Mansaram. And finally, the moment Pompey fans had awaited for several weeks - Todorov not offside. With 10 minutes left, the ball was dinked in from their right to Aiyegbeni who headed back across goal to the unmarked Todorov, perhaps 6 yards out, right in the centre. He carefully placed a gentle header a foot or so wide of Coyneâ€™s right hand post. A little later Gallimore was absent attacking, so Portsmouth merely filled the vacant space with Merson, who passed inside to Todorov, who in turn played a short pass between Chettle and new left back Groves. Quashie sprinted through the gap, cut back inside as Campbell slid towards the new B&Q that has been built behind the stand, and whizzed a shot towards the near post, which Coyne pushed aside at chest height.
With a few minutes left Ward replaced Santos, who had been a very peripheral and occasionally feeble presence in the second half. Ward seemed to play in an indeterminate midfield position. I could be kind and say Town had a fluid formation at the end, though that translates as nobody knew where they were. And now, the end is near, we must have the injury time goal. Hello, here it is. Again Town gave the ball away in midfield as they attacked in number down the left, Pompey broke away, filling the vacant left back (and how often have those words been seen side by side, which is a shame given that Town havenâ€™t got a barrel of money to buy a replacement) spot with Merson, who chipped the ball to the very centre of the pitch, right on the edge of the Town area. The unmarked QUASHIE controlled the ball on his chest and lifted it wide of Coyne and into the bottom left hand corner. At least it wasnâ€™t a third own goal.
Redknapp wasted time with a couple of substitutions, allowing players to get personalised ovations, and possibly to allow us the opportunity to see five minutes of Pericardâ€™s hair, which is beaded badly, reminiscent of Fu Manchuâ€™s wispy beard stuck on the back of a bald manâ€™s head. Harry, we appreciated that. A bit of light relief for the suffering Townites. But not enough.
The half time scoreline flattered Town, the full time one didnâ€™t. Town were outclassed for 45 minutes, but coped admirably for the next 30, thereafter the end was near. This was no worse than many a Solentside stuffing of yore and didnâ€™t tell us anything we didnâ€™t know already. Portsmouth, given space, were sumptuously sweet in their forward surges, but there was a hint of a brittle centre, the way they failed to crush Town at the start and Town recovered to dominate possession for much of the second half. One can see why they sometimes fail. They didnâ€™t look appreciative of hassling and tackling. But thatâ€™s their problem, not ours.
We didnâ€™t get anyone booked and no-one limped off. There you are, a double negative makes a positive!
Nickoâ€™s Man of the Match
Well, Campbell played well in the second half, but was not apparent in the first. So he gets a half mention in half despatches. Groves was fine for 70 minutes but, overall, only Coyne was consistently adequate. Yet again, he kept the score down. So Danny Coyne it is.
Mr A Bates. Yes, yes, yes, a punsterâ€™s delight. He wasnâ€™t too bad, just leant a bit towards the home team with indulgent interpretations of the occasional tackle and dive. We could quibble about minor matters, but that wonâ€™t alter the fact he was not a factor in this game, which instantly elevates him above 6. How about 7.167? Too high, OK, a more realistic, and sour, 7.094.
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