Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
9 January 2022
A beautiful clear, mild night on the Lincolnshire Riviera with a stunning orange moon lazily creeping over the Main Stand. Why was John Bond strolling down Blundell Avenue? Even from behind you could tell he was a "football" man, with his big coat and swagger.
Just before the game Donovan, Handyside and Livingstone wandered across the pitch from the Findus. Only Livvo had the good grace to remember to limp. With his lumber jacket on he looked the spitting image of Ralph Malph from Happy Days. Donovan was wearing a 60s knee-length raincoat that made him look like a beat boy. Donovan by name, Donovan by nature. Quite rightly. And as for Handyside he wore a short coat over a suit! The sort of sartorial inelegance normally displayed by 11-year olds at funerals and/or weddings. John Bond won the fashion match hands down.
Football? I’m rather putting off describing that. So little to say, but so many words in the English language. Town lined up as follows: Coyne, Butterfield, Gallimore, R Smith, Lever, Pouton, D Smith, Groves, Burnett, Lester and Allen. The subs were Croudson, Black, McDermott, Ashcroft, and Coldicott. Town started with the same team and formation (the usual 4-4-2) as on Saturday.
Town attacked the Osmond Stand end first. Portsmouth (aka Poortsmouth) lined up in a 3-5-2 formation and packed the midfield. Nothing happened at all in the first 10 minutes. Then Bradley Allen received a pass from the right, with his back to goal, about 25 yards out in a central position. He spun away to the right and went across the penalty area to a position about 15 yards out and 10 yards wide of the goal, whereupon he smashed a right-foot drive to the foot of the keeper's left-hand post. Petterson saved low, comfortably, though not easily.
Nothing happened for another quarter of an hour. Then some determined play down the Town right involving Pouton saw the ball played to Lester, who lost control. Fortunately the ball rebounded to another town player, who slipped the ball wide to Gallimore, who was steaming into a huge open space about 20-ish yards out, near the corner of the area. Gallimore just got to the ball before a couple of defenders and he drove a half hit shot across the face of the goal. With Allen hanging about behind him, Awford stretched out near the six-yard box, in a central position. He succeeded in knocking the ball tamely to Petterson, who appeared to let the ball roll over and beyond him. Three sides of the ground rose to acclaim Petterson's impression of Crichton - it was very kind of a keeper who could have played for Town to perform like a keeper who used to.
Portsmouth abandoned their defensive tactics and came out with all guns blazing. Just kidding. They had a cross which Coyne caught. And after 40 minutes Simpson hit a free kick from 25 yards about a yard wide of Coyne's left-hand post. Their only other move of the first half was when Lever produced a beautifully weighted lay off in the Town area, resulting in a cross to the far post where Butterfield headed away from Claridge.
Town's only move of note was when Lester wriggled free of a couple of challenges on the left-hand side of the Portsmouth area and, when within the six-yard box with only the keeper to beat, fell under a non-existent challenge. This produced only half-hearted shouts for a penalty from the Pontoon. Literally nothing else happened in the first half.
The Town support was exceedingly quiet, one of those night when people turned up at Blundell Park and chatted to their mates, the game being incidental. There was no tension, as Portsmouth didn't look like scoring, so once Town had got a jammy goal, that appeared to be that. We could get on with the serious business of making witty comments about the Pompey trumpeter, who has to be the worst "musician" ever heard at a football match. When Town scored, the lone terrace wit in the Pontoon chimed "You're not blowing anymore". At times he sounded like a novice learning the scales. And he was accompanied by a man with a cowbell. Fortunately, the Town drummer wasn't there, otherwise it would have been the musical trio from Hell, rather than the surreally dreadful duo. I don't think any of the other 150 Pompey supporters had brought any other instruments.
Town's football had been poor. Portsmouth smothered the midfield and came for a point. They always had 11 men behind the ball. Town didn't function as a team and there was very little movement in attack. Bradley Allen should be excluded from any such criticism as he was moving all the time, drifting into superb positions.
The basic problem with Town was Jack Lester. Whenever the ball got to him he gave it away. He was atrocious in the first half. The only time he passed it to a similarly striped warrior was by mistake. Let's put it this way – no-one even attempted to chant "Super Jackie Lester". He should have been taken off as he was having the stinker of stinkers.
Allen on the other hand was linking nicely and always on the move. I can't remember D Smith touching the ball and Pouton was double-marked very tightly. Someone had been doing their homework. The defence had very little to do, but did it comfortably (with the exception of Lever's lay off in our box). The referee, in pastel green, had managed to get in the way a lot, principally of Town passes, and on at least two occasion he blatantly obstructed D Smith, but took no action against himself.
The game wasn't so much rubbish as very boring.
Neither team made any changes at half time, though Portsmouth did appear to push their full-backs further up. Nothing happened much for the first 10 minutes or so. They got a corner which was headed away, and that's all. Buckley took off Burnett after 52 minutes, replacing him with Stacy Coldicott, who immediately won a crunching tackle and gave the ball away. HE'S BACK!
After about 10-15 minutes of the second half Portsmouth lobbed a high ball into the centre of the Town area from their left. The ball dropped to Claridge, who turned and volleyed low. The ball was travelling just inside the right hand-post, but Coyne leapt across and pushed it aside for a corner. This was a very fine save. The Town response to this was for Ashcroft to replace Allen. This was not well received by those paying to watch. They booed the substitution (not Ashcroft, only the decision to take off Allen) and the Pontoon stirred itself for the only time during the match to have a very pointed and heart felt rendition of "There's only one Bradley Allen". It was obvious to all that Lester should have been replaced. One Pontoonite was moved to observe that Allen had been replaced by a man with more chins than goals.
With about 15 minutes left Black replaced Gallimore, with D Smith reverting to left-back. In between these substitutions Town had a couple of shots and Portsmouth a couple of crosses. Coldicott burst into the area, after an Ashcroft flick and Lester miscontrol, and poked a right-foot shot straight at Petterson from 15 yards. The other effort from Town was after a flowing breakaway move down the right, involving Coldicott and Pouton. The ball was played to Ashcroft, about 20 yards out in the centre. He laid the ball off to Gallimore, about 35 yards out, whose shot was half charged down and deflected just wide for a corner. Petterson dropped a cross and also wellied a clearance against Coldicott's back. "We're glad you signed for Pompey", as some sang to the floppy-haired antipodean. More proof for the theory that floppy hair leads to flapping hands.
The match went a bit barmy in the last 15 minutes, with Portsmouth finally abandoning their negative formation and tactics. This left acres of space for Town to break away, which they did to some effect. Portsmouth visibly increased the pace of the game and hit more balls into the box. Their one real chance came after a break down the Town left, with a cross floated to the far post, where Butterfield was out-jumped. The header went a couple of feet wide. The nearest Town came to conceding was a carbon copy of the Town goal. A cross shot from the Town left was intercepted by the outstretched leg of R Smith, near the six-yard line in the centre of the goal. The ball dribbled past Coyne (who was, of course, going the other way). Fortunately Coyne turned around and plucked the ball off the line. Another fine stop. He had two things to do and he did them well. We can't ask for more. These were, in effect, match-winning saves.
Portsmouth had a couple more shots which went high and wide, the most comical of which was from Fitzroy Simpson, whose shot from 20 yards cleared the top of the Osmond Stand. Was he Pouton in disguise? Portsmouth also had a shot on target from a free kick, 20 yards out to the Town left, awarded after Lever mistimed a tackle and was booked. Igoe chipped the ball slowly straight into Coyne's hands. The only other action at that end was a booking for Pouton. His crime was to perfectly time a tackle and win the ball.
In the last 5 minutes Town could have had another three or four. But as most of the moments of danger fell to Lester, you may not be surprised to learn that he never got a touch on the ball and landed on his bottom each time. The nearest Town got to scoring was after a break down the Town left involving Black and Ashcroft. The ball was played behind Lester to the on-rushing Pouton, about 20 yards out to the right of centre, with two defenders flying across to block. His first-time, right-footed shot went low across the face of the goal and missed by less than a foot.
Town had three breakaways, all resulting in Ashcroft curling in a low cross from the right to the near post. The first one Lester ambled towards and slid in way after the ball had gone, the second Lester missed completely at the near post (only a yard or two out) and the third was rolled across goal (about eight yards out) and Lester fell as he ran with a defender. Charitable folk in the Pontoon claim to have seen a slight touching of feet (though it is not clear whether that was Lester's right and left feet touching each other, or the defender's and Lester's).
And finally we could go home as the referee remembered to blow his whistle.
The match was poor, Portsmouth were slightly better than Walsall and Swindon. What high praise. Once Town scored the game was, in effect, over. Of course Town have a unique ability to snatch a draw from the gaping jaws of victory, but Portsmouth just never looked like scoring. There were a couple of positives from the game, being the crowd support for Allen and Coldicott's driving runs from midfield. This is an aspect of his game that has suddenly appeared this season. He really did cause some concern in the Portsmouth defence with his strong running, though his passing often didn't. Ashcroft was OK when he came on and nobody, apart from Lester, had a bad game, in the sense that they made mistakes. Nobody particularly did anything out of the ordinary.
Credit where credit's due (Coyne), but debit where debit's due. Lester owes a lot after that performance.
How can the match be summarised in a sentence? "Forget about it" to quote from Donnie Brasco.