It was the bus's fault

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Rich Mills

15 March 2017

Portsmouth 4 Grimsby 0

"Have you seen the team for tonight?"

I hate hearing that as soon as I sit down in the pub before the game. It suggests that our starting XI has been picked by drawing names out of the hat rather than by assessing the opposition or what went well for us in the last runout. But hey! Marcuses knows what he's doing, right? Right? 

Someone who clearly doesn't know what they're doing is the ticketing manager at Fratton Park as Pompey frantically printed a couple more batches of tickets to cope with the 500 Mariners who made the trek to Hampshire. So high-tech are the turnstiles that they can't take cash; there's nobody there to take the cash, just a slot to read a barcode. Progress isn't it?

Fortunately, Pompey haven't applied the same thinking to their glorious ground. Proper stands, not matching. A proper dug-out rather than a bench in a bus shelter and some home fans seated below pitch level. The Fratton End is only 20 years old but it doesn't look modern. Can we have one of these, please? The place sounds great too and putting aside differences for a moment, that Play Up Pompey chant is ace. I'm ignoring the bell with the bell.

Town lined up thus: McKeown; Mills, Pearson, Collins; Davies, Jones, Maxwell, Osborne, Andrew; Vernon, Asante. I'm going to say 3–5–2 but it wasn't obvious. Former Portsmouth player of the season Davies seemed to be playing right wing and pretty much the whole midfield was tucking in. Kit nerds will be pleased to know that despite not wearing our non-clashing black and white stripes (in the wash, perhaps?) we were at least wearing a matching kit (the red one).

First half: The elephant in the room is stood in the left of midfield

The opening ten minutes saw Town match the Blues and both teams had chances. Bennett saw a shot over the bar for the, while Mills struck the post from distance and keeper Forde did well to tip over an effort from Asante. 

Pompey got their breakthrough on the quarter hour as Bennett's deflected shot looped over McKeown. As we lined up for the restart we got a hint as to where our problems lay. There's nobody on the left. A big, gaping hole; big enough to hide both Jon Parkin and Matt Rhead, let alone pacey young wingers.

To their credit, Town kept at it but the signs were there. Pompey attacked down the flanks, shifting the ball across the park with pace, in front of a Town sitting far too deep. Don't give them space to play, lads!

Mills cut out an attack. McKeown gathered safely from Naismith. Davies hared up the wing winning a corner which came to nowt. Pearson headed away. Collins blocked an effort. McKeown left an effort from Naismith which went much closer to the upright than he was expecting. The Mariners faithful winced. Careful now.

Aaargh. Rose added the second with a photocopy of Bennett's opener. Same position, same deflection. Same space in front of the defence. We're looking wide-open on our left. They could drive a bus down that wing but of course nobody brings a bus in this league, unlike Guiseley last season. No, they bring attacking midfielder/winger types who exploit space.

Town get a breather for an injury to Bennett who eventually has to make way. Good for us; he was a right pain in his own quick, skilful, goalscorey way. A couple of minutes added on for the injury. If we can just see it out to half time then regroup for the seco...

Dash it! The bounders have only gone and exploited the left midfield no-(Town)-man's land and Baker smashed it through McKeown. Literally through him. Like Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her

Three-nil at the break then. Let's see what Marcuses does to address that. Consensus in the stands is to bring Dizza and Comley on for Maxwell and Osborne, say, as they weren't doing owt useful. Maybe cover the left of midfield too.

Second half: Plus ça change

The gaffer bowls us a googly by making no changes at all. None. Nada. Zilch. But enough of his tacticality, they're kicking off.

And scoring. Baker smashed it from a distance, McKeown couldn't hang on to it and the troublesome Naismith tucks away Pompey's fourth, along with our our hopes, dreams and dignity. Oh, I know, it's only a game.

Pompey kept pressing with Roberts and Baker both coming close before Bignot showed his hand, bring on Dizza and Comley for Jones and Osborne. Harsh on Jones as he had been showing sparks, unlike the AWOL Maxwell. The Ginger Pirlo and his deputy steady the midfield ship, closing down the opposition and putting in tackles; you know, that sort of thing. We didn't concede again and although they had chances, we looked steadier and less exposed. McKeown pushed away a great strike from Baker before Evans headed wide. 

Into the last ten minutes and our third substitution saw Yussuf on for Asante. Too little, too late and the latest man into the fray managed to look knackered for his ten minutes on the pitch. 

The game petered out as Pompey played out the last few minutes. Home fans legged it to avoid the traffic; Town fans kept their peckers up, despite it all. After the final whistle, the players wandered over to applaud the crowd and we applauded back. Marcus stood sheepishly behind one of the big units. Did he know he'd dropped a bollock? Has he got the balls to admit he's got it wrong? 

No. Blame the bus.