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Bradford survive

Pre-season tour
Gallen signs
Hornets sting Town
Owls shot down
Gray returns
Wijnhard crashes out
Worthington woe
Ayre departs
First home point
Bye Bye Brucie
New manager announced
Fans show anger
9 points to safety
First home win
Ndlovu at first sight
Town leap to safety
Macari wins award
More cup woe
Ndlovu joins Blades
Jamie jumps ship
Town hit rock bottom again
Morris' McApline move
Prodigal son returns
Biggest win
QPR doomed
Nearly there
The bitter end

Saturday 31st March.

At this stage of the season when the second division beckons, performances matter little and results are paramount. Today’s was just one of those games, and to use an overworked cliché was a game of two halves. The biggest surprise in team selection was Macari’s persistence with the same back four as the previous home game against Sheffield United. The clever money was on Jim Brennan making his debut at left back with Steve Jenkins returning to his accustomed right back slot and Heary warming the substitutes bench. This was not the case however, and perhaps it was just another case of Lou Macari trying to surprise everyone with his unorthodox team selections unless Brennan wasn’t fully match fit. The striking conundrum was finally revealed as Booth was paired with Lee Morris, leaving Gallen and Facey as substitutes alongside Adie Moses who was inexplicably chosen ahead of Kevin Gray (why oh why?).

The game began with an early chance for Portsmouth, but Nico Vaesen was well up to the task and after this early scare Town began to dominate play without ever really looking in control. Pompey keeper Aaron Flavhaven was the busier of the two stoppers but we fail to seriously test the slightly shaky looking custodian. Town lacked any real penetration as it took time for them to adjust to finally having a target man to aim for. The modicum of pace that Booth had in his previous spell at Town looks to have deserted him somewhat, but his ability to hold the ball up has improved along with his distribution.

Wide men Thornley and Baldry squandered possession too easily on a number of occasions and failed to provide any real service for Andy Booth. Jamie Vincent was quite effective marshalling Baldry, and the former Town player who was roundly booed (amongst other jibes) each time he was in possession of the ball. The vitriol aimed towards Vincent took some of the heat off their two imports from Vile Parade. Lee Sharpe was largely anonymous and the career of the former Manchester United star looks to be in serious decline, however, striker Lee Mills had a more tangible impact on proceedings.

From a Town attack, Portsmouth played the ball out of defence through our static looking midfield and towards the defence who stood off as the ball was played across to Lee Mills. As Dyson and Jenkins raced in to tackle, the former Bantam wrapped his foot around the ball and lashed home an unstoppable drive from 25 yards out. The only thing wrong with the goal was that it went in at the wrong end although you had to acknowledge the quality of the strike.

Portsmouth perked up after taking the lead, as did the bell-ringing moron, who always follows Pompey on their travels. When you are losing the constant ding ding of his bell is particularly abrasive, and you find yourself wishing he would buy himself an ice cream van so he could ring his bell whilst flogging a few 99’s – in Portsmouth. Recently returned from injury, Mills had further opportunities to widen the margin and Vaesen was forced to save one effort with his legs whilst the other was hoofed over the bar to spare our blushes further. Half-time came as a welcome relief as the game was poor and it might hopefully give the players time to regroup.

I have commented before about the difference between the interval pep talks given by Bruce and Macari. I don’t know whether it is Macari or Jordan who winds up the players during the interval, but they make a better fist of it than their predecessor. If we are to survive this season then much of it can be attributed to the fact that there must be something special put in the half time tea now but I just wish they would do it before the match starts. Thankfully today was just one of those games and the team looked a different proposition in the second half.

Perhaps they had identified how to bring Andy Booth more into the game because he started to look much more involved. Town really began to dominate with Lee Morris able to feed off Booth’s flick-ons and Dean Gorré becoming much more influential pulling the strings from midfield. It came as no real surprise when Town drew level and the scorer was none other than our returning hero.

Following a 55th minute free kick from the half way line, the ball was only cleared as far as Dean Gorré who lobbed the ball back into the penalty area where it was met by Jon Dyson and his header evaded two Portsmouth defenders towards the lurking Booth neatly steered his shot past the flailing Flahaven. The crowd went wild as Booth raced along the touchline to celebrate his homecoming. Within 5 minutes of the equaliser Delroy Facey was introduced to replace the ineffective Ben Thornley, giving us a home-grown striking partnership for the first time since…I don’t know when, with Lee Morris taking up a position wide on the left.

Inspired by Booth’s goal, livened up by the quick running of Lee Morris, and lifted by the never-say-die attitude of Delroy Facey, Town really got to grips with the game. The longer the game went on the more Pompey keeper Aaron Flahaven looked seriously dodgy and in one moment of disarray carried the ball from his own goal line and outside the penalty area. This was hilarious and almost gave Town the lead as Gorré’s free kick spun off the wall into the path of Booth but his rushed effort was saved by the keepers legs. They began to run Portsmouth ragged and even Simon Baldry started to make Vincent look pretty ordinary, the only surprise being that it took us until the 71st minute to take the lead, but it was worth the wait.

Dean Gorré was now back to his imperious best (probably the best he has played all season) and seemed becalmed in midfield, twisting and turning to evade the attentions of two Portsmouth players. Eventually he managed to work himself enough space to lift a delightful ball over the top towards the advancing Delroy Facey. Facey always looked second favourite to collect the ball as he and Carl Tiler raced towards goal, but the Town front man used all his pace and physical presence to muscle the Portsmouth defender off the ball, then after steadying himself slightly he unleashed a vicious 10 yard shot into the back of the net.

It was no less than Town deserved and the whole team was purring, for once the defence looked solid and this gave Armstrong and Gorré in midfield chance to bring Morris and Baldry more into the game. Despite our complete domination at this time we were unable to add to the lead until the dying minutes when we doubled our tally. Portsmouth had changed their personnel between the sticks when Chris Tardif (a time machine with a lisp?) replaced the feckless Aaron Flahaven with 10 minutes to go, ostensibly this was due to a hand injury requiring stitches, but we all know that the real reason was that he was withdrawn to avoid further embarrassment.

Almost at the end of normal time, Lee Morris who revelled in his wide left berth picked the ball up in centre field and began to race towards the Portsmouth penalty area. He dropped his shoulder and tried to power past his defender who after much shirt pulling finally unbalanced the on-loan youngster, and the referee had no other option than to point to the spot. Just one problem, new penalty taker Martin Smith was injured, Kenny Irons was on the bench and Craig Armstrong failed to score his effort at Bolton. No problem, Dean Gorré stepped up to take the kick and calmly stroked the ball home sending Tardif the wrong way.

I was pleased for Gorré who played well today, and I was delighted when another Huddersfield product scored a fourth goal in the last minute of stoppage time. Andy Booth laid the ball off to Simon Baldry who advanced towards the corner flag despite the close attentions of a Portsmouth defender. Seemingly trapped in the corner, he cleverly knocked the ball towards the penalty area, and after a lucky deflection off Jamie Vincent (cheers Jamie) passed to Delroy Facey who held the ball up just long enough to be able to feed the overlapping Baldry and he steered a deft shot off the outside of his boot into the back of the net.

It’s been a miserable season in so many ways, and it was great to score 4 goals for the first time since…well, a long time ago. If we are to survive this year then we must win most if not all of our home games and pick up what we can from the numerous remaining away games. Unfortunately both Crystal Palace and Stockport won today so we remain in the relegation places, but with a game at Selhurst Park on Tuesday our fate is still in our own hands.

TOWN 4 (Booth 55, Facey 71, Gorré 89 (pen), Baldry 93)

Portsmouth 1 (Mills 33)

Position in table – 22nd

Town – Vaesen; Jenkins; Lucketti; Dyson; Heary; Thornley (Facey 59); Armstrong; Gorré; Booth; Morris; Baldry (Brennan 90). Subs not used – Margetson; Moses; Gallen.

Portsmouth – Flahaven (Tardif 80); Vincent; Crowe; Tiler; Hiley; Sharpe (Nightingale 90); Brady (Lovell 71); Harper; Panapoulis; Mills; Wooleaston. Subs not used – Waterman; Miglioranzi.

Referee – Paul Alcock (Kent). Attendance 13,199



All words and thoughts by Chris except where stated.

A big thank you to Machala for putting up with me doing this and Ian for his support and my Mum for her proof reading.

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