There is an expression in the Royal Navy which I was hoping
I wouldn't be able to use today. Because Fratton is the last
station on the line before you arrive in Portsmouth, "Getting
off at Fratton" is sailor slang for... how shall I put this....?.....
coitus interruptus. Not going the whole way, in other words.
Sorry, but Forest got off at Fratton.
The first 75 minutes of this game were, to be brutally frank,
abject - the worst game of football I have seen this season.
Both sides were playing the ball far too much in the air,
where Riccy and TV for us and Moore and Whitbread for them
were dealing with everything comfortably. Pompey were poor,
we were every bit as bad, and a 0-0 draw (frankly the only
conceivableresult at that stage because no-one looked to have
the wit to score a goal) would have been a fair reflection
of the quality of the match. They had more of the ball, but
neither side seemed to have much idea what to do with it.
Both defences looked sound, but Jack is not the sort of player
to get much change out of anyone on his own up front particularly
when we would insist on hoofing it to the poor guy in the
air - and in midfield Tank, Quashie, Johnno and Gray were
all to various degrees anonymous, leaving Bart playing them
on his own. Incidents of note in the first 75 mins? A Quashie
30-yard chip which landed on the roof of the unguarded net.
A couple of decent saves from Lurch in the first half, and
one brilliant one from Claridge early in the second which
had even the forward himself applauding. And a foul on Tony
Vaughan by (?) Allen - the ball right by the corner flag,
being shepherded out by TV, Allen clattered through him and
was justifiably booked. Bad tackle, but hardly heinous, so
why do I mention it? Read on - it was very important in the
end. Then on 78 minutes TV cleared the ball to Marlon in the
centre circle. Marlon spun his defender and set off on a brilliant
mazy run down the right, cut inside the box, skinned the left
back, feinted to shoot and squared it to the onrushing Johnno.
The first shot was blocked, but the second flew into the roof
of the net and we were 1-0 up. By this stage we already had
Dawson on, replacing Riccy Scimeca who'd been carried off
mid way through the second half. He wasn't fouled, and I didn't
see him go down - but he seemed to be clutching the back of
his leg, so ???hamstring. Vaughan had been hobbling badly
ever since the Allen foul, and the moment we went ahead Platty
took him off, replaced him with Woan and moved Bart back into
defence. (Mind you, Woany seems to have been at the pie shop
since I last saw him play, so at first glance TV might still
have been there).
It didn't take Pompey long to realise that a pairing of Bart
and Dawson constitutes a pretty makeshift defence, and one
far less likely to win balls in the air than Riccy and TV,
so few of us were surprised when Thogerson equalised with
a free header with 3 minutes to go. Disappointed, yes, but
it had been on the cards ever since TV went off. When, 2 minutes
into injury time, Moore headed a corner against the post and
a Pompey player who will wish to remain anonymous smashed
the ball over the bar from 6 yards - a truly classic miss,
this - I thought we had held out for a reasonable and not
undeserved point. (Not undeserved, I hasten to add, because
Pompey were as rubbish as us today, not because we could by
any stretch of the imagination claim to have played well!)
But no. In the fifth and final minute of injury time (there
was so much because of the injuries to Riccy and TV) yet another
high ball was pinged into the box, Darren Moore won it and
flicked it on to Claridge at the far post, and he gave Lurch
no chance with a neat finish.
"Oh dear", I shouted. Or words to that effect. To be honest,
I doubt we would have conceded those two goals with the central
defensive pairing we had started with. And to be honest I
am beginning to wonder when we are going to finish a game
with the defence we started out with - they seem either to
be sent or carried off at the moment, and it ain't doing us
any good. So, for my return to the fold after a three week
gap and the onset of withdrawal symptoms, a wretched game
of football, a bad result and the winning goal scored in the
95th minute. Disappointing, to say the least. In fact we got
off at Fratton.