Football: Pompey go to play-offs

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The Independent Online
Portsmouth. . .2

Grimsby Town. .1

Portsmouth will have to do it the hard way after all. They gave away a freak goal, in a less than overcharged first half, only to grapple back with the two goals for victory that would have taken them into the Premier League had West Ham faltered at home against Cambridge.

It was a pulsating climax to the club's impressive season, marred only by the news from East London. It arrived in some confusion.

Once Guy Whittingham had scored the second goal in the 82nd minute a huge commotion around a feverish Fratton Park sent a message to the players that if the scores stayed the same way they would be promoted.

The information was completely wrong and at that point the fight sapped out of the match just as Portsmouth had taken it absolutely in their grip.

Instead of going out with a rousing finale, Portsmouth will now have to take the formidable combination of skill and resilience they showed here into the nerve- racking ordeal of the play-offs.

If they keep it up, they should still go up, and the Premier League will be lucky to have them.

Grimsby played their part with honour, breaking tidily and at speed and then defending solidly enough to ensure that Pompey had to work very hard for their victory. The visitors even went in front, an end-to-end wind blowing Tony Daws's optimistic lob high over Alan Knight and in.

Portsmouth had their work cut out, and to it they went after a first-half display in which only Paul Walsh showed the way forward with some incisive dribbling. Pompey banged balls in Grimsby's box all afternoon without any joy, but the first time Mark Chamberlain made it to the byline his cross had Rhys Wilmot beaten as it bounced off a post to Ray Daniel.

Guy Whittingham scored a second just as things were beginning to looked desperate, but it turned out not to be enough.

Portsmouth: L Knight; L Awford (G Lawrence, 70 min), G Butters, A McLoughlin (W Aspinall, 75 min), K Symons, R Daniel, W Neill, M Chamberlain, P Walsh, G Whittingham, B Kristensen. Manager: J Smith.

Grimsby Town: R Wilmot; J McDermott, G Croft, P Futcher, G Roger, J Dobbin, T Ford, D Gilbert (M Smith, 76 min), T Daws, C Mendonca (N Woods, 82 min), P Groves. Manager: A Buckley.

Referee: R Hamer (Bristol).

Goals: Daws (0-1, 32 min); Daniel (1-1, 58 min); Whittingham (2-1, 83 min).

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