Football / Ups and Downs: West Ham's joy pitches Portsmouth into the minefield

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The Independent Online
Portsmouth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Grimsby Town . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

BULGING at the seams, a cauldron of tickertape and colour, Fratton Park would be no less of an asset to next season's Premier League than St James' or Upton Park. Whether Portsmouth will get there remains to be seen. They certainly deserve to, but having failed to put one over on West Ham on Saturday they go into the minefield of the play-offs in the knowledge that desserts are not always just.

Before the game Paul Walsh accepted the gongs from fans and local press. You have to have had quite a season to beat a scorer of over 40 goals into second place, but in a display full of explosive running, Walsh showed why he is a better player than his stop-start career suggests.

In the play-offs Portsmouth will find out, because without Walsh is what they will be. Sent off against Sunderland, he must endure a three- match ban that coincides with the two legs against Leicester and, should they get there, the Wembley final. Also banned is Warren Aspinall (two games) and Guy Butters (one), so their elevation is not the foregone conclusion it ought to be.

Assuming they both won, Portsmouth had to beat Grimsby by two more goals than West Ham defeated Cambridge, but for an acrobatic performance by Rhys Wilmot in the visitors' goal they might have done. Tony Daws scored for Grimsby with an improbable lob before Pompey set to it. When the radio brought news that Cambridge had scored with minutes remaining the fans went wild without waiting to find out that the goal had been disallowed. Second-half goals from Ray Daniel and Guy Whittingham secured the win, but rarely can victory have seemed so hollow.

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

Portsmouth: Knight; Awford (Lawrence, 70), Butters, McLoughlin (Aspinall, 75), Symons, Daniel, Neill, Chamberlain, Walsh, Whittingham, Kristensen.

Grimsby Town: Wilmot; McDermott, Croft, Futcher, Roger, Dobbin, Ford, Gilbert (Smith, 76), Daws, Mendonca (Woods, 82), Groves.

Referee: R Hamer (Bristol).