Football: Walsh's gifts keep Lions on ground

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The Independent Online
Millwall. . . .0

Portsmouth. . .0

THAT top of the world feeling could have been truly Millwall's yesterday, if only for the duration of the afternoon flight to Wearside for today's game against Sunderland. But it was not to be. Indeed, they were fortunate not to be brought down to earth with a bump by a Paul Walsh-inspired Pompey.

The Lions still managed to extend their unbeaten run to nine games but the impetus of five consecutive victories was lost as was the opportunity for fleeting pre-eminence in a year which has seen them soar from 23rd to third place. They were outplayed for 45 minutes by a side who throughout created the better chances in a passionate derby-type environment.

The lamenting was not all Millwall's, though. If only we had not sold Whittingham to Villa, you could almost hear the Pompey fans sigh as another chance went begging. Turn again, Whittingham? 'No chance,' Jim Smith, the manager, said, 'we couldn't afford his wages.' But funds are in the pipeline for a worthy ally for Walsh.

Smith reckoned his team would be skating a 'pretty ordinary' division if they had a natural goalscorer and he bemoaned the absence of that one gift among Walsh's repertoire. 'If he could score a few more goals he'd be worth pounds 10m.'

This, however, was not a day to chastise Walsh, who lifted the game on to a higher plane every time he touched the ball. Three months ago, his marker, young Neil Emblen, was playing for Sittingbourne against 'butchers and bakers', according to his manager, Mick McCarthy. From the high street to quality street.

Millwall (4-3-3): Keller; Huxford, Stevens, Emblen, Dolby (Beard, 67); Rae, Roberts, Barber; Mitchell, Kennedy (Verveer, 67), Goodman. Substitute not used: Emberson (gk).

Portsmouth (4-3-1-2): Knight; Neill, Symons, Butters, Dobson; Kristensen, Russell (Chamberlain, 74), Daniel; McLoughlin; Walsh, Durnin. Substitutes not used: Hall, Horne (gk).

Referee: I Borrett (Harleston, Norfolk).

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