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Portsmouth 1 Scunthorpe 0: Taylor grabs glory as Scunthorpe fail to take chances - 26/01/2004

   Teddy Sheringham
   Eyal Berkovic
   Shaka Hislop
   Patrik Berger
   Brian Laws
   Harry Redknapp
   Scunthorpe United

TOO many league places, 66 in all, separated Portsmouth and Scunthorpe United for this to have been a properly balanced encounter. The Third Division team had their moments, but two rare goals from Matthew Taylor provided a lead that was just sufficient.

Taylor is a naturally left-footed wing-back, but he took both goals adroitly with his right boot. Do not imagine, though, that he will be asked to play in attack to resolve his team’s injury problems. Harry Redknapp, Portsmouth’s manager, was in Spain on Friday and will be in Greece today searching for new forwards. “I was standing in pouring rain at four in the morning and I thought, would Alex Ferguson or Arsène Wenger be doing this? I want someone for nothing but who gives you good players?” he said.

Scunthorpe were not expected, and by no means prepared, to play only a bit-part in this tie. They might well have scored only once in their previous seven matches and been without three useful on-loan players, but some of those who took the pitch have Premiership experience. Peter Beagrie, who had their best chance in an unexceptional first half, for one.

His direct free kick, taken on his favoured left side of midfield, struck the side netting when several others players, Shaka Hislop included, reckoned it was dipping into the goal. So Portsmouth’s first goal was not exactly deserved. If there was merit in it, this was on account of nifty control out wide from Alexei Smertin. His cross was struck first time by Eyal Berkovic, blocked at close range by Tom Evans, and swept in by Taylor, who was taking every opportunity to advance from left wing-back.

Taylor almost scored a second shortly afterwards when his header back across goal was cleared off the line by Nathan Stanton, who is regarded as

the line by Nathan Stanton, who is regarded as one of the better defenders in the Third Division.

Scunthorpe had as much possession as Portsmouth for a considerable period, and often looked as if their best chance of scoring would be from set-pieces. What they lacked was a presence in front of goal.

This was apparent immediately after the start of the second half. Paul Hayes, the blond and pacy forward who is in his first full season as a professional, shot on the turn without sufficient power to beat Hislop. But what options were there for Brian Laws, the Scunthorpe manager who was sent off on his last visit to Fratton Park as a Nottingham Forest player in 1992 in an FA Cup quarter-final? Better times did not beckon now.

His players were all too familiar with the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Patrik Berger from constant exposure from television and went into the match in the expectation that Portsmouth would be under considerable pressure to account for a club that Smertin, for one, confessed he had never heard of.

When Portsmouth went further ahead after 66 minutes, that seemed to be that. This was a cleverly worked goal. Berkovic, who has been advised to cut out his criticism of Kevin Keegan by Redknapp, his new manager, found Sheringham on the edge of Scunthorpe’s penalty area. He slipped the ball to Taylor, who collected his second goal with a crisp and well-placed low drive inside Evans’s left-hand post.

“Defenders should not try to nick a ball in the penalty box when Sheringham is around,” said Laws. “But I know who was the more nervy manager in the last five minutes. I thought we were the better team in the second half.” All that remained for Scunthorpe was to look to their established players to bring them a goal, if not a replay.

There were two final chances for Scunthorpe. The first came when Steve Torpey headed wastefully over the bar from Kevin Sharp’s corner. The second did bring about a goal, but there was only a minute of regulation time remaining by then. Andy Parton, brought on as a substitute just 10 minutes earlier, volleyed in spectacularly. Alas for Scunthorpe it was too late.

The Times

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