Hamilton Beats Mills in Tight Encounter
Wednesday, 8th May 2013 14:56
A side led by Bryan Hamilton overcame a team managed by Mick Mills 1-0 in a tight encounter to carry off the Portman Cup at Portman Road yesterday afternoon. Both teams were made up of fans who had paid for the privilege of getting taste of what it’s like to be a player on matchday.
The 30 players arrived at Portman Road at 1.30pm to find their kit laid out in the dressing rooms as the real teams' would on a Saturday afternoon.
The current first strip in the home dressing room and the white away kit in the visitors’ slightly less palatial facilities, although as Mills reminded his team – which included TWTD’s Phil Ham – this had been the home dressing room in the days of Sir Bobby Robson’s teams. It also still contained a kicking block brought in by former coach Sammy Chung back in the late 1960s.
The teams were introduced to their managers, given a team-talk and warmed up on the practice pitch on the now traditional blistering hot Portman Cup afternoon, before making their way to the tunnel and out on to Portman Road’s hallowed turf.
Man on the microphone Simon Milton read out the players’ names as they waved to the crowd, which was somewhat below capacity, and hands were shaken with the opposition and officials.
The game, which was played in three thirds to give all the outfielders 60 minutes each, began at a frantic local-derby-in-the-third-round-of-the-FA-Cup sort of pace, which was impressive in conditions more suited to a slower African Nations Cup-style approach.
After 10 minutes or so some of the more senior players were wondering how long they could keep this up and even whether they might survive to third-time. Fortunately, the pace settled down to a more manageable level with the teams evenly matched from the outset.
Home manager Hamilton – who maintained a lively dialogue with the officials throughout – must have been left questioning his defence when somehow Phil Ham was allowed to win a header at a corner, the ball flying harmlessly halfway up the lower tier of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
Away keeper Andrew Chapman was impressing for his side, claiming everything sent into the box and catching a well-struck shot from distance hit into his midriff.
Overall the defences were on top and when they were breached Chapman and home team keeper James Deacon were both resolute and the scoreline remained 0-0 at the first break.
Chapman pulled off the stop of the game in the second third, getting down to his right to save superbly after a header from a deep corner from the right seemed destined to break the deadlock.
Mills’s away team, though, were just about shading it, winning a succession of corners before the second break at the hour mark but still without the scorers being troubled.
The third third continued in a similar vein and the visitors ought to have gone in front when awarded a penalty when Steve Harding was felled in the box as he and a defender challenged for an awkward bouncing ball. Harding himself stepped up to take the kick but saw it fly just over.
The away team – who included a Bacon and an English as well as Ham in an unusually breakfast-centric squad – began to tire and midway through the final third they scored what was to prove the game’s only goal.
Chapman, who had been excellent throughout, for once failed to claim a corner from the right. His defenders had chances to clear but failed to do so and Ben Jacobs gleefully lashed home from 12 yards in front of the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand (see top photo).
Mills’s men fought bravely to get back on terms in the remaining minutes, an effort flying just wide soon after they had conceded, then Peter Bennett’s 30-yard freekick was flicked on from the edge of the box, but home keeper Deacon claimed just under his bar.
However, the fightback was in vain with the referee’s whistle confirming a 1-0 victory for Hamilton’s team soon after.
An equally tight penalty shoot-out followed to give everyone a chance to hit a Portman Road net – Ham finding the same seat in the Sir Bobby Robson Stand that he struck earlier – the score ending 8-8 after 15 kicks each, the keepers again showing their prowess.
After getting showered – cold in the case of the away dressing room with John Beck-style tactics clearly being employed by the home side – it was up to the Sir Bobby Robson Suite for food and the handing out of trophies and medals.
The game’s Momentous Moment Award went to keeper James Deacon for an incident in the second third where he threw the ball straight out of play at a right angle, something he was reminded had been captured on camera for the DVD given to the players after the event.
Ben Jacobs was a unanimous choice for the Goal of the Game gong seeing as he was the only one to get on the scoresheet, before the managers chose a Man of the Match for their sides.
After saluting the keepers - “There were two outstanding goalkeepers in the match and they have to take credit for keeping the score down as they did” – away team boss Mills picked central defender Adrian Taylor.
“He was outstanding,” he said. “I’m a defender and I’d like to think I was a proper defender and I certainly would call him a proper defender. He didn’t take any prisoners today and everything he had to do, he did well.”
Hamilton went for another centre-half, Richard Hibbert: “There was one player who was a little bit ahead of everybody else. Very commanding, very controlled, I thought he defended superbly well.”
The winning manager said he was proud of his boys: “It was great, I thought the lads were terrific, the attitude was marvellous. It was played in a great spirit and it was very even. It could have gone either way, they missed a penalty kick.
“I just thought overall it was a really good contribution, I thought the lads enjoyed it, the sun was out, it was a marvellous day at Ipswich Town.
“It’s a terrific opportunity for supporters. I think everybody has had a great day, which is what it’s all about.
“It’s to give guys, corporate guys, Ipswich Town fans, the opportunity to play at Portman Road, to live their dream. A lot of them did that, they enjoyed it all and they certainly didn’t do themselves any harm at all, they performed with great pride.”
Mills said he was gutted to lose to his old team-mate: “Extremely so! We’ve lost 1-0 at the end of the day, but we had chances to win it without question and I think throughout the game more chances came our way than theirs.
“In the crucial last 30 minutes we missed a penalty and we missed a one-on-one with the goalkeeper and they’ve scored from a little bit of a goalkeeping error initially and then there was a bit of a scrimmage going on in our box and they’ve forced it home. So, I think the luck just went their way in the end and cost us the game.”
He added: “I think everybody’s really looked forward to the day and thoroughly enjoyed it. The effort that they’ve put in is incredible. It’s a big pitch, as everybody knows, it’s a quick surface, it’s different to what they’re used to playing on. It was hot and they had to keep going.
“There was never a time when the game wasn’t in the balance and they had to keep going and I think they did that. Even the penalty shoot-out was a tightly contested eight-all draw!”
Milton was delighted with the way the event went: “It was a really enjoyable day, the weather was fantastic for spectating but it was a bit hot for the players.
“I really enjoyed the game. It was very tight, maybe because the managers have drilled into the players how important defending is.
“I think the two goalkeepers were excellent and if you’ve got excellent goalkeepers it makes it much more difficult to score.
“It wasn’t that there were no chances, there were chances in the game, even a penalty missed during the 90 minutes, but the keepers were very good and it made for a tight game.
“The last thing I want is to try to put two teams together and one absolutely batter the other, then it’s not a good day for someone, walking off at Portman Road having been beaten 6-0 or 7-0. A very, very tight game again and just the odd goal.”
He says Mills and Hamilton got into the spirit of the afternoon as all the previous bosses have: “The two managers, the careers that they’ve had in playing and in management, they’ve come here today and put everything into it. They really have played their part.
“You try to bring in people who really care about the people they’re working with and they’ve gone for it.
“They have a bit of banter on the touchline for the whole game, but everybody who has been in the dressing room with either Mick Mills or Bryan Hamilton today will understand what they’ve given to the game and how they’ve been successful.”
Milton says the game will take place once more next summer: “We're definitely doing it again next year. We have a window of opportunity to sell this pitch and this is always a popular event.
“We’ve got a six-a-side tournament at the end of the week and we have pitch hires, just giving people the opportunity to play on the main pitch.
“I always say to people that it may be the same size as the pitch you play on elsewhere, but it just seems to have this energy sapping aura around it. You get out there, it’s Portman Road, the stands, the stadium.
“I thought the first 30 minutes of the game was so fast, it was unbelievable. That was really good because obviously it meant everyone was going for it from minute one. Maybe it slowed down a bit in the final third but it was still tight right the way through.”
If you’re interested in playing in next year’s Portman Cup, send an email to the club’s commercial department.
Home Team: James Deacon, Zach Ward, Barry Perkins, Chris Hodges, Richard Hibbert, Ben Jacobs, Jimmy Simmonds, Rory King, Chris Thompson, Paul O’Callaghan, Matt Hope, Clint Watling, Sean Hassey, Geoff Hope, John Hope. Manager: Bryan Hamilton.
Away Team: Andrew Chapman, Simon English, Alan Taylor, Robert Taylor, Nathan Wagner, Nick Sparkes, Ian Bates, Peter Bennett, Steve Harding, Phil Ham, Andrew Brown, Craig Bacon, Rob Potter, Adrian Taylor, Martin Swallow. Manager: Mick Mills.
Photos: Ruth Fawcett
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