PILGRIMS SO CLOSE NOW
Argyle promotion banner must stay furled for a little longer
THERE was a half-hour hiatus after the final whistle blew at Fratton Park as the Plymouth players and their large army of more than 2,500 travelling supporters waited with bated breath to hear the outcome of the game between promotion rivals Luton and Leyton Orient.
At one stage Orient were leading 2-1 and had Luton not fought back to salvage a late point, Plymouth’s draw with Portsmouth would have been enough to earn them promotion to League One.
Until the result at Kenilworth Road was confirmed an official from the EFL had been keeping a special promotion banner on the sideline along with champagne on ice to start the West Country side’s celebrations.
However, in the Plymouth dressing room manager Derek Adams was not taking anything for granted.
Instead the Scot was telling his players how they would have to spend the next two days mixing rest and strong mental preparation ahead of their home game against Newport tomorrow, where another point will be sufficient to take them into League One.
His earlier messages had clearly got through to Graham Carey whose defence-splitting
pass in the 12th minute had launched the attack which saw Jake Jervis plant home the header which gave Plymouth the lead.
“Newport may be in danger of losing their place in the league,” said Carey. “But they have had some good results recently .
“They are fighting for their lives and we will be fighting for promotion. We know we have got a job to do against them and we will be not be taking it lightly.”
Yet while he said the failure to hold onto their lead against Portsmouth and the subsequent point Luton had won had turned the afternoon into an ‘anti-climax’ he pointed out one consolation for himself and his team-mates. “Of course it would have been great to have got it all over with here at Portsmouth,” said Carey. “But now we have got the chance to get promotion at Home Park. So hopefully against Newport the place will be packed to capacity. “Our fans have waited a long time for us to get out of this division and were hit hard when we failed to get through the play-offs last year. So it would be really fitting if we can get the one point we need at home.” And there must have been some similar emotions in the Portsmouth dressing room as a win would have extended their lead in third place in the table over Luton to ten points.
But while they have a trip to Notts County tomorrow they know that their final two home games against Cambridge and Cheltenham should provide the points they need to play in League One next season.
However, while Plymouth look to possess all the components they need to climb upwards, several rungs are clearly missing on the Pompey ladder.
Particularly in the first half they had most of the ball possession and after the break they created far more chances than the visitors.
But they only took one of them when, in the 57th minute ,a low cross from Kyle Bennett hit the chest of diving keeper Luke McCormick and Gary Roberts prodded home the rebound.
Bennett himself had one clear chance but shot wide and in the last ten minutes when Kal Naismith’s cross found Conor Chaplin unmarked he was unable to score.
Portsmouth manager Paul Cook said: “It’s difficult to break down such a well-organised team.
“I don’t think we opened them up and created enough clear-cut chances in the second half.
“We’ll lick our wounds and we’ll try and give our fans what they’re desperately craving, which is promotion this year.”
GOING UP? Jake Jervis celebrates scoring the first goal for Plymouth
BACK IN IT: Portsmouth’s Gary Roberts scores their equaliser STAR MAN GARY SAWYER Plymouth