The league season closed with defeat on Saturday. Jordan Cross looks at what we learnt ahead of Plymouth.
Wasted trip to Fratton Park for Pilgrims scout
What did we learn from Saturday?
If it’s more about what Plymouth learnt, then not a lot!
No doubt Pompey’s play-off opponents were closely monitoring events at Fratton Park ahead of this week’s play-off showdown.
The Pilgrims have gained the edge on Paul Cook’s side, who will travel to Home Park for Sunday’s second leg as a result of Northampton’s win.
The Blues coaching staff feel that so-called advantage is negligible, and that is backed by the sides both picking up wins on their opponents’ turf this season.
Pompey’s form being marginally better on the road this season would appear to underline that stance has credence.
There, in all honesty, were few other tit-bits for Plymouth boss Derek Adams to garner from the game.
The Blues made five changes from the Hartlepool win, and there will probably be no more than four of Saturday’s line-up in Cook’s starting XI come Thursday evening.
And they are hugely unlikely to be lining up in the diamond formation employed against Chris Wilder’s men, either.
Even less on the cards is seeing Ben Davies playing in the centre of defence and Kal Naismith left-back – as was the case come the full-time whistle.
The Plymouth scout’s trip to Fratton Park was a wasted one.
He’s all right, Jack
After 14 long months, Jack Whatmough is back in business.
And the Gosport defender’s unfortunate own goal against Northampton shouldn’t be allowed to mask what was the most encouraging of returns.
Whatmough was handed his first start since injuring his knee cruciate ligament against Cheltenham last year.
It’s been a long and arduous rehabilitation for the 19-year-old, which has tested his patience and resolve.
Naturally, with an injury of the one Whatmough suffered, some people will ask if he is still the same player.
His performance against the Cobblers went a long, long way to answering that question.
Playing in a makeshift back four against powerful opposition is hardly easing your way back into senior action.
But Whatmough’s head, and various other parts of his anatomy, was constantly on the end of a stream of balls into the Pompey box.
The England under-19 international also showed his reading of the game and timing is still spot on with his tackling.
It was landmark day for the homegrown talent – one which underlined he has much to offer his side moving forward.
And Whatmough wasn’t the only bright spot when it came to Pompey’s youngsters.
Brandon Haunstrup showed solidity and a willingness to get forward, and produced some decent deliveries on a solid league debut for the Waterlooville left-back.
Adam May also got minutes under his belt in the second half, along with Ben Tollitt, on an afternoon full of promise for the future.
Freeman’s moment of rashness proves costly
Coming through the final-day clash with Northampton unscathed was always the main goal for Pompey.
So it beggared belief to see Kieron Freeman recklessly fly into John-Joe O’Toole two minutes after the restart on Saturday.
The inevitable red card followed for the Sheffield United loanee, and he is now of no use to the Blues for the play-offs with his season over.
Assistant manager Leam Richardson did his best Arsene Wenger impression by stating he didn’t see the tackle clearly.
It was a genuine sentiment, but those who did witness it knew it was a ridiculous thing to do.
Ben Davies was already walking a tightrope after a first half yellow card, and had to remain on the pitch for 90 minutes after Freeman walked.
It also meant any notion Paul Cook had of using his subs to take off other players likely to be involved on Thursday went out of the window.
Pompey now have no cover for Davies and will be without the versatility Freeman offers.
On top of that, Ben Close limped off and Pompey were left waiting to see if that was cramp or something worse.
Conor Chaplin also missed out as he added his name to the growing injury list.
But Cook, no doubt, was most frustrated by what was a rash and costly moment from Freeman.