Get set for the next chapter in a very modern rivalry

Christian Burgess in action against Plymouth earlier this season. Picture: Joe Pepler
Christian Burgess in action against Plymouth earlier this season. Picture: Joe Pepler
Nathan Thompson in action for Pompey against Blackburn yesterday Picture: Joe Pepler

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Put any moniker on it you wish.

Dockyard Derby? Resented by some. Battle of the ports? Perhaps, the more accurate label.

But certainly a sincere recent rivalry shaped by the significance of two proud naval cities.

And that is keenly felt in both camps right now. More so, it’s fair to say, than the strength of any historical ill feeling between the two clubs. Certainly at this end of the roads between PO4 and south Devon anyway.

The first reports, dating back to 1921 talk of a ‘port battle’ between Pompey and Plymouth.

So, it would be remiss to suggest that sentiment hasn’t spanned the years to some extent.

But Blues followers only reserve that tangible sense of intense dislike for one foe. And it ain’t the Pilgrims.

Yet, we are seeing a very recent sense of deep-seated antipathy born between the two clubs. And that has only surfaced over the past 20 months.

Pompey went to Home Park last August and had one of their good days. The scoreline was as wide a 2-1 as you’d ever wish to see, and highlighted how dominant Cook’s side can be to any team at this level when they flow.

But the resolve and strength of Argyle was shown in the ensuing months, and, indeed, for much of this season. Last April, came an away win at Fratton Park as Pompey cruised before a minute of madness saw Adams’ side grab two strikes to snare the points.

The first play-off showdown proved a pulsating affair as Pompey dominated possession and shots in a 2-2 draw, remembered for Jamille Matt’s unpunished clash with Michael Doyle as Cook was sent off.

There could be no arguments about the outcome in the return, as the Blues were left on their knees by injury and succumbed in agonising fashion in stoppage time.

Another breathless clash was played out at Home Park in October, with Danny Rose’s late screamer cancelled out at the death.

And now we reconvene again with both teams on the brink of making it to League One, and a twist in the narrative always likely.

Cook and his staff actually joined Adams for a post-match drink after they first went head-to-head.

But relations soon deteriorated and accelerated over Pompey’s interest in Reuben Reid last term. The Blues had half an eye on the striker, which led to Cook phoning his opposite number to discuss whether it would be fruitless or not to make a bid.

Adams’ insistence on refusing to take the call led to the Blues boss eventually going public on Reid.

Talking about another club’s player is something frowned upon in managerial circles, although the Scots’ insistence it was a matter for the FA did amuse. The pair later met at an Academy game with Adams’ bid to engage with the Blues boss given short shrift as temperatures rose.

From there, the thinly-veiled barbs have continued at regular intervals.

Which would have made Cook congratulating the home side in their dressing room a difficult act to undertake. That he did, though, while in such pained moments after being condemned to another season in League Two in May at Home Park.

It was, for the Pompey boss, the right thing to do and a moment afforded applause by Plymouth’s players. Still, the hurt felt that day is still palpable to players, staff and, no doubt, fans who saw a home pitch invasion and had to suck up the flak before the Pilgrims suffered their own fall at Wembley.

Like their manager, the players will not publicly discuss the true extent of their feelings.

The prospect of a Plymouth promotion party at Fratton Park, however, will be providing all the motivation needed as we prepare for the next chapter in a very modern football rivalry.