Pompey skipper braced for another Pilgrims scrap

Michael Doyle in play-off action against Plymouth in May Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Doyle in play-off action against Plymouth in May Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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Michael Doyle is limbering up for another ‘feisty’ encounter as Pompey lock horns with Plymouth in their latest battle royal.

The port rivals clashed four times last season in League Two, culminating in the Blues’ last-gasp elimination at the play-off semi-final stage.

I thought in the league games we were the dominant team and there was a bit of a smash and grab at our place, which probably affected us a little bit going into the play-offs

Michael Doyle

Often ill-tempered occasions, Doyle was the subject of a headbutt from Jamille Matt, while Danny Hollands and Gareth Evans were sentenced to lengthy spells on the sidelines following ugly challenges.

There is also little affection shared among the respective management teams, time having not healed.

Tomorrow, Pompey return to Home Park for the first time since that gutting May injury-time play-off defeat.

They will face a Pilgrims side five points clear at the top of the table, with nine wins and a draw from their previous 10 matches.

And Doyle is anticipating a repeat of the blood and thunder action which typified last term’s meetings.

The Blues skipper said: ‘It was feisty at times, there is no shying away from it, and you could see when they beat us at our place in the league what it meant to them.

‘The one thing that had an effect over the course of those games was they were quite physical.

‘The tackle on Hollands should have been a red card and he was injured after that, Gaz Evans as well.

‘It knocked us a little bit in the play-offs, we were losing these players at a crucial time and our squad was depleted.

‘We were down to the bare bones and that is football, that’s the way it goes, that’s what you have a squad for.

‘They are a hard team to break down and when we went there early last season we played really well, had a comfortable game – although the 2-1 score in our favour didn’t really reflect that.

‘After that sort of game they were not going to let that happen again and kind of set off negatively and tried to counter-attack when we next met at Fratton Park.

‘I thought in the league games we were the dominant team and there was a bit of a smash and grab at our place after they won 2-1. That probably affected us a little bit going into the play-offs.

‘The game should have been dead and buried and summed up our season with our home form.

‘We should have been out of sight and that’s what happens if you don’t kill off games, especially against teams with quality who can hurt you in a blink.

‘I think we were still alive after that, but it didn’t feel like it after the game. It felt it was lost on us – and probably had an effect on the bigger picture when we played them in the semi-final.’

Last term each side defeated the other in league action to form the warm-up to the play-off finale.

With both teams continuing as promotion rivals this term, tomorrow represents an eagerly-anticipated occasion.

Doyle, however, is keen to stress the importance of Pompey keeping their heads.

He added: ‘All these things build these games up and add to them.

‘It’s up to us as players to take ourselves away from it and concentrate on ourselves and making sure we perform.’