Plymouth 2 Pompey 2: What we learnt
Jordan Cross looks back at the draw against Plymouth and assesses what we learnt from the game.
A dockyard derby it ain’t in the eyes of most Pompey fans.
But a riveting rivalry between two League Two heavy-hitters it most certainly is.
Despite the suggestion to the contrary, this is a match-up which has its heat entrenched in recent times.
And the main protagonists behind it are two feuding managers.
Familiarity bred contempt between Plymouth and Pompey across four clashes last term - and that shows no sign of abating this time around.
At the heart of the issue is the rivalry between Paul Cook and Derek Adams, along with the clubs’ echoed hunger to emerge from English football’s basement division.
That led to an interesting side story being played out on the touchline through Saturday’s showdown, with Adams later accusing Cook of attempting to pressurise officials.
That was after the two had steadfastly blanked each other in the build up and aftermath of another fascinating Pilgrims-Pompey tale.
They managed to do that despite almost walking into each other on two occasions during post-match duties on Saturday.
Whatever their personal thoughts, there is certainly respect from the pair towards what their opposite is attempting to build.
Their relative success at doing so creates that lingering feeling there are more chapters left in this modern match-up.
Paul Cook has upped the intensity of Pompey’s training sessions.
The plan has been to take the level of games played to match pace, with energy akin to what you see in competitive fixtures.
It’s all part of Cook aiming to refocus on what he believes are the simple yet important foundations of any successful result – hard work and high energy.
And when those who deal with statistical analysis with the Blues get around to studying the data from Saturday’s game, they’ll be pleased their manager’s message has been heeded.
And no-one epitomised that work ethic better than Gary Roberts.
Pompey’s talisman may be heralded as the man whose quality can unpick opposing defences.
But that doesn’t mean he escapes Cook’s basic tenet of putting in a shift.
That’s what Roberts did throughout the Plymouth showdown, at one point going from one side of the penalty area and sprinting past Conor Chaplin to close down a Luke McCormick clearance.
It was that work ethic which later forced McCormick to shank a clearance into the stand.
Cook has a clear vision of how he wants Pompey to to play – with the kind of industry Roberts is producing at its heart.
Paul Cook may have a defined image of his Pompey approach.
Unfortunately, two recurring traits from his players continue to pollute that vision – and once again they were on display at Home Park.
Their penchant for giving away goals from set-pieces was again frustratingly evident.
A royal blue-tinged Groundhog Day surfaced as Cook’s side gradually assumed control across the first 20 minutes, before Gareth Evans gave away a cheap free-kick for a foul on Jordan Slew in an unthreatening area on the touchline.
It allowed Graham Carey the platform to find Yann Songo’o, who stooped to head home largely unopposed. Haven’t we been here before?
‘That’s us,’ accepted Paul Cook when discussing the recurring problem.
Then Danny Rose’s peach of a 25-yarder put victory within Pompey’s grasp.
But seven opposition finishes came at the death last term, and that trait of shipping costly late efforts was back again on Saturday.
Perhaps, poetically, late goals and set-pieces combined to deliver the final killer blow to promotion hopes at Plymouth in May.
Much will rest on the Blues’ ability to eradicate those fatal flaws this time around.