Pompey 1-1 Plymouth: Neil Allen's match report
Not for the first time, Plymouth celebrations were premature.
Similarly, the two bottles of Champagne Paul Cook had bought for the jubilant visitors remained on ice.
Promotion is on hold for the Pilgrims – but it will arrive, no question about it.
Likewise, Pompey are also destined for League One after claiming another point following yesterday’s 1-1 draw.
Conceivably, both could clinch their places on Monday, although, perhaps, it’s wise not to get too far ahead of ourselves.
After all, the 2,644 travelling fans learnt the painful way after their grand Fratton Park party was pooped by Luton Town.
With Stevenage on their way to defeat and the Hatters trailing to Leyton Orient, the Pilgrims’ followers sang heartily of promotion at the culmination of their encounter with the Blues.
Yet, with the televised match finishing 30 minutes before other League Two fixtures, the songs stopped half-way through a rendition upon Nathan Jones’ side’s 73rd-minute leveller through Isaac Vassell.
Football League representatives were in attendance at Fratton, poised to hand over celebratory items such as banners and drink.
Sadly, it fell flat – for the time being anyway.
Success for Derek Adams’ side would have dredged up uncomfortable Pompey memories of their fans invading the Home Park pitch in May, having defeated Cook’s side in the play-offs.
Of course, such joyous scenes were later tinged by a Wembley final defeat at the hands of AFC Wimbledon.
Still, come the end of the season, both sides who yesterday fought out a Fratton Park draw will be rejoicing being in League One next term.
The rivals were satisfied to share a draw to the extent the game drifted to its conclusion in the style of a testimonial game underneath the south-coast sunshine.
The Blues had fallen behind to ex-player Jake Jervis’ far-post header from Gary Sawyer’s cross and remained shaky for a little while afterwards.
But Cook’s men deservedly levelled through Gary Roberts’ 10th goal of the season, after keeper Luke McCormick had fumbled Kyle Bennett’s cross.
Such was their dominance, the hosts may have even clinched it, with their goal attempts comfortably surpassing the two on target managed by the Pilgrims the entire match.
As it happened, an honourable draw was convenient to all in front of 18,625 fans– Pompey’s largest crowd of the season.
And the Blues now head to Notts County on Monday, while Plymouth entertain Newport County in the knowledge that may instead be their collective day of fate.
Cook opted to retain the side who triumphed over Yeovil in their previous Fratton Park outing.
With Eoin Doyle and Noel Hunt absent, Kal Naismith was once more entrusted with striking duties.
That left Roberts serving at the centre of the attacking midfield three, flanked by Carl Baker and Bennett.
The visitors made one change, with Jervis in for Gary Miller to take the ex-Pompey contingent to three in the Plymouth starting XI.
Sonny Bradley featured in the centre of defence, while Ryan Taylor led the line for the Pilgrims.
A scintillating atmosphere greeted the teams for kick off, with the visitors getting the action under way.
Bradley had to receive treatment early on following a crunching challenge on Baker, yet was able to continue.
On 10 minutes, Roberts and Stevens carved Plymouth open down the left and the latter’s cross was put behind by Sawyer, with Naismith threatening.
Barely a minute later, Gareth Evans cut inside and drove a swerving left-foot shot which McCormick did well to parry.
However, no Blues player could manage to follow up and the visitors cleared their lines.
On 12 minutes, though, it was the Pilgrims who took the lead through a well-worked goal.
Sawyer delivered a deep cross from the left and Jervis rose above Enda Stevens at the far post to powerfully head home.
Keeper David Forde was given absolutely no chance – and how the former Pompey striker celebrated in front of the Fratton End.
The hosts began to get sloppy and, firstly, Matt Kennedy fired a shot over, before Oscar Threlkeld won a challenge with Roberts before lashing an effort wide.
On 29 minutes, Naismith won a free-kick down the right, with Bennett laying it into the path of Baker, who elected not to shoot and it fizzled out.
The Blues were looking dangerous and on 33 minutes Naismith curled in a left-foot shot from the right which the visiting keeper pushed out.
Roberts then pounced at the far post with an angled effort which McCormick did superbly to push around the post.
Naismith became the first booking of the afternoon when he was accused of simulation following a challenge from Sawyer down the right.
Then Danny Rose won a free-kick outside the box and Naismith’s delivery deflected for a corner, with several Pompey players adamant a hand was involved.
A total of three minutes of time added on brought the opening half to a close, with Plymouth leading.
Bradley was withdrawn at the interval, clearly still suffering from the injury he sustained early on, and was replaced by Jakub Sokolik.
Naismith provided an early attempt on goal with a right-foot attempt from 25 yards, although it was straight at McCormick, who comfortably held on.
Then Bennett’s shot crashed against Yann Songo’o and flashed wide, when it could have landed anywhere.
The Blues had their leveller on 57 minutes, with Roberts on hand to force the ball home.
An excellent pass from Baker to Bennett began the move, and when his cross was fumbled by McCormick, Roberts pounced.
Antoni Sarcevic was booked on the hour mark after scything down Bennett as he attempted to change forward.
Pompey continued to look dangerous and Baker fired the wrong side of the post following another flowing move.
In the 67th minute, Conor Chaplin came on for Roberts for the Blues’ first change.
Moments later, Plymouth introduced Connor Smith for goalscorer Jervis.
Cook’s men were searching for that winner and Baker drove in a powerful right-foot shot from long range which the keeper struggled to hold.
Pompey made their second substitution in the 78th minute, with Jamal Lowe replacing Baker.
The hosts were still looking the more likely to score and Bennett fired in a shot which McCormick dived forward to gather.
On 86 minutes, Naismith clipped in a sublime cross from the left which Chaplin headed wide when well-placed from six-yards out.
The fourth official announced three minutes of time added on, but the match crawled to a point appreciated by all as promotion waits for another day.