Plymouth 0 Pompey 0 – Neil Allen’s match report

Jamal Lowe has an effort saved at Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jamal Lowe has an effort saved at Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Jackett’s words were pragmatic, certainly not laced with dripping delusion.

‘There were certain aspects from our play which we did well, and certain aspects where we didn’t do well enough and can improve,’ he uttered, so refreshingly devoid of dizzying spin.

‘As long as there is an honest assessment all of the time, then we can look forward and can keep improving.’

A frank post-match judgment delivered by Pompey’s boss, who elected not to dwell on the earning of an excellent Home Park point, rather focus on aspects requiring immediate addressing.

Perhaps Jackett was too realistic in his appraisal yet, as a man without sides, the former Millwall boss’ penchant for games ends on the football pitch.

Contrast with Derek Adams, whose remarkable take on Saturday’s proceedings defied logic and ridiculed the footballing knowledge of those present.

The Plymouth manager has undoubtedly performed a magnificent job to conjure up a play-off push from a December bottom-spot placing.

Yet his evaluation of events was baffling, bordering on the insulting, towards Jackett and his team.

‘They came for a point and they got what they wanted. They didn’t really create much,’ stated Adams in front of the assembled press pack.

‘We were unfortunate, especially in the second half, not to have gone ahead in the game.

‘I didn’t really see Pompey going to do anything. I thought they looked a bit leggy.

‘I was surprised how defensive they were. I expected them to maybe come out and have a go and they didn’t really do that.

‘I was really surprised with them coming here just to take a point.’

While Jackett spoke of honesty, his Pilgrims counterpart opted for bluff and nonsense as a diversionary tactic.

Pompey, although short of their attacking best, had Brett Pitman spurn a gilt-edged first-half opportunity and Jamal Lowe’s goal-bound attempt cleared spectacularly off the line.

Right-back Oscar Threlkeld even headed against his own bar during a frantic finale as suddenly the hosts were clinging on for a point.

In contrast, Plymouth mustered a mere one attempt on target, a 56th minute shot from outside the box arrowed down the throat of Luke McGee by Graham Carey.

Granted, the occasion between play-off rivals generated little in the way of goalmouth action, yet it was the Pilgrims who struggled for a cutting edge to accompany their superior possession.

And had it not been for Zak Vyner hooking the ball clear of the welcoming goal line, Pompey would today reside in the play-offs rather than the Home Park outfit.

So much for the Blues lacking in creativity. So much for Plymouth unfortunate not to have gone ahead.

At least Jackett is not a manager to take offence at jibes branding his gameplan as ‘defensive’.

Paul Cook would certainly have taken umbrage at such disrespectful comments – and might explain his ongoing fractious relationship with the Pilgrims’ boss.

Of course, Adams performed a similar stunt at Fratton Park in November following a 1-0 defeat, courtesy of Kal Naismith’s finish.

On that occasion, the Blues struck the post and forced an improbable point-blank save from Remi Matthews to deny Gareth Evans – while the visitors eked out one attempt on target.

According to Adams at that time, however: ‘There was no way that Portsmouth were better than us. Not a hope in this world. It was 0-0 written all over the game.’

Those 1,600 Pompey fans present on Saturday were delighted with the point, yet rightly ridiculed the Plymouth manager’s clumsy attempts to lavish spin in order to deflect deficiencies.

Admittedly, the Blues left Brett Pitman isolated, too often quick to crash the ball into his general vicinity as they scrambled for a threat.

The final pass often lacked, particularly in the first half, while they struggled to retain possession for spells.

Even then, however, they managed more corners and more goal-scoring opportunities than the hosts.

As for Pompey’s defence, they kept their shape magnificently, rendering McGee’s involvement negligible as they held their opponents at arm’s length with relative comfort.

Clearly it was too galling for Adams to offer warm words in recognition of the second side to avoid defeat at Home Park in the last 13 matches. The other was Wigan.

Considering the finale, the Pilgrims would have been more grateful for the scoreline from an encounter rich in energy and intensity yet often lacking in genuine quality.

Not that Jackett’s men can be disheartened, the outcome still offered encouragement, while they remain in seventh spot, one point adrift of the play-off positions with four matches remaining.

For the trip to Home Park, Stuart O’Keefe had been handed a first start in almost four months following injury to Anton Walkes.

He operated in a central midfield role, with Ben Close instead instructed to drop back and stand in for Walkes in serving as the deep-lying player.

Jackett preferred Close’s passing skills from deep, also enabling the back four to register a fourth clean sheet in six matches.

Yet it would be the introduction of Connor Ronan off the bench on 58 minutes for the tiring O’Keefe which subsequently provided the Blues’ best spell in the match having found themselves flagging.

Still, in the first half, Pitman swung a first-time pass over to Lowe on the right to fire in the game’s first on-target attempt on 31 minutes, albeit straight at the keeper.

Within a minute, the pair combined once more, this time Lowe’s right-wing delivery handing Pompey’s skipper a glorious shooting opportunity.

Uncharacteristically, Pitman subsequently ballooned a right-footed attempt straight at keeper Kyle Letheren.

At the other end, Graham Carey twice fired over from the angle after the break, but Plymouth struggled to threaten inside the penalty area.

Then arrived the late drama.

On 90 minutes, McGee launched a free-kick forward, Pitman flicked it on and Lowe engineered space to dig out a shot which trickled towards the goal line before Vyner swooped.

Next, Gareth Evans clipped in a cross from the right and Threlkeld headed against his bar in the hurry to clear.

Missed opportunities – and missed by the eyes of the ever-myopic Adams.