Play-off joy and despair for ex-Portsmouth quartet as Exeter and Northampton reach Wembley

There were mixed fortunes for four ex-Pompey players involved in last night’s League Two play-off semi-finals.

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 8:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, 12:09 pm
Nigel Atangana, who made 48 appearances for Pompey, has reached this year's League Two play-off final with Exeter. Picture: Joe Pepler

Firstly, joy for Nigel Atangana and David Cornell, whose respective clubs will now meet at Wembley on June 29.

However, Paris Cowan-Hall and Luke Varney’s seasons are over following their elimination from the competition after two legs.

Atangana appeared off the substitutes’ bench to help Exeter to a 3-1 triumph over Colchester, winning 3-2 on aggregate.

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The match had entered extra-time with the overall scores level after Pompey’s Leasing.com Trophy semi-final opponents had fought back from trailing 1-0 to Colchester from the first leg.

Then Ryan Bowman scored the decisive goal in the 111th minute to send the Grecians to Wembley.

For Atangana, who entered in the 82nd minute, it was a 31st appearance of the season at Exeter, following a summer switch from Cheltenham.

Now aged 30, the midfielder arrived at Pompey in June 2014 after Andy Awford bought him from the Hawks.

He went on to make 48 appearances, scoring once, before Paul Cook sold him to Leyton Orient in January 2016.

There was, however, disappointment for Colchester’s Cowan-Hall, who came off the bench with two minutes remaining of extra-time.

The ex-Pompey apprentice has been dogged by an Achilles injury this season and, before the play-offs, had not featured since September.

However, the 29-year-old forward couldn’t prevent Colchester suffering defeat at St James Park last night.

In last night’s other play-off semi-final, one-time Blues loanee David Cornell was on the bench for Northampton during their dramatic comeback against Cheltenham.

The Cobblers were trailing 2-0 from the first leg for the trip to Whaddon Road, yet managed to overhaul that disadvantage to win 3-2.

Vadaine Oliver and two second-half goals from loanee Callum Morton pulled off a victory to see them face Exeter at Wembley in the final.

In goal for Northampton was Steve Arnold, who replaced Cornell as the club’s number one in February.

Keeper Cornell spent a month on loan at Fratton Park during the 2014-15 season, serving as an unused substitute in five matches under Andy Awford.

However, missing from Cheltenham’s squad was Luke Varney, out of the squad after damaging his hamstring while warming-up ahead of last week’s first leg.

The ex-Pompey striker scored seven goals in 23 matches this season, but not played since February following another injury spell.

Now aged 37, he netted six times in 31 matches while at Fratton Park in 2011-12, before leaving for Leeds when Pompey had to remove their senior players to keep the club alive.

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