Fratton Faithful Season Review 2016/2017: April

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 11 June 2017

March's momentum had given Portsmouth a great opportunity to win promotion in April but there was still a job to be done.

The long jaunt up to Hartlepool was first up for Paul Cook's men and they put Dave Jones' struggling side to the sword with ease.

Kal Naismith converted Enda Stevens' cross to give Pompey the lead in the first half and the match was settled when scored turned provider for Gary Roberts who tapped in a second goal at the far post at close range.

(Funnily enough, the Express FM commentary before the second goal stated that Doncaster had scored and were set to go up from League Two as champions...)

Highlights: League Two Matchday 40: Hartlepool United 0 Portsmouth 2

That result meant that Pompey had kept the chasing pack at arms' length whilst closing the gap to Plymouth in second place. Next up was the visit of Yeovil to Fratton Park who already seemed to be on their holidays having just done enough to survive in League Two.

Bevis Mugabi handed Paul Cook's men a great opportunity to take the lead by fouling Roberts in the box and the spot kick curse was finally put to rest as Gareth Evans was the man to convert it.

The Glovers equalised with a bizarre goal as Matt Clarke's clearance deflected off Stevens from point blank range and looped over the helpless David Forde.

However, that wasn't going to perturb Pompey as they kept going and retook the lead when Naismith beat Artur Krysiak at his near post in the second half. Jamal Lowe then bustled his way into the box to beat the keeper at his near post again to score his first goal for the club.

The final whistle blew and Pompey moved a step closer to automatic promotion with the gap between them and Luton in fourth place at eight points as both Stevenage and Carlisle had fallen away in the race for the top three.

Highlights: League Two Matchday 41: Portsmouth 3 Yeovil Town 1

The following match was the much anticipated showdown with Plymouth Argyle who could win promotion at Fratton Park if they got a result and others went their way.

Despite a bright start, the home side fell behind when Pompey reject Jake Jervis headed in Gary Sawyer's cross. Roberts was on hand to equalise in the second half when Luke McCormick spilled a shot with the loose ball being tucked in from close range.

Pompey were the only side who looked like winning the match but had to settle for a draw in the end. Argyle fans stayed in the Milton End hoping that their team would be promoted that day but a late equaliser from Luton over Leyton Orient meant they had to wait.

Highlights: League Two Matchday 42: Portsmouth 1 Plymouth Argyle 1

What that result meant for Pompey, however, is that they would be promoted with victory at Notts County if Luton failed to beat Mansfield on Easter Monday.

And thus, Portsmouth's date with destiny had arrived. Over 4,000 fans made the trip to Meadow Lane to see if their team could finally win promotion from the bottom tier of English football.

Everything was going according to plan when Richard Duffy felled Naismith in the box and a cool Evans stepped up to smash the penalty home and spark celebrations in the away side of the ground.

The noise was turned up even further when news of Luton falling behind at Field Mill filtered into the stadium and things were looking fine going into half-time.

The mood changed somewhat early into the second half when the Hatters equalised and County did the same when Jorge Grant flicked the ball beyond David Forde.

Adam Collin then produced a couple of excellent saves to prevent Pompey from taking the lead again and it seemed like the travelling fans would have to wait for their moment of glory.

Jamal Lowe, however, had other ideas as he struck the ball past the County keeper from the corner of the box to send the Pompey fans into raptures.

The former non-league striker then etched himself into Portsmouth folklore as he seized upon a quickly taken free kick and chipped Collin to score the crucial third goal.

Pompey fans were then frantically attempting to discover the final score at Mansfield and when it was confirmed that Luton could only manage a draw, the pitch invasion was primed and the final whistle was met by a flood of jubilant Portsmouth fans who celebrated the end of the worst period in their football club's history.

Highlights: League Two Matchday 43: Notts County 1 Portsmouth 3

That evening, the players returned to Fratton Park for a promotion party whilst Iain McInnes also announced he would be stepping down as chairman of Portsmouth FC, further fuelling speculation that Michael Eisner and his Tornante group were going to take over if the current shareholders allowed it.

Once the hangovers had disappeared, Paul Cook insisted his team wanted to finish the season strongly as they welcomed promotion chasing Cambridge to Fratton Park.

The party atmosphere ramped up a notch when Carl Baker swept home Stevens' cross and Naismith continued to be amongst the goals when he curled in a peach of a free kick after a foul on Stanley Aborah.

Luke Berry scored a beautiful free kick of his own late in the game and Forde denied him an equaliser at the death as Pompey kept their amazing run of results going.

Highlights: League Two Matchday 44: Portsmouth 2 Cambridge United 1

Suddenly, Pompey fans were believing that their team may yet become League Two champions as Doncaster had failed to win since earning promotion and Plymouth dropped points at Colchester.

That meant that the gap between Rovers and Argyle was four and two points respectively with just two matches of the season remaining. The final away game of the season was at Field Mill for a tough match against Mansfield who had to win to keep their own play-off ambitions alive.

It was a rough contest which was settled by a single goal from Carl Baker as Pompey survived some scares including an offside goal, a contentious decision to give Matt Clarke a yellow card rather than a red and an amazing miss by Matt Green to top it all off.

Highlights: League Two Matchday 45: Mansfield Town 0 Portsmouth 1

That record equalling twelfth away win of the season meant that Portsmouth would go into the final match of the campaign with the chance of winning the League Two title as Doncaster lost yet again.

April may have delivered a memorable moment in the long history of Portsmouth Football Club but the best was yet to come...

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