All To Play For

Last updated : 12 May 2016 By Jim Bonner

Pompey will head to Home Park for the second leg of their play-off semi-final with Plymouth Argyle with the scores level after a pulsating 2-2 draw at Fratton Park.

There was some surprising news before kick-off as Brian Murphy's injury meant that Bournemouth goalkeeper Ryan Allsop was signed on an emergency loan for a week and went straight into the side.

Marc McNulty was one of many players to be recalled to the side and he started the game in explosive fashion after rifling the ball past Luke McCormick from the edge of the box after just three minutes to give Pompey an early lead.

The advantage didn't last long, however, as Jamille Matt took advantage of Allsop's indecisiveness and tapped in from close range to equalise. The signs were there that this game would be anything but tense and cagey given the events so early in the match.

Then came the most controversial moment of the evening as Matt headbutted Michael Doyle from behind but referee Oliver Langford, who looked like he had a clear view of the incident (but claims he didn't), didn't even book the on-loan Fleetwood striker.

That decision angered Paul Cook so much that his protests got him sent to the stands. Plymouth assistant manager Paul Wotton joined him as Pompey fans vented their frustration at the lack of a red card.

That injustice was amplified as Matt soon gave the visitors the lead via an overhead kick after receiving a long throw. The Pompey defenders may have got tighter to him but it was an outstanding goal by the striker who shouldn't have been on the pitch.

Pompey were guilty of overplaying in their attempts to find a first half equaliser although McNulty went close and Kyle Bennett hit the post. However, Plymouth found plenty of joy on the counter-attack and it was only their poor final ball that prevented them taking full advantage of a disorganised Portsmouth defence as the first half ended. 

The second half began at the same blistering pace as the first ended and Pompey were awarded a penalty after McNulty was tripped by Paul Hartley. There was a case for the Argyle defender to be sent off as he was the last man but the law is about denying a clear goalscoring opportunity rather than being the last defender, and it's debatable whether McNulty would have scored from that angle.

Gary Roberts did extremely well to blast the resulting spot kick into the top corner of the net to level the scores and from then on, Pompey went on to enjoy plenty of possession and McNulty stung the palms of McCormick with a drive from twenty yards out.

That was the best chance for either side in the second half as Pompey lacked the final ball to punish Plymouth who barely tested a more resolute back four. Gary Sawyer only received a yellow card for a nasty looking challenge on Danny Hollands and some would argue that a more competent referee would have sent him off, too.

As it was the final whistle ended a breathtaking and dramatic first leg at Fratton Park. A draw was arguably a fair result but if Pompey are beaten at Home Park then fans may well look to the referee's performance in tonight's match and claim his failure to dismiss at least one Plymouth player as an incident equal to Ian Ormondroyd's offside goal in 1993.

On a final note, the atmosphere was electric tonight. The Pompey fans did themselves proud and the quality of the match was worthy of such noise.

The second leg on Sunday night promises more drama as the two equally matched teams battle it out for the right to go to Wembley.

Pompey Player Ratings

Ryan Allsop: 4 - Shaky debut but difficult to expect much given his late arrival into the team.

Ben Davies: 6 - Provided plenty of threat going forward but lacked the final ball to go with it.

Christian Burgess: 6 - Difficult first 30 minutes but more assured in the second half.

Adam Barton: 6 - Much stronger after the break.

Enda Stevens: 6 - Solid enough.

Michael Doyle: 7 - Bossed the second half.

Danny Hollands: 6 - Could've shown more ambition going forward when he had space.

Gareth Evans: 5 - Too reluctant to shoot.

Gary Roberts: 7 - Top quality penalty.

Kyle Bennett: 6 - Showed glimpses of quality.

Marc McNulty: 8 - Scored a goal and "assisted" the other. Great to have him back.


Jack Whatmough

Matt Clarke

Ben Close

Ben Tollitt

Kal Naismith (Bennett 62): 6 - Kept the ball well.

Adam McGurk (McNulty 81): N/A - Still doesn't seem good enough.

Connor Wilkinson