Pompey Crowned League Two Champions

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 07 May 2017

Portsmouth Football Club are champions of League Two.

It's a fact that is still sinking in now. Doncaster and Plymouth's failure to beat Hartlepool and Grimsby respectively, coupled with Pompey's 6-1 demoliton of Cheltenham meant the title dream has come true against all odds. As Paul Cook said, the script was written.

It was a feat which seemed unlikely but as the match kicked off, Pompey fans were greeted with some welcome early news as Grimsby had taken the lead against Plymouth. The belief that the Blues may just pull off the improbable was raised even further when Daniel O'Shaughnessy turned Enda Stevens' cross into his own net.

Pompey had chances to put the game to bed in the first half as Scott Brown had to save Kyle Bennett's shot whilst Conor Chaplin couldn't hit the target when sliding in at the far post to meet Kal Naismith's square pass.

The hosts were slightly careless at the other end as the Robins had several attempts which thankfully didn't result in an equaliser but the atmosphere fell a little flat as news came through that Doncaster had taken the lead at Hartlepool.

That scoreline remained at half-time and there won't have been many believing that the Monkey Hangers were going to get back into it given their beleagured position at the bottom of the league, but most would have settled for second place if it meant finishing above Argyle.

The second half began with the visitors on the attack with Danny Wright's stooping header from Kyle Storer's cross bouncing just wide of the post but Danny Rose struck the crossbar with an angled drive as Pompey took control of the game thereafter.

However, the nails amongst those inside Fratton Park continued to be chewed with news coming through that Plymouth had equalised at Blundell Park. The title race was well and truly in the balance.

Two goals in the space of four minutes then won the game for Portsmouth as Bennett's shot took a deflection to beat Brown and then scorer turned provider as Kyle's incisive pass was received by Naismith who had the simple job of tucking the ball past the Cheltenham keeper to put the result beyond doubt.

Jamal Lowe then came off the bench and added a fourth goal after receiving fellow substitute Gary Roberts' pass and blasting an acute shot into the corner of the net.

Then, moments later, the fans in and around the Milton End and Southern Enclosure began to cheer. Those in the Fratton End couldn't get a signal on their phones to know what had happened but the situation was soon clear; Hartlepool had equalised against Rovers and suddenly Pompey were back on top of the pile.

The atmosphere ramped up as the party at Fratton continued. Chants of "Hartlepool! Hartlepool!" rang around the old ground as Roberts was cut down by Liam Davis in the box to hand Pompey a penalty.

Gareth Evans duly dispatched the spot kick, even if Brown did get a hand to it, but the goal of the day went to Cheltenham as James Dayton ran half the length of the pitch and into the box before slotting home the consolation.

Even some of the Pompey fans mockingly celebrated that goal as events at Fratton Park no longer mattered, although that didn't stop Kal Naismith slotting in a sixth goal after taking a wonderful pass from Michael Doyle in his stride.

It was then all about what was happening at Blundell Park and Victoria Park. There was more cheering and despite the frantic tapping of phones, most people's phones wouldn't deliver any kind of score service but it had transpired that Devante Rodney had scored for Hartlepool again to surely end Doncaster's title challenge.

Then came the agonising wait. Plymouth have been known for stealing late winners in matches this season. Pompey fans sange "Come on Grimsby!" as the match approached full time.

When the full time whistle blew at Fratton Park, the premature pitch invasion was met with a few boos because it seemed like the final whistle hadn't gone in the other two games.

However, just moments later, a fellow fan confirmed to me and the people around me that Plymouth had failed to find their customary late winner at Grimsby and Doncaster had been beaten by Hartlepool. Our stunned faces looked at each other in disbelief as the informant claimed he wasn't joking.

The announcement then came over the tannoy: Portsmouth were champions of League Two! Most of the remaining fans in the stands took to the pitch to celebrate such an amazing and improbable achievement and the emotions were simply indescribable. Everyone on the Fratton Park turf yesterday will always remember being part of something special.

The celebrations on the South Stand continued as those sat in the corporate sections who played their part in reviving our club drank in the adulation. Let's face it, Eisner's takeover is going to be voted in and so this was the perfect farewell for Trust ownership to bow out on the ultimate high.

To win the title in such circumstances and ultimately in such style when it seemed impossible just a few weeks ago is something that will never be forgotten. If anyone had told me that Portsmouth would win the league after that woeful defeat to Crewe then I would have had them sectioned!

Plymouth and Doncaster bottling it is one thing but for this team, managed by a man under constant scrutiny, to put such an impressive run together when it really counted is simply superb. Portsmouth spent all of 34 minutes on the top of the table during the entire season but were there at the end and that's all that matters.

The players and staff deserve an enormous amount of credit as they've delivered despite the criticism they've received this season. Paul Cook has proved his doubters wrong as have some of the players who had been questioned about their quality and commitment.

Pompey are deserved champions having finished with the best goal difference and the best defence in the league, having also won more than half of their matches on the road.

For us fans, yesterday was a day right up there in the very best of supporting Portsmouth and the celebrations that lasted well into the night will continue on Southsea Common later when the official League Two trophy will be held aloft by those players who have earned it.

Soon, it'll be time to look to the future and see what the prospective new owners will bring as well as who joins (and leaves) our club as it prepares for life in League One next season.

But for now, we can all bask in the glory that despite all the suffering in recent years, Portsmouth are champions of the fourth tier and have now "completed the set" to join a unique group of clubs to have won every division.

Because now they're gonna believe us, we've gone and won the league!

Pompey Player Ratings

David Forde: 7 - Made a couple of good saves. Does he deserve to stay on next season?

Gareth Evans: 7 - Good penalty and overall display.

Christian Burgess: 7 - Improved after the break.

Matt Clarke: 7 - Typical dominant showing.

Enda Stevens: 7 - Outpaced for Cheltenham's goal but contributed to the attack as usual. It's unlikely Pompey will keep hold of him but we can hope...

Michael Doyle: 8 - Got involved in everything. A real captain's performance.

Danny Rose: 7 - Energetic as always.

Kal Naismith: 9 - Took his season tally to 15 goals in total with a brace. Always threatening.

Carl Baker: 6 - Looked good at times.

Kyle Bennett: 9 - Was the instigator of most of Pompey's attacks and a real menace overall.

Conor Chaplin: 6 - Just wouldn't quite happen for him.

Substitutes

Liam O'Brien

Jack Whatmough

Amine Linganzi

Stanley Aborah (Rose 71): N/A - Look forward to seeing what he can do next season if he stays on.

Jamal Lowe (Baker 61): 8 - Bagged a goal and gave Cheltenham's defence plenty to think about.

Gary Roberts (Chaplin 61): 8 - Involved in two of the goals.

Nicke Kabamba

Portsmouth Match Reports

Sky Bet League One Sat 18th November 15:00

Portsmouth 1 - 0 Southend United

Last game - Match Centre


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