Pompey Held At Home Park

Portsmouth surrendered a late lead at Home Park yesterday and were forced to settle for a draw with League Two leaders Plymouth Argyle.

Unfortunately, Pompey's vulnerability from set-pieces and long, direct balls proved to be their undoing in what was otherwise a good performance from Paul Cook's men.

They started well enough with Carl Baker testing Luke McCormick with a shot heading for the bottom corner whilst Conor Chaplin caused the Argyle defence problems all the time he had the opportunity to run at them.

However, the home side took the lead thanks to some poor defending as a long ball into the box was headed in by Yann Songo'o who found himself free in between Christian Burgess and the returning Tom Davies, who was in for the injured Matt Clarke.

It took a goal line clearance from Baker to prevent Argyle venturing further ahead as the Pompey defence again looked clueless when it came to defending corners.

Later during the first half Chaplin was brought down twice only to be booked for diving whn supposedly being tripped in the first instance. Much like last week, the booking seemed to be harsh and some Plymouth fans in the stand behind the goal believed that referee Darren Handley was going to award a penalty.

Conor was the orchestrator of Pompey's eventual equaliser, though, as he burst past Naurus Bulvitis in the box before squaring the ball to Kyle Bennett who rifled the ball in the top corner for the equaliser with just five minutes of the first half remaining.

The goalscorer had two of Pompey's best chances after the restart having narrowly missed Carl Baker's cross when it simply needed a touch, then planting a header straight at McCormick.

Graham Carey came closest to scoring for Argyle before the final period of the game as his strike from distance cannoned off the crossbar. David Forde may well have got a touch on the ball to prevent it finding the top corner, too.

Pompey may have had their defensive frailties but Plymouth also had theirs and the visiting Blues fans wondered how on earth a goalmouth scramble didn't end with a goal.

There were celebrations (eventually), however, as Curtis Main's shot was saved by McCormick but the following clearance dropped to Danny Rose who volleyed the ball just over the goal line from 25 yards out on 87 minutes, sparking the smallest of silly pitch invasions from a few over-excited fans who probably believed the game was won.

Whilst Pompey haven't conceded a goal after 65 minutes in any league game this season, the lesson that Portsmouth fans should have learned by now due to last season's evidence and Plymouth's knack of scoring late goals is that a carrying a slender lead late in this game didn't mean it was won.

And thus the equaliser came just two minutes after Pompey had scored, as another long ball wasn't dealt with and Ben Purrington beat Gareth Evans too easily before squaring to Connor Smith who curled the ball past Forde for the late equaliser.

It may have been expected that a team top of the league would push for a winner but nothing materalised in the five minutes of stoppage time and a draw was the final result after an entertaining and dramatic encounter.

After the game, there was some needle between a small section of both sets of supporters as the Police made themselves present. One officer shouted "If you continue gobbing off I'll fucking nick you." to a Pompey fan and it turns out that five arrests were made after the game. So much for friends reunited a few years ago, eh?

Derek Adams continued to fuel the fire with his antagonising post-match comments, accusing the Pompey staff of pressuring the referee and whilst he was poor, it could be argued that he got the biggest decision of the game wrong when Pompey probably should have had a penalty.

As irritating as conceding that late equaliser was, most Pompey fans would have taken a draw before the game and four points from two away matches where some people would have expected none has to be seen as positive.

The next big test of the season is a Tuesday night trip to Luton next month but there now comes a run of fixtures where maximum points could be expected with home games against Notts County and Mansfield mixed with trips to struggling Cambridge and Cheltenham.

If Pompey are to win those games then their defending and organisation against the better teams in this division needs to improve. However, that's unlikely to happen given the lack of leadership in the team and the decision to let Paul Robinson go last summer has to go down as Paul Cook's biggest clanger since he took over at our club.

It has been said before but there's more than enough attacking talent in this team to win promotion but until the soft goals stop being conceded then the best Pompey fans can hope for is another shot at the play-offs.

Whereas Adams doesn't have as talented a squad as Cook does yet he seems to know how to get his team to perform consistently enough to eke out wins at this level and that is something that Pompey could learn from, even if it means scoring "ugly" goals with route one style football at times.

But then Argyle capitulated last year and there's plenty of this season left to play. It'll be interesting to see where both Pompey and Plymouth are in the league when they meet at Fratton Park on Good Friday and rekindle this growing rivalry, manufactured by the media or not.

Pompey Player Ratings

David Forde: 6 - Couldn't be blamed for either goal.

Gareth Evans: 5 - Struggled with defensive duties.

Christian Burgess: 5 - Not up to the same standards as last week.

Tom Davies: 5 - Needs to improve his positioning.

Enda Stevens: 6 - Solid enough.

Michael Doyle: 6 - Had a good battle with the Plymouth midfield.

Amine Linganzi: 6 - Got stuck in.

Gary Roberts: 6 - Had his moments.

Carl Baker: 7 - Instrumental in Pompey's attacking.

Kyle Bennett: 8 - Looks back to his best.

Conor Chaplin: 7 - Gave Bradley and Bulvitis a torrid time.


Liam O'Brien

Jack Whatmough

Danny Rose (Linganzi 69): 7 - Superb goal.

Kal Naismith

Milan Lalkovic (Bennett 74): N/A - Will find it hard to start games with midfield attacking trio in good form.

Curtis Main (Chaplin 72): N/A - Had a couple of good opportunities.

Michael Smith