Portsmouth vs Plymouth Preview

Last updated : 11 May 2016 By Jim Bonner

Portsmouth take on Plymouth Argyle tomorrow night in the biggest match to be held at Fratton Park for over six years.

Team News

Paul Cook still has plenty of injury worries heading into the play-offs although Marc McNulty and Kyle Bennett look like they may be available. Matt Clarke has been receiving treatment at Ipswich and will be assessed whilst Conor Chaplin hopes to recover from a knock which kept him out of Saturday's defeat to Northampton.

Ben Close could be available despite limping off on Saturday whilst Kieron Freeman is banned following his straight red card during that game. Enda Stevens, Christian Burgess, Michael Doyle and Danny Hollands should all return to the starting eleven.

Derek Adams is likely to have a fully fit squad to choose from after resting numerous players for Plymouth's final league game as they beat Hartlepool 5-0 at Home Park. Reuben Reid is the only real doubt as he is recovering from a thigh strain.

The Match

Wednesday, May 19th 1993.

People are excited about the upcoming release of Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger, Ace of Base top the UK charts with All That She Wants whilst Andrea Pirlo celebrates his 13th birthday.

Most importantly for Portsmouth fans, this day marks the last time their team played in a play-off match at Fratton Park having missed out on automatic promotion by a single goal to West Ham.

Trailing Leicester City 1-0 from the first leg due at the City Ground to a Julian Joachim strike, Blues fans believe they can still win promotion to the Premier League after Alan McLoughlin levelled the tie on aggregate.

However, Ian Ormondroyd put the Foxes back in front with a tap in from an offside position to score a goal that has now gone down in Pompey folklore for all of the wrong reasons. The rest, as they say, is history as Steve Thompson rifled in Leicester's second goal on the night and although Bjorn Kristensen's beauty pulled one back, an equaliser couldn't be found and Pompey fans were heartbroken.

To this day, there are some Pompey fans who hate Leicester and couldn't get behind them this season despite their Premier League win against all the odds. There are even a couple of Blues who claim to hate Leicester more than Southampton just because of Ormondroyd and that day.

That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the play-offs for you. Who knows just what the feeling will be after (at least) 180 minutes of football between Portsmouth and Plymouth with the stakes so high?

Tomorrow's first leg is likely to be a cagey and tense affair as undoubtedly Argyle's late double last month is still fresh in the minds and Paul Cook will want his injury ravaged team to still be in the tie when they make the trip to Home Park on Sunday.

Whilst playing a more conservative game might not be the most popular tactic amongst fans, going too gung-ho will play right into Plymouth's hands due to their counter-attacking style. Pompey have a good away record (for a change) this season and would fancy themselves in the second leg, especially as Plymouth's home form isn't great.

As for the injury problems Pompey have, it's expected that McNulty will be fit just in time to play up front rather than have to play Gary Roberts in the "false nine" position. Even if he doesn't make it, hopefully Chaplin will be fit or maybe Connor Wilkinson will be a surprise starter after his cameo against Northampton? He certainly looked a handful in that game.

Bennett should also be fit for at least a place on the bench but even if he is ready to start, would it be fair to drop Kal Naismith after his good form recently? It's certainly a nice dilemma to have.

The biggest worry is undoubtedly at the back where hopefully Clarke will be fit to take his place alongside Burgess. Adam Barton hasn't been particularly bad at centre back but could he be relied upon to keep the physical powerhouses of Reid and Jamille Matt quiet?

Plymouth do have weaknesses as the two league games against them proved this season. Marshalled by the thuggish Paul Hartley, the Argyle defence is slow whilst Luke McCormick hasn't been performing too well in recent games, either.

Pompey certainly have the players to break the Pilgrims down and apply the pressure but they simply must take their chances this time and not pay the price for their profligacy as they did last month.

Will previous form even count for anything? These games might well be decided by which team has the bottle to see it through. Both teams have been guilty of choking this season, so there's no separating them on that account, either.

Whilst we'd all like to see Paul Cook's men score four without reply and make the second leg a formality, this game is almost certainly going to be niggly and difficult to watch. It's just a good thing that nothing gets decided tomorrow when the home fans may be jittery and project that nervousness onto the team.

Brace yourselves, Pompey fans. The next few days are going to be a rollercoaster of emotions!

Predicted Starting Line-Ups




CB: Christian BURGESS



DM: Michael DOYLE


RM: Gareth EVANS













AM: Graham CAREY

CF: Reuben REID

CF: Jamille MATT

Last Time: Portsmouth 1 Plymouth Argyle 2 (League Two - 16/04/2016)

Michael Smith gave the hosts the lead in the first half and Pompey had many chances to finish Argyle off in the second but didn't take them. They were punished as Paul Jones's error led to Matt scoring from a corner and then just two minutes later Gregg Wylde fired in a winner to stun Fratton Park and end Pompey's chances of automatic promotion.

My Prediction

This will be too tight to call but it wouldn't be surprising to see goals at both ends and extra drama in between whether it be a penalty or a red card. The scores have a good chance of being level heading into Sunday's decider.

Portsmouth 1 Plymouth Argyle 1