We're On Our Way

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 18 April 2017

Pompey have finally won promotion from League Two after their 3-1 win over Notts County coupled with Luton's draw at Mansfield, means they can finish no lower than third.

Prior to kick-off, the injured players in Danny Rose, Matt Clarke, Noel Hunt, Eoin Doyle and Tom Davies all sat amongst the Pompey supporters hoping that League One football could be secured.

The occasion may have ended up being emotional but the game itself was an ugly affair in the first half. Gary Roberts squandered two great opportunities early on but his lack of pace meant the Magpies defence could get back and deal with him.

However, the 4,500 travelling fans soon had something to cheer as ex-Pompey defender Richard Duffy tripped Kal Naismith in the box and gave referee Graham Salisbury an easy decision to point to the spot. Gareth Evans stepped up and beat Adam Collin with another cool penalty to begin wild celebrations on one side of the ground.

Those celebrations soon reached a new level as news of Mansfield taking the lead against the Hatters filtered through. One thing's for certain, Pompey fans who were there yesterday are going to have Herman's Hermits' "I'm into something good" for quite some time!

The game lulled as all Notts could do was lump the ball into the box and hope for one of their big men to win it. But any fears of the defence being weakened by the injured Clarke's absence were allayed by a colossal performance from the returning Jack Whatmough who won virtually everything in the air.

Michael O'Connor injured himself in a challenge with Michael Doyle late in the half which ended with the County player stretchered off. That would ensure that the game at Field Mill would finish before Pompey's as the first half ended with Paul Cook's men just 45 minutes away from glory.

But Pompey never do things the straightforward way and the atmosphere turned from elation to trepidation as news of Danny Hylton's equaliser for Luton spread amongst the travelling supporters.

Things then got worse when a mix-up between Christian Burgess and Doyle allowed the ball to be hoofed to an unmarked Jorge Grant in the box who curled the ball past David Forde to equalise.

The game opened up with both teams creating chances but the Blues' superior quality meant that Collin had to be called upon when Pompey got it right going forward. The Notts keeper denied Naismith with an outstretched leg and then tipped over a thunderous drive from Kyle Bennett.

It seemed like Collin's fine form would deny Pompey another goal and some fans will have been doing the mathematics for the visitors to get promoted on their own turf on Saturday with one eye still on the proceedings at Mansfield. But Jamal Lowe had other ideas...

The substitute received a pass from Naismith after some good work by Enda Stevens and his shot surprisingly beat Collin at the far post as Pompey fans went absolutely crazy in celebration as the promotion party was well and truly back on.

The prospect of League One football was becoming ever closer but the Portsmouth fans in the ground almost went into cardiac arrest when a goalmouth scramble was somehow booted clear by Lowe. Last season, that would have ended up in the back of the net.

Just a minute after such an important clearance, the man who was playing for Hampton & Richmond last year etched himself into Pompey folklore.

The referee refused to award a free kick for a challenge on Bennett as everyone stood still. Doyle took the initiative to pass the ball to Lowe, the flag stayed down and he proceeded to chip the goalkeeper to score the goal that saw the celebrations amongst Pompey fans reach a whole new level.

Everyone was frantically tapping away at their phones to find out what was going on at Mansfield but the lack of signal meant updates weren't forthcoming in many parts of the ground.

Thankfully, a roar from the centre of the stand confirmed that Luton had failed to beat the Stags and there was no chance of even Pompey conceding twice in the two minutes of stoppage time that remained.

The tannoy announcer reminded everyone that it was a criminal offence to go onto the pitch and thus Nottinghamshire Police will have over 4,000 arrests to make in the coming days as the final whistle blew, confirming Portsmouth's promotion to League One as well as beginning the inevitable pitch invasion.

The stewards and the police had absolutely no chance in stopping the huge crowd of jubilant Pompey fans from swarming the pitch to embrace their heroes. They soon gave up and it wasn't long before the vast majority of the people remaining at Meadow Lane took to the turf to join in the celebrations.

The singing continued as Cook, his players and other key figures in the revival of Portsmouth Football Club stood proudly at the top of the stand, baring their "We're Going Up" banners and drinking in what they've achieved over the last eight months.

It was a special moment which will never be forgotten by anyone who was there and takes its place alongside past promotions at Northampton and Fratton Park. Iain McInnes announced he was stepping down as chairman shortly after the initial jubilation as his mission has been accomplished.

That will undoubtedly fuel speculation as to who will take his place and just how soon it will be before Michael Eisner prepares a formal bid to take over Portsmouth Football Club, but that discussion is for another day.

For those people who were involved in saving the club when it looked like it was going under, the events at Meadow Lane were just reward for everything they've done and what it has taken to achieve it.

On my own personal note, yesterday marked the end of the worst period in this football club's history. Whilst some may point to the fans' takeover or even last season as when the rot stopped, promotion is something tangible to measure. It's a true indication of the progress this club has made on the pitch and who knows how far the momentum will take us?

The last nine years has seen Portsmouth FC enter administration twice, almost going bust in the process as the club changed hands between some truly loathesome individuals.

That period has seen three relegations, a record-breaking 23 game winless run and two record low finishes in the bottom tier of English football. Humiliating defeats at the hands of the likes of Scunthorpe, York, Aldershot and AFC Wimbledon have become the norm in recent years but days like yesterday erase the pain of having to sit through that utter garbage.

Leaving Meadow Lane to chants of "We're fucking brilliant!" brought a smile after such an emotional day. The combined feeling of mental elation and exhaustion has taken some time to recover from, but it has all been worth it!

The worst is over now. Cook and his players have had plenty of criticism over the last two years but they deserve plenty of credit for delivering promotion with three games still left to play. The celebrations that went on last night have been well and truly earned and we can all look forward to next season with positivity.

For now, just 180 minutes (plus stoppage time) of League Two football remains. Let's hope our football club never gets dragged down to this lowly level ever again. Onwards and upwards, as they say.

We're Portsmouth City, we're on our way back!

Pompey Player Ratings

David Forde: 7 - Didn't put a foot wrong.

Gareth Evans: 7 - Reliable as always.

Christian Burgess: 6 - Mistake aside, dealt with what County could muster.

Jack Whatmough: 8 - Won virtually everything and wouldn't be bullied by County's big men.

Enda Stevens: 7 - Much of Pompey's attacking came from the left due to his energy. Never stopped running.

Michael Doyle: 7 - Battled away and set up the last goal.

Amine Linganzi: 6 - Did a steady job in Rose's absence.

Kal Naismih: 7 - Always involved when going forward.

Carl Baker: 5 - Struggled to have much of an influence.

Kyle Bennett: 7 - Worked hard even when Pompey weren't on the front foot.

Gary Roberts: 5 - Ran around but lack of pace was truly highlighted as chances were wasted.

Substitutes

Liam O'Brien

Drew Talbot

Tom Davies

Stanley Aborah (Bennett 90) N/A - Time-wasting change.

Jamal Lowe (Baker 69): 9 - Scored the goals to win promotion and that block before the second cannot be understated.

Conor Chaplin (Roberts 62): 6 - Running stretched the Notts defence.

Curtis Main

Portsmouth Match Reports


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