Gary Roberts’ second half tap-in cancelled out Jake Jervis first half header, meaning a deserved 1-1 draw between Portsmouth and Plymouth at Fratton Park – but what have we learnt from the game?
Plymouth’s bright start
Derek Adams’ side got the right balance in the first half between being compact, but also getting enough men forward to support Ryan Taylor and threaten from crosses. They did so to score the opener on 11 minutes with Gary Sawyer, who was rarely troubled defensively, playing a part. After a good pass from Graham Carey, he picked out a wonderful cross to the back-post for Jervis, who used his height advantage over Enda Stevens to give Plymouth a deserved lead.
Portsmouth had no focal point
The hosts had their best chance of the half on 33 minutes when Kal Naismith’s long range effort was spilt by Luke McCormick but Roberts could not convert the rebound. Neither of the aforementioned Pompey forwards had the athleticism to occupy Argyle’s sturdy back-line. Their teammates rarely had the option to play early forward balls and were guilty of over-playing at times.
Argyle’s sturdy back-line
Plymouth defended their box superbly. Yann Songo’o snuffed out danger quickly and Sonny Bradley battled on despite his early knock, the centre-backs protected well by a disciplined midfield. Matthew Kennedy worked hard to quell the threat of Portsmouth’s attacking right-back Gareth Evans and the Plymouth winger had a shot on 35 minutes. Helped by the detracting movement of Carey, he wriggled past Evans and Christian Burgess into the Portsmouth box but hit the side netting.
Portsmouth’s strong left side
Paul Cook’s men were on top for much of the second half, left-back Stevens their most influential player. Passing triangles between him, Naismith and Kyle Bennett unhinged Oscar Threlkeld and his teammates on Argyle’s right-side. The inventive Bennett latched onto a pass from Matt Clarke on 58 minutes and drilled the ball across to the near post, where it got caught between Songo’o and McCormick, Roberts profiting from the confusion to tap home.
Plymouth settled for a draw
Portsmouth continued to probe but were restricted to long-range efforts from Carl Baker and Bennett, both of which were held comfortably by McCormick. Plymouth did not show as much attacking ambition as they had in the game’s earlier stages, but displayed the defensive organization that has set them on course for promotion.
What it means
Luton’s 2-2 draw with bottom club Leyton Orient nudges both clubs one step closer to an inevitable top three berth. Plymouth, 12 points clear of Luton, are set to win their first promotion in 13 years and Portsmouth, eight clear, the first in 14. After those years of toil and financial mismanagement, off-field restructuring and positive recruitment have brought the good times back to the south coast.