Match of the month: The Dockyard Derby

A derby in name only, fans of both teams would argue that there is only one derby for them. Portsmouth’s is their M27 rivals Southampton, whereas Plymouth’s is their divisional rivals (and our writers Ollie’s team) Exeter. Portsmouth fan and our writer Daniel Statham was at Fratton Park on Good Friday to give you an ‘impartial’ view of the promotion clash.

Arguably, this is the game that Portsmouth fans have anticipated all season, following the heartbreak of last season, the antics of then Plymouth player Jamille Matt (who now appears for Blackpool), the bust up between Derek Adams & Paul Wotton v Paul Cook and personal dislike between Pompey players and Plymouth players. An example of the latter is from Portsmouth winger, turned right back Gareth Evans. Who was quoted as saying “I can’t stand them and I don’t like the manager, if I am honest” when talking about Plymouth in the pre match build up. The ex-Fleetwood man suffered a serious knee ligament and ankle ligament injury in the same challenge from bruiser Carl McHugh (now a Motherwell player).

A game which promised so much, Plymouth could go up if results went their way, Portsmouth could go to 1 point behind their ‘dockyard’ rivals in the league. Sky even attended, with the presence of their cameras, Keith Andrews and David Prutton, a sell out was promised, and a cracker of a game in front of an 18,000 strong crowd, a game being played in a level which neither team should be at? A great testament to League 2 football, but for how long?

The Easter holiday, made my journey much easier, rather than making my usual long and monotonous journey from Bournemouth, I was making the journey to Fratton Park from my family home, in Eastleigh. Eastleigh, if you don’t know is a borough of Southampton, and yes, I was wearing my Portsmouth shirt, loud and proud.

Nervous trepidation was ever present during my journey to Eastleigh train station, although the taste of four beers on the train there certainly helped to ease the nerves, although, upon missing my first train because I was playing FIFA (FUT Champs, gotta get those wins). The train got in to Fratton at 2:07, so because of Sky’s coverage, that was 23 minutes before kick off.

As I walked from the station, there was a cohort of Portsmouth supporters, all walking donning the famous blue colours, singing the Portsmouth chimes and chants of ‘blue army’ rang loudly. As I was writing my day review for BTG I decided it would be unfair and biased to follow my normal regime, so I skipped out on my pre-match routine, missed the burger, and missed the bottle of water, but still got the novelty matchday programme, which had Conor Chaplin on it this week.

Queuing for the turnstiles you could hear the Pompey chimes, chants of blue army, and the music blaring out loud, it sounded like you were waiting for a club. The atmosphere was buzzing, with an abundance of green and white filling the Milton End, a full crowd was in, the scene was set. As the players made their way on to the pitch, we learned of the three ex-Portsmouth players opposing today, Jake Jervis, Sonny Bradley and Ryan Taylor all turned out for the Green Army.

As the game kicked off, with Portsmouth attacking the Milton End, Paul Cook and Derek Adams stood side by side on the touchline, Cook marshalling his area like a lion guarding his territory, with the ‘greatest manager outside of the PL’ stood arms crossed, watching on as Portsmouth had the best of early encounters. The blues dominating the ball and passing side to side, looking for the key to unlock the Plymouth barricade.

The first chance in the game came from a good passing move from Bennett and Stevens, a 1-2 saw Stevens on the edge of the 6 yard box, but an outstanding block from Gary Sawyer stopped Kal Naismith making a goal bound effort. From the resulting corner, it was played short and found Gareth Evans on the right flank who cut in and drove at goal from around 30 yards, bringing a nervous save from Plymouth stopper McCormick. Although it was the Plymouth fans who were celebrating first. In the 12th minute good build up play, and a fantastic cross from left back Gary Sawyer found Jake Jervis who leapt like a salmon to nod home past the league’s best keeper David Forde. Jervis, twice an ex-Blue sprinted past the Fratton End, goading the supporters as he is swamped by Plymouth players.

Chants of ‘blue army’ rang loudly again, Portsmouth kicked off chasing the game against their closest divisional rivals. After the goal, Portsmouth returned to their attacking ways, finding Kal Naismith on the right wing, who cut in a shot at goal, McCormick parries the shot to the feet of Gary Roberts, who shot from a narrow angle, and McCormick saved well to stop the talisman from levelling the scores. It was Plymouth who attacked next, with Matthew Kennedy running through the Portsmouth defence as if they were standing still, but fired wide from the edge of the 6 yard box.

Portsmouth midfielder Danny Rose had his heels clipped right on the outside of the Plymouth penalty area, Naismith took the resulting free kick, which hit the wall. It was confirmed at a later time to have hit an arm in the wall, but whether it was a spot kick was dubious, although the arm was raised in an abnormal position and the pundits all agreed it should have been a penalty. This was the last action of the first half.

HT Portsmouth 0 Plymouth 1

After a quiet and lacklustre start to the second half, Portsmouth continued to dominate the ball and had the better chances but couldn’t find the key to having a clear cut chance.

Portsmouth were finally level, which was just as much as they deserved. When good play between Bennett and Baker found Bennett attacking down the left, whipping in a low cross which was fumbled by Luke McCormick and landed at the feet of Gary Roberts who tapped in and sprinted to enjoy his goal with the Fratton faithful. Paul Cook pumped his fist in celebration and exchanged celebrations with his assistant Leam Richardson. Naismith and Bennett connected well, with Naismith teasing a cross which Conor Chaplin connected with (a second half substitute) the chipped cross, but narrowly headed wide, hitting the post behind the goal.

As the game teetered out, in additional time Fox brought down Naismith on the edge of the box, Kyle Bennett stood over the free kick, but narrowly put it over the goal. The referee blew the whistle almost immediately after.

FT Portsmouth 1 Plymouth 1

Portsmouth had 22 shots to Plymouth’s 8, and Portsmouth had 67% of the ball, but the most important stat of all, was the final score, which ended 1-1.

As I was leaving the ground, the Portsmouth supporters heard the Plymouth fans went into hysterics as they thought they would be celebrating promotion in the Milton End, only to have their hopes dampened by a Kyle Vassell goal. Both Portsmouth and Plymouth didn’t have to wait long to have their promotions sealed, as they both won (and Luton failed to win) making it mathematically impossible for anyone to catch them. They have joined Doncaster as the first 3 to make the step up to the third tier.