Play-Offs It Is

Pompey went into the evening’s kick-off, which was a rearranged fixture from March 30th when the game was postponed due to the Blues’ Checkatrade Trophy Final against Sunderland being scheduled for the following day, knowing that they HAD to win against Peterborough United to keep up with the pace of the top-two in the division.

Kenny Jackett’s side went into the game at PO4 fresh off a 1-1 draw at Sunderland just three days previous, a good result on paper considering the calibre of opposition, however unfortunate as Barnsley’s win over Blackpool meant that automatic promotion went back into their hands and out of Pompey’s.

The same could be said for Peterborough too, however… anything less than a win for the Posh would see their play-off hopes come to an end. All to play for then at Fratton Park.

So, going into kick-off, here was how the Sky Bet League One table looked, with Sunderland taking on Fleetwood Town at Highbury Stadium:

1. Luton 91
2. Barnsley 91

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3. POMPEY 87
4. Sunderland 85
5. Charlton 85
6. Doncaster 70

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7. Peterborough 66

 

Peterborough may have gotten the game underway but it was the hosts, Pompey, who looked more up for it in the opening stages of the match. Ronan Curtis darted down the left-flank and beat two visiting defenders, before feeding through Lee Brown, who found himself in acres of space and poised to cross. Cross he did and it was Brett Pitman who met it, but his touch going agonisingly wide of the post… that all happened just two minutes into the game.

Curtis had a decent chance just a minute later when Lee Brown’s cross, from the Blues’ first corner of the match, was cleared out to the number 11, whose curling shot was eventually blocked.

Just six minutes on the clock and Posh keeper Aaron Chapman already gave the Fratton faithful something to be hopeful about, having looked nervy from the word go and having a couple of clearances hit short to Pompey players in quick succession.

Portsmouth felt they should have gone ahead on the 11th-minute after Ronan Curtis’s shot, after a flurry of half-chances for Pompey inside the box prior to the ball eventually finding the Irishman, was hit hard but into teammate Jamal Lowe, who was unable to jump out of the way of the shot.

And then, on the 13th-minute, the deadlock was broken through Lee Tomlin. The Peterborough number 29 slotted the ball into the bottom-left of Craig MacGillivray’s net after a quick counter-attack commissioned by Marcus Maddison on the right-hand-side. Tomlin’s celebration was met with boos from the Fratton End, who found his gestures unsavoury – referee Dean Whitestone, who was in charge of Pompey’s Checkatrade Trophy Final win over Sunderland in March, did nothing more than speak to the striker.

Pompey 0-1 PETERBOROUGH UNITED

It could have been two in just a matter of minutes for the visitors when Ivan Toney’s deflected shot, from a similar position of that of Tomlin’s when he scored, almost fooled MacGillivray, who managed to scramble it into his arms.

The game really was an end-to-end affair, but it was Pompey with the better of the chances and the constant pressure almost paid dividends on the 18th-minute – Jamal Lowe showed great pace and ability before crossing into James Vaughan, who was unable to scramble it home from close range, his attempt was blocked and cleared.

It was on the 26th-minute, just 13 minutes after their opener, when Peterborough doubled their lead. Marcus Maddison took a left-footed in-swinging corner in front of the Fratton End, the Posh’s first of the game, and Ivan Toney was on hand to thump a header beyond a despairing MacGillivray. Toney came from nowhere to burst into the box and leap higher than anyone in a blue shirt, testing the net’s strength with the power of his header. Peterborough proving to be the more clinical of the two sides, having scored two of their mere three or four relatively decent opportunities

Pompey 0-2 PETERBOROUGH UNITED

The mood around Fratton Park at this point was somewhat shock, as Darren Ferguson’s side somehow found themselves with a two goal advantage. There’s no questioning the fact that Peterborough deserved their goals, as they were well taken, but it was the Blues who had more and the better of the chances going forward.

The home fans were given something to cheer about just after the half-hour mark when Lee Tomlin, who netted the game’s opening goal, was finally booked for a number of incidents of timewasting and unnecessarily kicking balls away eventually resulted in a yellow card.

Pompey finally found the back of the net on the 38th-minute, and what an effort it was. Brett Pitman’s attempted volley was fluffed but the ball fell to Ben Close outside the box and the 22-year-old hit it hard as the it came down, with his shot driven low into the ground and deflecting over Chapman in the Milton End goal to score his 8th goal of the season.

POMPEY 1-2 Peterborough United

Into the second minute of added time in the first-half, Brett Pitman done well to beat two defenders inside the opposition box before finding Ronan Curtis, but his shot was well saved by Chapman.

Going into the break there was no doubt that it was the hosts, Portsmouth, who were going in the dressing room knowing that they had been the better of the two sides.

HALF-TIME AT FRATTON PARK: Pompey 1-2 PETERBOROUGH

HALF-TIME ELSEWHERE: Fleetwood 0-1 SUNDERLAND

At half-time then, here was how the SkyBet League One table looked… with 45 minutes still to play:

1. Luton 91
2. Barnsley 91

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3. Sunderland 88
4. POMPEY 87
5. Charlton 85
6. Doncaster 70

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7. Peterborough 69

 

Having had around 15 minutes to readjust and come to terms with the task at hand, Kenny Jackett decided it was time for a change as Oli Hawkins was brought in to play, replacing James Vaughan up-top.

Bizarrely, before the second-half had even got started, Peterborough seemed to be continuing their horrible timewasting tactics by assembling a huddle and performing a few warm-up, when everyone else in the ground appeared ready to restart play. Again, only a word of warning was given to them for this action and Pompey finally got the game going again.

Nothing to report in the opening 8 minutes of the half… but on the 53rd-minute, Jackett made another substitution – this time Ronan Curtis made way for the incoming Viv Solomon-Otabor.

Another Pompey chance went begging straight after the sub was made… the Blues’ second corner of the game came in from Lee Brown and his cross was met by Oli Hawkins, who could only head over and on to the roof of the net. Still 1-2.

Fratton Park were left wondering how on earth Pompey were not at least level on the 56th-minute… just moments after Hawkins’ header hit the roof of Chapman’s net, they had yet another chance to equalise. Firstly, Ben Close nearly grabbed his second goal of the game having met Brett Pitman’s low cross from the left but his attempt was deflected to Jamal Lowe, whose shot was also deflected and Peterborough finally cleared. Somehow, still 1-2.

With both teams having something to play for it began to heat up between them, with Pitman and Maddison clashing as Pompey prepared to take a free-kick… Brown did eventually take from around 35-yards out on the far left… his chipped ball in deep to Matt Clarke, who headed it back into the mixer, the ball got tangled between Oli Hawkins and Christian Burgess but the centre-back unleashed a low, piledriving shot to equalise against his former side, from whom Pompey signed him for around £70k back in 2015.

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POMPEY 2-2 Peterborough United

Viv Solomon-Otabor had a fantastic opportunity to take the lead just after the hour mark… his pace showed on the counter and the winger found himself with just one defender and Brett Pitman in the way of him and the goal… fans expectant of him to continue his run and shoot but he opted to try and find Pitman, however his attempted pass was intercepted and the Posh cleared.

Just under 60 seconds later, Ben Close almost scored one of the goals of the season, having watched the ball fall perfectly on to his right-foot before unleashing a composed and powerful volley – unfortunately his attempt was inches too high and Peterborough could count their lucky stars.

64th-minute – PETERBOROUGH SUB – Siriki Dembele ON, Joe Ward OFF

As it was from the very start, the game continued to be an entertaining end-to-end encounter, with both sides going hammer and tongs at each other. Both managers rolled the dice and were well aware that anything less than a win for their side would result in a failure in achieving their intended target. For Kenny Jackett and Pompey, that target was the automatic promotion places and for Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough, the aim being a play-off position.

On the 70th-minute, Viv Solomon-Otabor had a great chance to take the lead… he took on a shot with his right-food after some great pace and trickery on the left-hand side left two illuminous yellow defenders for dead, but his attempt was just inches wide of Chapman’s goal at the near-post.

The visitors almost went ahead on the 72nd as Marcus Maddison’s pinpoint delivery from a free-kick on the right-hand-side was met by Ryan Tafazoli from close range. MacGillivray came out to claim it but failed in doing so, but the Peterborough defender could only header it against the bar and the ball ricocheted out of danger.

Just moments later, Maddison attempted another free-kick but this time tried a shot, but Ben Close threw himself in front of it and took one to the face in the process to clear the danger.

Then, a moment or two of madness… following on from Maddison’s cleared free-kick it was the Blues who went on the counter for once, having been the side who orchestrated the main bulk of the attacks beforehand.

Brett Pitman found himself onside in the Posh half with all of the opposing defenders in Pompey’s half of the pitch. Pitman showed electric pace to push forward and go one-on-one with the keeper… Solomon-Otabor supported the captain on the attack and called for him to square it with the goal gaping. Pitman obliged and the winger converted into the empty net, but the linesman had his flag raised against Solomon-Otabor, who found himself forward of the ball when it was played to him and thus in an offside position. The best opportunity Pompey could have ever received, painfully squandered.

And then, matters were made a lot worse as Peterborough quickly pounced on a distraught atmosphere and sleepy defence… Ivan Toney was the man who put the ball into the back of MacGillivray’s net from the counter to re-take the lead for his side.

Pompey 2-3 PETERBOROUGH UNITED

Portsmouth had just under 15 minutes, plus added-time, to try and score two goals and remain in the hunt for an automatic promotion spot going into the final matchday on Saturday… but that was to be the final action of the game, as Pompey fell to a 3-2 home defeat to Peterborough United.

FULL-TIME AT FRATTON PARK: Pompey 2-3 PETERBOROUGH

FULL-TIME ELSEWHERE: FLEETWOOD 2-1 Sunderland

As a result, Luton Town and Barnsley were both promoted to the Championship with a game still to play.

The League One table following the end of all action at both Fratton Park and Highbury Stadium:

1. Luton 91 (P)
2. Barnsley 91 (P)

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3. POMPEY 87
4. Sunderland 85
5. Charlton 85
6. Doncaster 70

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7. Peterborough 69

 

Play-offs it is then for Pompey!

My Man of the Match: Ben Close – fully committed in the centre of midfield and completely bossed the centre of the park. Not once did he pull out of a tackle and his vision going forward to try and create goalscoring opportunities was superb. It was like having Ben Thompson back in the side.

Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close; Lowe, Pitman (c), Curtis (Solomon-Otabor 54); Vaughan (Hawkins 46)
Goals: Close 38, Burgess 59
Booked: Brown, Lowe
Subs not used: Bass, Walkes, Morris, Evans, Bogle

Jake Smith 

 

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