Argyle 0 Portsmouth 0: Match report
PORTSMOUTH became only the second team in the last 13 league games at Home Park to leave anything other than well beaten as the navy rivals played out an enthralling goal-less draw.
In a game which ebbed and flowed but never reached the heights of some memorable previous contests, the Pilgrims had their moments but no-one got as close to scoring as Jamal Lowe, when saw his shot expertly cleared off the line in the dying moments by Zak Vyner.
Argyle went into the game without former Portsmouth forward Ryan Taylor, injured during training in the build-up to this 103rd Dockyard Derby.
With Simon Church also injured and Nathan Blissett helping Macclesfield back into the EFL, Taylor's place went to Joel Grant, a more than able deputy, who started a game for the first time in four months.
The Jamaican international had big boots to fill. One man does not make a team, of course, but, as the Pilgrim match-day programme had pointed out, Argyle have been a hugely different prospect with Taylor this season, than without him.
In the 19 Sky Bet League One matches which the No.19 missed because of injury, the Pilgrims won four and lost 10, averaging 0.3 of a point per game; with him, they have played 20, won 14 and lost two, averaging 2.3 points per game - a difference of two points per game.
Kyle Letheren kept his ’keeping position, with Remi Matthews still up country taking care of his hospitalised new-born daughter.
Portsmouth also showed one injury-necessitated change as they sought to extend their unbeaten run to six matches, with holding midfielder Anton Walkes replaced by Stuart O'Keefe.
With the sun out, a full-house and the Devonport end in full throat, it was impossible not to cast your mind back nearly two years, to a balmy evening and one of the many epic Home Park tussles between the two sides. A giant We Are Argyle flag and Derek Adams emerging for the game, not from the tunnel but in front of the home end added to the sense of drama unfolding at the Theatre of Greens.
Just as the two upwardly mobile clubs have matched each other, virtually step for step, over the last three seasons, so the opening stages of the game proved to be a suffocatingly close affair, with neither side getting within threatening range of the other’s penalty area.
It took Argyle 20 minutes to truly open up the Portsmouth defence, when Ruben Lameiras’s pulled-back cross from the bye-line bisected Grant and Moses Makasi. Portsmouth’s opening incursion was created by Brett Pitman’s Crossfield pass that allowed Lowe to let off a shot that Letheren saved easily.
Minutes later, the same Portsmouth pair combined, with Lowe’s low ball into the area picking out Pitman, whose clever run just gave him the drop on the Argyle defence. The Devonport’s fears turned quickly to relieved laughter as the Portsmouth captain scuffed his shot.
The two chances were at the beginning of a little period of Pompey possession but Argyle dug in and, as they have done so often this season, gradually wrested back a measure of control.
Indeed, Portsmouth showed signs of creaking as Argyle got their quick pass-and-move game going, never more so than just before half-time, when Lameiras turned Jack Whatmough sharply in the area and went to ground as the tackle arrived. Seen them given.
Read the full match report here.