Plymouth Argyle 1 Portsmouth 1
PORTSMOUTH’S long wait for a league win goes on with Kenny Jackett’s side forced to make do with just a point from the trip to Plymouth Argyle.
After a poor first half they took the lead after the break thanks to a Ben Close strike from Gareth Evans’ corner – Close’s first league goal of the season – but Graham Carey hit back with a well struck free kick from just outside the box.
There were chances for both sides to win the game with Ronan Curtis spurning a late chance after good work from substitute Oli Hawkins, and Evans seeing a shot saved by Kyle Letheren.
It made it 11 games without a clean sheet and just two points from the last 15 – a run that has seen them drop from top spot to third, and they had to be thankful for a late Oxford goal that prevented Sunderland from moving above them.
Hawkins dropped to the bench after starting the midweek clash at QPR with Omar Bogle back to lead the line; the loan signing one of five changes to the side that bowed out of the FA Cup at Loftus Road.
Bogle was looking to make it three goals in three starts and he could have grabbed the opener in the 7th minute from Evans’ corner, but his two efforts were blocked before referee Ben Toner blew up for a foul.
Bogle was again making it difficult for opposition defenders and there was plenty of effort on show from both sides, but neither keeper was tested in the opening 30 minutes of the game.
There was a break in play just after the half hour mark with Antoni Sarcevic receiving treatment and when play restarted Pompey had another opportunity to take the lead as Curtis crossed for Thompson whose effort was blocked, Curtis unable to get any power on his effort as the ball came back out to him.
Any thoughts that a game against a side sitting just four points above the relegation zone would be a little less intense than recent clashes had thoroughly evaporated by the time Ruben Lameiras, one of the division’s in-form players, burst down the left and crossed only to see Freddie Ladapo fail to direct his effort on target.
An easily forgettable first half ended with Bogle attempting a rather extravagant Rabona-style cross only to get his attempt horribly wrong.
Bogle was proving far more dangerous when he was getting on the end of crosses and his header from Lee Brown’s cross shortly after the restart forced Letheren into a comfortable save.
The game was starting to open up with Argyle showing glimpses of the form that seen them claim five wins in their last six games; Sarcevic creating a chance for Ladapo only for the striker’s effort to be deflected over the bar.
But Pompey were very much playing their part and a break forward spearheaded by Curtis brought the opening goal. He cut inside and his deflected effort forced Letheren to turn the ball aside for a corner. The resulting ball in from Evans fell to Close who fired his effort through a host of bodies into the home goal.
The 1200 Pompey fans who’d made the near 200-mile trip to Devon were delighted to make themselves heard, as they saw their side take the lead in a league game for the first time since New Year’s Day.
Bogle’s game came to an end with 25 minutes left as Ryan Edwards denied him the chance to grab Pompey’s second with a good challenge that left the striker hobbling; Hawkins replacing him soon after.
As Pompey were coming to terms with the change, a touch of class from Argyle’s Carey brought the home side level, curling a 20-yard free kick into MacGillivray’s top corner.
Plymouth Argyle (4-2-3-1): Letheren; Smith-Brown, Edwards, Canavan, Sawyer; Songo’o, Fox; Sarcevic, Lameiras, Carey; Ladapo (Taylor 80mins). Subs (not used): Macey (gk), Riley, Jones, Wootton, Threkeld, Japhcott.
Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Close, Morris; Lowe, Evans, Curtis; Bogle (Hawkins 67mins). Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Haunstrup, Walkes, May, Solomon-Otabor, Vaughan.
Referee: Ben Toner