THE little things meant a lot of heartache for Argyle at Fratton Park on Saturday.
Second-half goals from Pompey’s Jed Wallace, 53 seconds after the interval, and Ryan Taylor were good enough to see the home side win the season’s second Dockyard Derby as they survived a sustained late Pilgrims’ rally and a humdinger of a strike from substitute Olly Lee.
Wallace’s parity-breaker came after a dominant first half by Argyle that gave much hope for a result that would maintain their position in the Sky Bet League 2 play-off places. Instead, they are now a point and a place outside the all-important top seven.
“It is a very hard result to take,” said Pilgrims’ manager John Sheridan. “I don’t think we deserved to lose the game. I was pleased with the way we played.
“What disappoints me more than anything was we went in at half-time and I felt comfortable. We had good chances; the lads felt comfortable; and I said ‘Just raise your game five-ten percent and I think the game’s there for you.’ All the players were talking in the same manner.
“Then we take a kick-off and give possession away 30 seconds after just talking for 15 minutes, all positive. We take a kick-off and I just wonder what they are saying to each other when they are doing it – the ball goes back to Pete [Hartley]; Pete kicks it up the pitch; no-one near; they get possession of the ball; and, a minute later, the ball’s in the back of the net.
“It’s just astounding. You do something so small, but it ends up costing you. I keep saying that’s why good players are good players – they do the small things, and the easy things, very well.
“I get frustrated; everyone gets frustrated. The kick-off is ridiculous. Keep possession or keep the ball in the opposition’s third [of the pitch]. It’s a very poor goal on our part.
“Even at 1-0, I was quite pleased with the way we played, and battled, and tried to get something out of the game but, then you concede the second goal. Again, it’s a poor goal. The ball should be 50-60 yards up the pitch but it ends up a cheap throw-in [to Portsmouth] and a goal.
“It’s a disappointing result because I couldn’t see us losing the game, definitely couldn’t. Obviously, when you get to 2-0, it’s a problem but we had a go and it’s a shame we didn’t get anything from it.
“We kept plugging away; we were getting corners and one or two [chances] that didn’t fall for us. It was a great goal from Olly, a great finish.
“We were taking chances and pushing men forward, and full credit to the players. We did create problems and it is a shame we didn’t get something out of the game.”
John had made one change the Argyle starting line-up, handing a first senior start to on-loan Charlton striker Zak Ansah in preference to Lewi Alessandra.
“He wasn’t dropped,” said John, of second-top scorer Lewi.
“He’s been one of my best players all season, and I thought he did really well when he came on. He was the one who gave us a little bit of a spark when he came on. It was just a case of giving someone else a little game-time [and] give Lewi a little break; he hasn’t been his usual self.”