Stepping Up

PETER Hartley is prepared to lead from the front and ensure Argyle recover quickly from their 2-1 defeat against Portsmouth.

After positive results against Burton Albion and Cheltenham Town, as well as the fond memories of a 3-0 victory against Pompey earlier in the season, a packed Fratton Park on a glorious Easter Monday seemed the perfect setting for Argyle to solidify their place in the Sky Bet League 2 play-off places – and it looked set to be that way for much of the first half.

Whilst Hartley and his defensive partners kept things solid at the back, the Pilgrims continuously stole possession from Pompey in attacking areas and looked much the better side but, as Hartley stated, an opportunity was missed as the teams went into the break goalless. 

“I thought we had various chances to kill the game in the first half,” he said. “We were like I remember us being when we were down there [at Home Park, in the reverse fixture], but we didn’t take our chances.

“We created chances, we were on the front and we were defending decently. We had chances to win the game but it just wasn’t to be for whatever reasons; shots off target or blocks being made.”

The Greens were immediately punished for not cashing in during the opening 45 minutes, as Jed Wallace fired in a 20-yard strike to put his team ahead in a game they seemed destined to lose before the break. Ryan Taylor doubled their lead and, although Olly Lee quickly replied and kept the deficit at one, Argyle were unable to eek anything out of a game they dominated for long periods. 

“We didn’t start well in the second half, and obviously with any team that gets the first goal in the game, it gives them a foothold,” said Hartley. 

“We still had plenty of time to get back in the game; Olly scored a great goal and we had chances to equalise but it just wouldn’t drop for us. It was one of those days. 

“Teams could just go down and call it a day and they may as well not be out there, but after the second goal there was a decent reaction. We got a goal and could have got something out of the game but it just wasn’t to be.”

The centre back himself helped towards much of the pressure placed on Pompey in the final minutes, and he believes that getting a last-gasp equaliser would have been the least the team deserved from the Dockyard Derby.

“I was just trying to keep the ball alive in the box, and hopefully it would bounce around Lewi [Alessandra’s] feet or bounce to Reubs [Reuben Reid], but it just wasn’t to be,” said Hartley. 

“With the ones I actually connected with, I knew it wasn’t the type of ball I could go for goal with, so I was just trying to help it back down.

“The gaffer said he thought we were the better team and we could’ve got something out of the game, which I have got to agree with.

“Although we were not at our best, we still thoroughly deserved to get something out of that game.”

The Greens’ late drive for an equaliser was scuppered when Andy D’Urso opted to brandish a second yellow card to skipper Curtis Nelson, meaning he will miss Argyle’s next fixture against Mansfield Town. 

Curtis handed the captain’s armband to Hartley as he left the field, and many will be expecting him to be wearing it once more when the team return to Home Park to take on the Stags. Hartley is intent on making sure he and his teammates pull together and refuse to let a bad result and the loss of their captain deny them from success in their next two games and beyond.

“We have got two home games back-to-back now, and if we put up six points from them, it can all change straight away,” said Peter.

“We’ve got Mansfield and AFC Wimbledon. Obviously we’ll be missing our captain for the Mansfield game but he’ll be back for Tuesday, so we have to make sure we get maximum points out of Saturday for Nelse, then we’ll move on to Tuesday.”