THE pain of losing last season’s play-off semi-final helped spur Argyle to Wembley and a shot at promotion to Sky Bet League 1.
The Pilgrims qualified for the Sky Bet league 2 Play-Off Final against either Accrington Stanley or AFC Wimbledon thanks to Peter Hartley’s late Home Park header against Portsmouth in Sunday’s second leg of the semi-final.
The goal, a minute into time added on at the end of the game, gave Argyle a 1-0 win after the two sides’ 2-2 draw at Fratton Park four days previously and produced amazing scenes of jubilation.
It was all a far cry from 12 months previously, when the Pilgrims trudged away from Adams Park having lost 5-3 on aggregate to Wycombe Wanderers. Harts was one of those beaten men.
“Words can’t describe it,” he said. “It’s just a feeling you don’t want again. It’s worse than relegation because you are so close to achieving so much for the club, for your family, and for yourself as a footballer, and then it all gets taken away from you.
“I think the fact that we’ve got the core of the team that went through the painfulness of the play-offs last year...the last thing I wanted when I woke up this morning was that feeling I had away at Wycombe last season; that was in my head.
“I felt the complete opposite today. I have never experienced anything like that – it’s the biggest moment of my career so far. I’ll definitely cherish it.”
Peter paid tribute to Argyle manager Derek Adams, who supplemented the squad with some new names and built a tight side that finished fifth in League 2, having barely been out of the promotion places all campaign. Now promotion is again one game away.
Peter said: “We’ve had injuries; we’ve had knocks; as the season has gone on, people have come in on loan, we’ve had players come and go. But we’ve kept the core of the team and we have got a really good team morale. It showed on the pitch. We run through brick walls for each other and I think that epitomises the way this club is – it’s been down and out at one point and we’re fighting to get back where we belong.
“I’d played against Jake Jervis a few times when he was a young boy on loan at Portsmouth and Carlisle; I knew of Gregg Wylde; I’d never heard of Graham Carey – and these boys have come in and taken this team by the scruff off the neck and really pushed us from what we did last season.”