ARGYLE gave everything in their 50th game of a gruelling and exciting season – just as they had done in the previous 49 – but fell agonisingly short.
Agonisingly short of a club-record 13th away league win in a season; agonisingly short of the Sky Bet League 2 automatic promotion places.
Their 2-2 draw at Cambridge United means that Saturday’s final home game of the league campaign against Hartlepool is all-but a dead rubber: only the order of the two-leg semi-final against old Royal Navy rivals Portsmouth remains to be decided.
“It’s football; it’s tough, isn’t it?” said Pilgrims defender Kelvin Mellor. “We have just got to take it.
“It is disappointing, but we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, train again next week, have a good week, work hard, and look forward to Saturday.”
The coming weekend might be the immediate focus, but already thoughts have turned to possibly the biggest Dockyard Derby of them all.
Kelvin said: “As a group, we have got to stick together, get a game-plan, stick to it, and I am sure the results will take care of themselves.
“If we prepare mentally right, we have got enough ability to do it.”
Kelvin was in the Argyle team that lost last season’s play-off semi-final after conceding three goals to Wycombe Wanderers in the Home Park first leg.
“It was very disappointing,” he said. “Obviously, it is always hard to come back after going three goals down from nothing; things get a bit rushed and our heads are everywhere.”
The Argyle right-back is one of several Pilgrims who have played their way to Wembley and believes that experience will stand Argyle in good stead when they face Pompey
He said: “You can’t go out on too much of a high or too much of a low; you have just got to dig in and work hard as a team, and I am sure we will be fine.
“You have got to play it like it’s your last game. It’s a chance to play at Wembley and a lot of players don’t get a chance to do that.”
The 2-2 draw at Cambridge was something of a microcosm of the Pilgrims’ season, with Jamille Matt giving them a 71st-minute lead before two goals in the last ten minutes from Ben Williamson and substitute Jimmy Spencer swung the pendulum the home side’s way.
However, Graham Carey equalised early in injury-time and Hiram Boateng had two even later opportunities to take all three points and write Derek Adams’ team into the record books.
“With a couple of chances we had towards the end, we could have won it,” said Kelvin.
“It was unlucky. The first one was knee-high and he tried volleying it with his weaker foot; he connected well with it, but it just wasn’t on target.
“The second one bobbled as he was striking it with his left foot.”