ARGYLE gave themselves every chance of reaching Wembley Stadium with a 2-2 draw against Portsmouth...
...recovering from what Derek Adams called a "horrible" start to get back into the play-off semi-final.
The Pilgrims will head into the second leg of their bid to win promotion from Sky Bet League 2 level with Pompey, despite going behind after just three minutes at Fratton Park. Curtis Nelson's loss of possession allowed Marc McNulty to find room 20 yards out and put the hosts in front with a well-taken effort.
Argyle immediately rallied, though, and were in front by the end of the first half courtesy of a Jamille Matt brace. The on-loan Fleetwood Town forward headed home in the ninth minute before an ingenious overhead kick put Adams' side in the lead.
"It was a horrible start to the game for us," said Derek, "because we were prepared and we didn't expect to give away as cheap a goal as that.
"But we responded well: we scored two very good goals to get 2-1 ahead. In the second half yes, we've had to deal with a lot of pressure, but in the first half we played really well at times."
Pompey brought themselves back level early in the second half as McNulty won a penalty which Gary Roberts converted, but the hosts were unable to turn plentiful amounts of possession into many clear-cut chances. Argyle weathered the storm and maintained a strong foothold in the tie as they return to Home Park for Sunday's second leg.
"We had to soak up the pressure, and that's just the nature of the game," said Adams. "There were probably two or three passes we needed: when we retained possession, we needed another two passes to be complete, and then we would've caused them trouble.
"We just lacked that composure in the second half. We were able to keep them at bay, so to speak. We didn't really allow them too much space to get good opportunities. Yes they had plenty of the ball but that's the nature of coming away from home.
"We've given away two bad goals really. Portsmouth had two goals that they really haven't had to work for. That's probably the disappointment of the night, but overall it was a good performance."
Indeed, positives from the game are aplenty for Adams and his side to carry into the second half of the tie this weekend, stepping up to a fierce challenge on their travels once again.
"It was an excellent game," said Derek, "and we thoroughly deserved to go 2-1 ahead. We probably should've won the game on the night.
"We've had good opportunities and a very good performance from us. We passed the ball well, we had to deal with a wee bit of Portsmouth pressure because we're here. The fans have been very vocal tonight towards them, but we dealt with that exceptionally well.
"It was a terrific performance from the players tonight. I thought they were excellent."