THE Battle of the Ports resumes at Home Park on Saturday when Argyle and Portsmouth go toe to toe for the 100th time in the illustrious history of the two famous old Royal Naval cities.
Four of those encounters came last season, when Pompey lowered the Pilgrims’ colours in manager Derek Adams’ Home Park bow before Argyle had their revenge at Fratton Park thanks to late goals from Gregg Wylde and Jamille Matt.
Those epic games were merely an hors d’oeuvre for a classic Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-final over two legs: after drawing 2-2 in Hampshire in a game that had just about everything, Argyle pipped Portsmouth to Wembley thanks to Peter Hartley’s headed goal in front of the Devonport in the last minute of the game.
If Saturday’s Dockyard Derby has half the drama, excitement and passion as last year’s meetings, it will still be an awesome occasion. Eleven thousand-plus watching a League Two game. It makes you think. Or rather, it does not.
Argyle manager Derek Adams said: “Last year, it was very difficult to think sometimes because the atmosphere was relentless for 90 minutes.
“Last year, the four games we played against each other were the best atmospheres throughout the season and it’ll be no different on Saturday.
“They always take a very good following; we’ve sold over 11,000 tickets already. So it’s going well. We’re looking forward to having that atmosphere here on Saturday again.
“They are well supported, and we are, as well – that will show on Saturday with the attendance. It will be the largest attendance in League Two, if not League One.”
Derek thinks that Argyle’s play-off semi-final victory will give Portsmouth extra incentive – as if ending the Pilgrims’ 10-game unbeaten league run and denting their lead at the top of the table is not motivation enough – and knows they have more players to have tasted the atmosphere of a Dockyard Derby than he has at his disposal.
However, the revamped Argyle side includes players who have first-hand knowledge of big games.
“They will be looking to win the game because of what happened last year,” said Derek. “They have definitely got better experience of the game; they haven’t changed too much from last year; they have taken in a number of players, but the core of the team is the same.
“They play an expansive game; they like to pass the ball; they are attack-minded. That’s what we expect, but we have done exceptionally well against them in the past and we would like to continue that.
“A number of my players have played in cup finals; played in European matches; and played in internationals, so they have got that experience.
“This is a big game for both football clubs. They have always been very good atmospheres and both teams will be looking forward to it.”